I’m in the middle of a social media hiatus at the moment, which began sort of by accident. A few months ago, I started a new job where I’m much more engaged at work than I was in my previous role, and it also left me with less free time throughout the course of the work day to briefly check in on Twitter for news updates. After a while, once I was pretty much fully removed from my habit of checking in on Twitter periodically throughout the day, I came to the realisation that I really didn’t need to have Twitter at all anymore. So one day I decided to take the plunge and deactivate my account.
While I was pretty active on Twitter at one point, especially during baseball season (I had joined Twitter back in 2013 when I relocated for graduate school because it was easier to get Toronto Blue Jays news updates on a Twitter newsfeed than it was for me to check various sports websites), I was definitely never addicted to social media. But to be honest with you, I was really enjoying this mental recharge that I was experiencing without social media in my life. No longer was I wasting precious mental energy scrolling through useless tweets in search of one that might provide me with a useful news update or a tweet of note from a close friend. Plus, I really started to feel as if the quality of my social relationships began to enhance as my friends and I now had to contact one another directly via text or phone call instead of by tweet or Twitter DM. I was becoming far more selective with what I did with my free time as I began to pick up new hobbies, or engage in pre-existing ones far more frequently. I read more books than usual, I wrote for my personal blog more, I worked out more, I did more overtime at work, and I even began writing for the Psychreg. Most importantly, however, (and at the risk of sounding selfish) I was really focusing on my own life and engaging in less social comparison.
During this time I also began to binge watch Ted Talks, some of which happened to be about social media usage. Some were in favour of social media usage, and some were against social media usage. One of the Ted Talks that stood out to me was Dr Cal Newport’s discussion on quitting social media, which I found actually made me surprisingly defensive of social media usage. He discussed how social media is a form of entertainment, and how social media usage is linked to anxiety and depression, both of which are true. But even as I was in the midst of enjoying my social media hiatus, I couldn’t help but disagree with this idea that we should cut social media out of our lives completely.
I say this because social media has had a pretty positive impact on my life, both personally and professionally. Personally, social media has given me the opportunity to meet (in real-life, with real human interactions) at least 30 people that I would have otherwise most likely have never met, and several of whom I would now consider to be good friends of mine. Professionally, social media provided me with an outlet to market myself and advance my career, and it even led to me having the opportunity to write for the Psychreg after the founder of this website found me on Twitter. Ultimately, I’d be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t grateful to have social media in my life because of these positive benefits I’ve received from my social media usage.
But of course, with that in mind, I do understand the negative components when it comes to social media usage. Constantly exposing yourself to someone’s human highlight reel isn’t good for your morale as you engage in social comparison. Plus logging into social media too much isn’t good for your overall productivity in life. So when it comes down to it, social media usage is just like anything else in life, in that too much of it can be a bad thing. So I suggest that you monitor your usage of it. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m advising you to break out a stopwatch and give yourself a strict limit of how much time you spend on social media on a daily basis. But make sure to have a good balance in your life. Remember why you use social media, which in my case was originally to receive real-time news updates before it also involved social and professional components. Remember to put your phone or laptop aside, and get out there and live your life instead of spending time focusing on, and comparing your life, to the highlight reel life of that boastful poster on your timeline.
Matthew Buckley is an Organisational Psychologist. He received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2010, and received his master’s degree in Organisational Psychology with a concentration in Conflict Management from the University of New Haven in 2015. His main areas of interest include career counselling, conflict management, emotional intelligence, employee retention, leadership and management, morale and motivation, personnel selection and recruitment, and self-promotion.