What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Many of us (myself included) pick up our phones, eager to check on the latest updates from our friends on various forms of social media. Whether your go-to app is Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or something else, it’s important to establish a sense of balance between social media and the realities of life. First, let’s establish what’s good and bad about social media.
Social media isn’t inherently bad
Though some people constantly harp on the evils of social media, the idea itself is rooted in community and relationships. According to Holly Ferguson, a student at Anderson University in South Carolina, “Social media was made for keeping up with people, but when you let it become a tool for comparison, it loses its value.” We can choose to use social media as a mechanism to stay in touch with more people from our past than ever and develop a broad network of friends and acquaintances through the responsible use of these platforms. Ferguson, an Art major, also states that “social media such as Pinterest and Instagram can be great platforms to find and share inspiration.” When social media is used for maintaining relationships and viewing things you’re passionate about, it’s a force for good; however, it can easily turn into something with dangerous effects.
The “comparison game” is harmful
Do you ever notice how after spending a significant amount of time on social media, your life doesn’t seem to measure up? You may feel dissatisfied or sorry for yourself. This phenomenon is known as the comparison game. When you compare your own reality to someone else’s illusion of reality, you’ll never win. Since most people don’t post a negative experience or even just a ho-hum day, it can be easy to buy into the illusion that everyone else is having a more fulfilling, exciting life than you. However, once you understand the mechanics of the comparison game, it’s still easy to become sucked into it unconsciously through the use of social media.
How to find a healthy balance
With no sign of social media leaving our society anytime soon, it’s crucial to find ways to capture the good out of social media without being overtaken by the negative. Here are some techniques for creating your own balancing act between social media and the real world.
Monitor (and limit) your time on social media
Multiple studies have shown that excessive screen time, particularly when related to social media, can be detrimental to mental health. A recent study from San Diego State University found that screen time amounts greater than one hour per day can lead to adverse effects on children and teens. The good news is that screen time can be easily monitored on your iPhone through the Settings app. It’s eye-opening to see where your time is going while on your phone, and you can set limits for yourself in order to achieve a healthier amount of screen time if yours is higher than you’d prefer.
Take a break from social media
In some cases, taking a break from social media can be the best option. Whether it’s a modified break—such as not spending time on certain social media apps—or a full social media detox, changing your social media routine serves to emphasize just how much it means to us. Cassidy Barker, a freshman at Anderson University, has decided to take a complete break from social media as she adjusts to college life. Not only does she believe that it can take away from priorities such as schoolwork, self-care, and faith, but social media can also make the transition to college more difficult.
“When I started college, it was hard to go on social media and see all my high school friends’ posts of them having the times of their lives in college while I was struggling with making the transition. I had to realize that they were only posting the good moments and that they were struggling in some aspects of their lives as well. By deleting social media, I can remove the temptation to hold myself up against an unrealistic standard.” Barker still has her social media accounts and clarifies that she has posted to Instagram once or twice since her detox began but emphasizes that it has much less of a claim on her. “I am no longer addicted to checking it every time I pick up my phone, and that is a victory I’m proud of,” she says.
Overall, social media can be a useful tool as we network with others, find inspiration, and stay up-to-date on important events. However, social media can also be a dangerous time waster and meaningless source of impossible comparison. With increased monitoring of the time you spend on social media, knowledge about the issues that come with it, and perhaps a complete break from social media itself, you can bring increased balance to your life regarding social media.
For more advice on surviving college life, check out our Student Life section.