Social media is both a blessing and a curse. We are more connected now, to our friends (both our besties and those we no longer see) to our peers, to videos of cats getting brain freeze. It can be brilliant – but sometimes it’s information overload. Twitter can be a string of hatred or incomprehensibly dire world news. Facebook is one friend after another getting promoted/married/pregnant. And Instagram is a one-stop shop for a generous portion of self doubt, insecurity and fomo.
I recently went on holiday to America and for financial reasons (overseas data charges = ouch) took a digital detox. My phone was on airplane mode for two whole weeks and it was glorious. I felt lighter, less stressed, less anxious. Yes, it was partly down to the fact I was spending those weeks sunbathing, hiking and drinking beers on the beach. But I think the fact that I was uncontactable and, most importantly, unable to log into social media really helped.
I wasn’t absentmindedly scrolling through random uni acquaintances’ wedding snaps, comparing my outfits to perfect Pinterest boards or getting constant updates on a friend’s seemingly perfect existence. And my spine probably enjoyed a break from the ‘smart phone slump’ too.
Day after day I was just being me. My phone wasn’t a permanent appendage. I was living in the moment. All that mattered was what I happened to be doing that day.
The minute I touched down at Heathrow and reconnected to 3G the stress was back. And I vowed to try and regain some control over how and when I use social media.
Here’s how you can do the same…
Go on a digital detox
Obviously you can’t all go to America for two weeks, but you won’t realise quite how reliant you are on social media until you switch off. I was looking at Facebook way more than I realised I was. I’d have a quick scroll while waiting for a friend or on the bus, in a Pret queue, during Love Islands’ ad breaks, while my hair straighteners heated up in the morning, before I turned out the lamp at night. That’s a whole lot of wasted minutes.
Introduce no-phone time
‘No phones at the dinner table’ might sound like the sort of rule your mum would make, but it’s time to be strict on yourself. Turn your phone off, put in on aeroplane mode, or, if you can’t bear that, just leave it in the other room during your evening down time. That way you can give your other half/housemates/family your full attention and not be slyly updating your Facebook status when you should be listening to a real, living and breathing human instead.
Turn on Do Not Disturb
This is genius. There is a setting on iPhones which silences all calls and alerts. You can manually enable it or schedule it for certain times. For peace of mind, it’ll also override if selected people call you, or if someone calls you more than once in 3 minutes. But it’ll prevent your phone from interrupting and distracting you during a date or drinks with friends.
Turn off lock-screen notifications
You are having after work drinks, watching a movie or doing something terribly productive. You’re focussed and you’re being fun. Until your phone pipes up, telling you you’ve been tagged in 12 Instagram photos, invited to a 30th birthday and retweeted on Twitter. Turn off those notifications and look at social media later when you choose to. It’ll still be there.
Stop putting your phone on the table
This is a simple one, but oh so effective. Whenever I go out for drinks or dinner with friends, there are 5 glasses of wine on the table and 5 iPhones. It’s like we are waiting for our phones to interrupt our evening. Just make a conscious effort to leave your mobile in your handbag.
Unfollow everyone and everything that makes you angry
Social media should enhance your life, not detract from it. Facebook is only fun if you like the people you’re stalking. Instagram should fill you with perfectly filtered joy. Everything you’re letting into your life online should be funny, uplifting and interesting. So if there are people on Facebook that consistently fill you with uncontrollable rage or make you want to vom, delete them. Same goes for smug Instagram accounts or angry Tweeters.
Don’t post on Instagram Insta-ntly…
It might be called INSTAgram, but that doesn’t mean you have to see something cool and immediately share it with the world. If you’re drinking on an incredible roof terrace, at an awesome festival or picnicking on an unbelievably beautiful beach, see it with your actual eyes, not through your Instagram app.
Of course, sharing a snap on social media is fine but just do it later, after you’ve had the fun/seen the cool things. Do it once you’re back home and thinking about how great your day was.
Stop checking in on Facebook
Forget the tree falling in a forest, if you go somewhere awesome and don’t check in on Facebook, did it still happen? YES. Of course it did, you fool. It’s easy to see your friends checking in at the champagne bar at Heathrow Terminal 5 and want to retaliate by dropping a location pin at Shakespeare’s Globe. But don’t let social media define every fun outing. Just enjoy it for what it is. You don’t need to let the whole world know where you are all of the time.
Review posts on Facebook
You can change your settings on Facebook so that no one can tag a picture of you with three chins or upload a video of you singing karaoke at your work summer party without your permission. Nothing will unexpectedly and stressfully appear, making you want to crawl under you duvet and never come out again. You have 100% control over what appears on your timeline and Facebook will wait for you, so you don’t need to immediately log in the second your slightly untrustworthy friend uploads 146 photos from Friday night. Phew.