What does my social media use tell me about who I am and what I want out of life at this time?
- More American adults than ever are using social media. This is an important trend to take note of when considering how mental health needs and presentations have been changing.
- Social media can offer us many things: to connect to those we love, to learn new skills or life hacks, and sometimes to compare ourselves to others and feed feelings of inadequacy.
- Social media breaks are one way of managing how social media influences our lives, feelings, behaviors, and thoughts of self. Below are some questions to ask to help evaluate if taking a social media break might be right for you.
Pew Research from 2021 shared a statistic that 7 out of 10 Americans use some type of social media, and that that has remained stable over the last five years. At the same time, the popularization of “social media breaks” has also edged its way into our culture. What are social media breaks and what could they potentially offer in your life?
Simply, “social media breaks” are purposeful periods of time where a social media user will not engage with the site or app of their choosing. Social media breaks in the context of this blog are voluntary choices that are made by an individual for a set of goal-oriented reasons. During the break, users will redistribute the time and energy that they put into social media sites or apps into other areas of their life. Taking a deeper look at social media breaks – when, how, and if we take them – provides important insight into how people recognize and address their needs.
While social media can be a source of joy and self improvement, it can also become a source of self judgment and comparison. Social media can allow us to feel like we are involved in the lives of those that we do not live near, while creating a sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and false depth in relationships. It is important to seek ways to understand how we are using social media so that we can reduce feelings of inadequacy and increase feelings of fulfillment and balance.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate whether or not a social media break could be a good idea for you:
- What are you using social media for? (ex: entertainment, connection, distraction, etc)
- Consider the reasons you go on social media. What are the reasons rooted in?
- Do you know how much time you are spending each day on social media? How does that amount of time make you feel?
- Aside from time spent, how else would you describe the way that you engage with social media?
- Are there projects or tasks in your life that are continuously deprioritized so that you can spend time on social media?
- How do the people and communities that you engage with on social media make you feel about yourself?
- If you are on multiple social media apps, can you articulate what you get out of each app? What needs are they fulfilling in your life?
Social media usage is full of contradictions and can be difficult to manage. Taking a social media break or setting thoughtful limitations on how often you check an app or post a status are good tools for designing a social media experience that works for you. Acknowledging and understanding our social media usage can help us learn about ourselves, what we want out of life, and serve as an opportunity to check in with ourselves about balancing different dimensions of our lives.
Ultimately, it is important to pause and check-in with ourselves when we are noticing that negative thoughts or feelings of self arise from a particular behavior. Taking a social media break can be one avenue for exploring ourselves, our needs for community and validation, and the ways in which we seek it out.
You ultimately should feel in control of your life, how you are setting yourself up to be perceived, and how you perceive others. Taking a social media break and asking yourself the above questions or bringing them into therapy can serve as supportive methods for gaining back control and deepening your understanding of self.