Social media: Is it driving us crazy?
“If you pull out your phone to check Twitter while waiting for the light to change, or read emails while brushing your teeth,” it might be time for a break, said Deena Shanker in Bloomberg.com. Last week, the American Psychological Association released a study that found Americans are now “experiencing the first statistically significant stress increase” in 10 years. Our inability to log off is at least partly to blame. Some 43 percent of Americans say they check their email, texts, and social media accounts constantly. On a 10-point scale, these “constant checkers” reported an average stress level of 5.3. For Americans who aren’t glued to their screens, the average is 4.4. The superheated political environment and seemingly nonstop flood of news since Donald Trump won the presidency is only exacerbating our internet-induced stress. “About 42 percent of constant checkers specifically point to political and cultural discussions as causing stress.”
Americans need a social media detox, said Mary McNaughton- Cassill in Recode.net. The problem is that “our brains are programmed to pay attention to rapidly changing stimuli.” This predilection helped our cave-dwelling ancestors, who had to constantly monitor their environment for predators and other dangers. But the same tendency now makes it difficult for us to ignore the latest posts on Twitter or Facebook, especially when we feel compelled to stay updated on something we view as a threat, whether it’s a politician we disagree with or a looming hazard like climate change. If you think you’re spending too much time online, try treating your media consumption as a bad habit, like smoking or overeating, that you can change “if you truly want to.” Keep a log of your internet use for a few days, including when, where, and why you go online. “Think about the thoughts and feelings that are triggering your behavior, and try to find a way to address those underlying needs.”
You don’t have to “go cold turkey,” said Gwen Moran in Fast Company.com. Simply deleting social media apps from your smartphone can make a big difference. “You can still access the platform on your laptop or desktop, but you’re not carrying around the constant temptation to check in.” It’s not easy to log off, especially if you feel like the world is falling apart right now, said Michelle Ruiz in Vogue.com. But you don’t have to choose between staying sane and staying informed. Try “carving out dedicated blocks of time, like on your commute to and from work—during which news and social media are allowed.” When you get home, make a point of switching off and turning to a “soothing activity” like reading, exercise, meditation, or even an old-fashioned face-to-face conversation.