I've been thinking a lot about social media lately and how I've always had a real love/hate affair with it. These days it's more love than anything but there have been moments when I've found it an overwhelmingly suffocating place. Even as a well informed adult who is more than media savvy, I still find myself sucked into the false realities of the 'gram, my mind adopting an oddly stubborn anxiety that takes some effort to shake off.
We're cool now, social media and I, but a few years ago when I moved to London it was a space I learned to avoid, so much so I deleted most of my apps. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat- GONE. I found that it derailed me off my path; I found it an oddly competitive space that had become less about keeping in touch with friends and more about keeping up with complete and utter strangers and their perfect feeds. I'm all for celebrating achievements and applauding the good times- I think it's so important- but it's healthy to acknowledge the reality of normal day to day life too; that not every day is sparkling and exciting and glamorous. That was probably the biggest problem I had with social media all those years ago, the false projections of a picture perfect lifestyle that told only told 3% of the real story. As a journalist, I like to get the full picture- not just one misleading headline.
I often wonder about teens who are still at that awkward discovering themselves stage. Where they're in that limbo of not quite a child but not yet an adult; bubbling inside with a concoction of emotions and worries and fears... how do they feel? Maybe they're less affected because they know no different but I can't imagine my 13 year old self would be too thrilled with having instant fuel to all my greatest worries in the palm of my hand.
Don't get me wrong, I love my phone. I love social media. I love being connected 24/7. I love knowledge at the tip of my fingers and I get excited about advancements in technology and keeping up with the latest trends. I love all these amazing things about living in a digitally savvy world. However, I do sometimes think it can become a little too much and that more than ever it's important to step back, take a break and make sure that our digital spaces are tailored to our individual needs and interests. Ideally they should be a place where we find inspiration and escape, where we can learn and grow and find fulfilment- not a space where we get even more stressed and anxious.
Deleting my apps back in 2015 certainly helped but I knew it wasn't going to be the long term solution. So I set about making my online spaces my happy places, deleting apps that were clogging my brain and instead downloading ones that helped nourish my mind and soul. I unfollowed accounts that gave me unnecessary stress or added to my worries and followed new ones instead- people I admired and wanted to be like and could learn from, accounts that inspired me or gave me a giggle or a pick me up. I also decided to be more conscious of how much time I was spending on my phone. It was hard in the beginning because my phone really was such an extension of my arm (and understandably so!) but before I knew it, it wasn't the most important thing. The most important thing was savouring the moment and being present... it's the best thing I've ever done!
I read a bunch of statistics recently that blew my mind. Research shows that the average millennial checks their phone 157 times per day; that’s a daily average of 145 minutes and an annual total of 882 hours of striving to feel connected, validated, and liked. It's crazy. Imagine dedicating that amount of time to something constructive - learning a skill, a new language, writing a book... you'd be well on the way to creating a masterpiece! It's when you crunch those numbers and see how monstrous they are that you can begin to appreciate how crucial it is, then, that our online spaces are positive spaces that fulfil us and make us happy in ourselves.
I don't know about you but 882 hours of feel good is way more appealing to me than 882 hours of negativity and stress!
Have you questioned your own social media habits? Are there changes you could make to help a happier mind?