Serene Palleygedera recounts her toxic love-hate relationship with social media and encourages some certified tips to help you switch off.
I have been scrolling for hours. Doom-scrolling, some might call it. But I don’t realise. I keep scrolling - I feel drained. But I keep scrolling. And then it hits me: a paradox. I am tired, so I scroll. To quote Rene Descartes, ‘I scroll, therefore I am tired’. I have to go to bed. Hell, I have been scrolling for hours.
I’m not sure if I can count the number of times that I have heard something like ‘I end up scrolling through TikTok for hours’. I’m afraid that it always takes me down a deep and long rabbit hole of regret.
Being in the social media space, I have this crippling and absolutely overwhelming desire to be all-knowing and always on top of things. I feel as if I don't watch the newest trends, my content will be horrible. And oh my god, people will know that I made it. How do I deal with something so shitty having my name on it? What I didn’t realise was that it’s really not that serious.
A couple months ago, I felt the need to disengage. I was tired of constantly being switched on and always on the look-out for better ways to improve my content. All I wanted to do was to shut out all the noise from everything. I needed a break, because my brain felt like a busy marketplace with people yelling and birds crapping all over the streets.
I gave myself permission to take a week off. By the end of the week, I didn’t want to go back online. But I had to. I had to see what was going on, or I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up. And I thought to myself, if I didn’t go overboard, would my relationship with social media be the same? Would it still be a toxic love-hate relationship? Because I so didn’t want it to be like that. Maybe I could turn it into a healthy relationship where I didn’t feel like I had met all of my extended family all in one go. Could I have…boundaries?
I spoke to Benjamin Munro Smith, Head of Social Media at Macquarie University, to learn more about his journey and to help me untangle the complicated web of social media. He started his journey in property development and then moved onto marketing after realising social media and its potential. But Ben is aware of the very real issues it has with people.
Developing a Healthy Relationship with Social Media
Social media is designed to capture attention and get us hooked, so how do you develop a healthy relationship with something that when overused could be quite harmful? What if we optimised our time spent on social media? What if we saw content that we actually enjoyed? What if we had a life outside of the infinity-scroll?
The (Magic) Tools
Have you ever friended someone you didn’t really like but just felt obliged to? Have you ever come across content on your feed that you have no idea how it got there? Keep reading to see how to make your socials really YOURS.
Put it away: turn your phone off, put it away and experience the world phone free.
Don’t sleep with it: leave your device in another room to charge and buy yourself a cheap alarm clock.
Ban notifications: the buzz of a notification is there to make you want to check it. Turn it off and only check your phone at a time that suits you.
Don’t go cold turkey: if you’re someone who constantly checks their phone, set limits. Start at 15 minutes and work your way up to a full day
Delete the app: if you’re really wanting to make a change, take the app off your phone and only access your profiles via the desktop version.
Keep the maintenance up: you’re in control, so make it work for you. Mute, unfollow, block or delete any accounts that don’t make you feel amazing.
Ben says that the key to not feeling horrible about being on your phone is to consciously assess what you see, what content you interact with, and how much time you spend online. You can use app timers that you can access through screen-time. At first, you might find going off the grid a lot more challenging, but with a little bit of practice, you’ll be well on your way to building a healthier connection with social media.
Being on social media can be overwhelming for many, and he suggests you take a day off every week to breathe a little more!
Here’s a cool (and creepy) fact Ben shared with me: look at your hand with which you use your phone the most, then stick out your pinkie. Look at the middle bone: does it or does it not have a little divot? Apparently most Gen Z’s have this “dent” from resting their phones on their little finger.
Remember that it is not the end of the world if you go incognito for a while, and give your poor pinky a break. I’m going to give myself permission to switch off every now and then, what about you?