The Toxicity of Social Media during this Pandemic & 3 Ways to Manage it
To quote John Oliver, “We're all participating in a disgusting amount of screen time right now”.
What else are bored teens and kids suppose to do? I’ve been hearing it from both parents and teens, struggling to put a limit on social media. What ends up happening often looks something like this: Your teen opens their app on their phone, clicks on a cute photo, which often leads them down a rabbit hole of endless scrolling that lasts hours… yup, hours. It can be Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Tik Tok, Snapchat, etc.
I’ve currently seen some serious red-flags with the socially acceptable over-consumption of social media happening in our world right now. And I get it, it is extremely hard to find a balance to screen time during this pandemic, especially when the outside world is 'closed until further notice'.
Yet, it is still important to be mindful of the negative potential of social media. So here are a few things to be aware of:
Avoiding emotions: Social media and videogaming inadvertently (or maybe totally intentionally) help teens and kids avoid uncomfortable and messy emotions. All they have to do is pick up their Xbox controller, or click on their Instagram app and wha-la—all fears and worries forgotten. Zoning out on a game or scrolling through endless pictures or videos may be a good avoidance/distraction strategy in the short-term. Key word: short-term. Long-term exposure can create lasting consequences such as anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, or anger/irritation.
FOMO: The agony of FOMO, even in a pandemic, is very real for almost every teen I work with. They are worried a friend or someone they know, is out there managing to have fun in creative, Insta worthy way and they are not yet in the know of all the fun possibilities out there! FOMO (the fear of missing out) is the latest version of the comparison trap- and it’s only getting worse. Teen girls are susceptible to this, as they constantly compare their looks, success, bodies, experiences, or talents to those they follow online. Comparison causes anxiety, depression, irritation, can lead to self-harming behavior and even isolation.
So what should we do? We can’t do much in a pandemic, what else is there? Great question! That leads me into a few ways to think and manage time spent on social media.
Step #1: Unplug the second you wake up.
The first hour or two, no TV/no phone. It is easier first thing in the morning to regulate usage because the brain is still waking up. So instead of checking your phone upon waking, leave it in a drawer, on silent mode. Prepare and eat breakfast, take a shower, meditate, drink coffee, walk the doggie or yourself for some much needed fresh air, and do a few chores such as laundry, or picking up your room. Basic things to keep the brain stimulated and distracted without a screen.
Step #2: Follow ONLY positive people who’s social media feed fills you with happiness.
Unfollow people who you’ve critically compared yourself too or has a negative feed. Right now we all need to focus on what is important. Align your social media accounts to reflect to this intention of peace, love and happiness.
Step #3: Set an alarm to go off every 20 minutes.
This is a great way to move your inactive body during this time! Once the alarm goes off, put your phone down, or pause the TV, to stretch or do a 30 second workout like air squats, jumping jacks or planks. It changes the physical sensation of your body and the resulted by-product is a happier mood. Move into your life right now, even if you feel like your life is stuck.
I hope these tips give you some power back in controlling the social media monster that's been roaming the halls of your house since the pandemic hit. The monster won't go away, at least not in the foreseeable future. It pretty much lives with you and your family at the moment, yet it doesn't mean you can't co-exist in healthier ways.
Good luck and stay safe!