When was the last time you took a trip, saw a concert or threw a party—without simultaneously tweeting, Facebooking or Instagramming?
Social media seems to have a tight grip on many of us these days. We’re so busy frantically documenting our lives—and preoccupied waiting for our phones to buzz—that we make ourselves anxious, says Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). “This relationship with our social networks is part addiction and part obsession,” Rosen says. “We’re always expecting something, so our brain stays on high alert, releasing floods of neurotransmitters and putting us in a constant state of anxiety.” Where’s the thumbs-down button?
But you can use online networks in a positive way—by being more conscious of the time and attention you spend on them. “A healthy relationship with social media is one in which you drive its use and it doesn’t drive you,” Rosen says. Here are three simple ways to break an unhealthy social media habit:
Take tech breaks » Do you visit Facebook or Twitter before you’re even out of bed? Train yourself to get over the need to constantly scan your networks. Try to keep your phone facedown and on silent when you’re at work, commuting or in a social situation, and give yourself one minute every 15 to 30 minutes to check it. When you regulate your use, your compulsion to constantly check your phone will diminish.
Lurk less » It’s too easy to fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole, gawking at a stranger’s wedding photos and bemoaning your shortcomings. “It’s in our nature to compare,” says Rosen. “But remember that on social media, people always present themselves in the best possible light. They’re overly accentuating the positive.” Stop focusing on showoffy profiles and you’ll find it easier to wean yourself off stalking.
Edit yourself » If you have a tendency to overshare, implement an “e-waiting period,” Rosen says. “Craft your post and then walk away, if only for a minute, to let your brain rest so you can reconsider or confirm what you want to say.” Waiting will help you break your habit of instant uploading, which inherently means you’ll be more fully present in the here and now. And what’s more social than that?