Taking Meaningful Tech Breaks

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If you think you’re spending too much time on your phone, you’re probably right. 

“The way that people use apps in general is a day-to-day discussion I have with clients. People are wanting to find healthier ways to distract themselves from stressors, and that's really great. Social media and media in general can be part of that,” says Kristi Phillips, clinical psychologist and owner of Wayzata Bay Wellness (LINK: https://wayzatabaywellness.com/). “But do things in in moderation, including moderation. If we start going to one thing as a distraction, that's when it becomes problematic.”

There are pros and cons to technology. On the plus side, our smartphones can provide us with a wealth of valuable resources, such as apps that promote and teach meditation, deep breathing exercises, and diaphragmatic breathing. The cons are that they can hurt our productivity, especially if we’re mindlessly and constantly looking at social media.

“The downside of it is when we’re scrolling endlessly. We know that it can be very difficult to figure out how much time you're really spending on it, unless you're tracking that. And it can be a waste of time if you're not deliberate about how you use it. It can also hurt mental health if you're comparing yourself to others,” Phillips says.

How Do You Know if Social Media is Problematic in Your Life?

You can start by examining the role social media plays in your life to see if it’s problematic.

“It's a habit. We all have positive and negative habits. To be able to identify what the role it has in your life — is it something helpful or harmful, or maybe something that isn't necessary during your day — these are the types of questions to ask yourself, and the answers will be different for each person,” Phillips says.

In addition to those questions, here’s what else you can ask yourself to determine if your relationship with social media is unhealthy:

  1. Do you find that you can’t take breaks?

  2. Are you anxious after looking at your phone?

  3. Do you feel the need to constantly check your phone?

  4. Do you have difficulty engaging with others in real life?

Why is It a Good Idea to Take Tech Breaks?

Taking breaks from social media can really benefit us in many ways. Chief among them is that social media encourages us to compare ourselves to other people. “Don’t compare your life to others, especially online,” says Phillips. It’s important to keep in mind that social media is not real life. Social media can hurt our self-esteem since we might be comparing ourselves to other people constantly. Since people only tend to post positive things, we’re also making unfair comparisons, too.

“It is almost impossible not to compare yourself to others,” Phillips says. “Social media brings out your competitive side. Always comparing yourself to others can be draining and not healthy for relationships.”

Additionally, taking breaks can help improve your mood. Use that extra time to do a meditation exercise, practice deep breathing, take a walk, or work on a hobby, suggests Phillips. Lastly, she advises considering your privacy when it comes to social media.

“Keep personal information to those you feel close to and not include it on social media, where you can’t always know how it will be seen by others,” she says.

How to Take Technology or Social Media Breaks

If you feel that you’re spending too much time on social media or that you don’t have a healthy relationship with technology, here are tips on how to spend less time on your phone:

1. Take Small Breaks

Rather than just quitting all social media apps at once, try taking short social media breaks. Start with just one day of not using it. Phillips suggests using an app that limits your time on social media.

“Set goals for yourself each week and reward yourself with non-social media rewards,” Phillips says. “Consider doing a social media detox for a week. Show yourself you don’t need it every day in your life.”

2. Participate in Social Media-Free Activities

“Make social media-free times with friends and family, such as watching a movie together or having dinner,” Phillips says.

Don’t think you’re limited to just dinner and a movie, either. Going to a group exercise class or any kind of class prevents us from constantly checking our phones.

3. Keep Your Phone Out of Your Bedroom

If you use your phone as an alarm clock, try purchasing a separate alarm clock so you’re not tempted to keep looking at your phone.

“Keep your phone out of the bedroom to create good sleep hygiene and to avoid late-night texting,” Phillips says.

4. Limit the Number of Accounts You Follow 

Try only following accounts of people that you personally know or businesses in your city.

“Limit the number of accounts you follow so you are not endlessly scrolling,” Phillips says.

5. Put Social Media in Perspective

Generally speaking, people only tend to post positive things on social media. Seeing all these posts can distort our view of other people’s realities.

“Reflect on your own posting. See how representative it is of your full life. You will probably find it mainly represents the positives and not the hardships of day-to-day life, and keep this in perspective when looking at other people’s feeds,” Phillips says.

6. Turn Off Notifications

By turning off notifications, you take back control and decide when you engage with your apps. The notifications also can distract you.

“Follow only friends and family and search out aspirational content when you are in a good emotional place instead of having it come into your feed unprompted,” Phillips says.

7. Work on Building Relationships Via DMs

If you’re following only people you know in person, social media can be a place to start building relationships. Just start by messaging them privately.

“Work on building one-on-one relationships by messaging people separately,” Phillips says.

8. For Parents, Keep Your Kids’ Passwords

If you’re a parent and your child is on social media, be sure not to give them the passwords. This keeps them safer since they can only look at social media when you’re supervising them, as advised by Phillips.

Overall, it is possible to have a healthier relationship with social media, but keep in mind that it can never replace in-person communication.

“Social media is not going to hug you back,” Phillips says. “There's a very big difference between someone writing you a heartfelt note or sending you a thoughtful package on your birthday versus just liking someone's birthday post or being able to actually be deliberate, that they've thought about you and are missing you, and those types of feelings from the heart can't be faked.”

Tags: Mental Health, Self Care, Social Media, wellness

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Teresa Traverse

Teresa K. Traverse is a writer and editor who has been published in Brides and Bust. Visit teresaktraverse.com for more. See Full Bio

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