With so much going on in the world, many of us feel we have a responsibility to stay up to date on world events that can potentially impact our families. But consuming a steady stream of sensationalized headlines and political conflicts can leave us feeling overwhelmed with social media overload.
Sometimes I find myself missing the “old days” when we read the newspaper in the morning and just watched the evening news later in the day. Now there’s a 24 hour news cycle of news stories, headlines and images that are carefully designed to make us react!
The next time you’re consuming media content, whether you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed or watching the news, be aware of how each story is impacting you. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Now think about what impact they’re having on you.
Do you feel discouraged or depressed after you close the browser tab? Mark Manson states the following in his excellent article In the Future, Our Attention Will Be Sold:
Social networks are the business model of the attention economy. They are wholly dependent on eyeballs and clicks to make all of their revenue. To do this, they design algorithms that show you the most interesting and attention-grabbing information available in your social network. If your newsfeed was full of the boring and drab day-to-day stuff, you’d stop looking at it. So instead, Facebook shows you the most extreme occurrences in your social network for the simple reason that the extreme events draw the most attention.
This has drastic effects not only on our perceptions of society as a whole, but also on how we perceive our personal lives.
Why Is Information Overload a Problem?
Have you ever started a new project and tried to learn ALL the information to the point that it feels like your brain might explode? That’s what information overload feels like, and it’s a daily reality for most people due to fast access to information from social media. Information overload be the cause of a number of stress related symptoms such as: * Headache * Stress * Moodiness * Overweight * Cardiovascular issues Not only that, but it often causes problems in relationships with family, friends and colleagues. When you post something that stirs up contention, that’s what will come back to you. If you struggle with information overload, remember that it’s an intentional choice you make to be connected all day. You don’t have to watch all the news and all the talk shows to stay current.
Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Trail
Anytime you want to learn something new, it’s incredibly tempting to start gathering tons of information. And with multiple platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and all the rest, it’s easy to get sucked into the due to the social media mob mentality and wander down the rabbit trail of never ending information. After awhile you don’t even recognize what’s good information and what’s bad.
Overload Leads to Poor Information Filtering
When you are bombarded with nonstop information and news headlines,, your brain can’t filter and process it all properly.. Your brain starts to generalize all information as being the same, instead of filtering information in terms of importance. This is makes wise decision making a real problem.
It Also Leads to Black and White Thinking
The older I get, the more I realize that the world is not black and white. The world is colorful, black, white, gray and everything in between and more. The same can be said for a lot of issues. There are very few issues that are either right or wrong, black or white. There are always many perspectives to consider.
If you have too much information at your fingertips and are rating everything the same, it’s easy to see things as black and white, which can make it hard to negotiate a happy life and successful business. And if you filter your newsfeed to read only the stories and opinions that you agree with, that only worsens black and white thinking.
Does Social Media Affect Your Health?
Social media addiction can lead some people to experience mental problems such as short-term memory issues and even depression. If you find that you’re just feeling mixed up a lot, forget appointments and aren’t doing your best in real life such as home or work, you probably want to consider information overload as a potential culprit.
The impact of social media addiction affects all of us. Families have forgotten how to talk to each other. People are wrecking their cars due to not being able to turn away from looking at their text messages. Many people are overwhelmed, unfocused and stressed out from the 24/7 news cycle and endless notifications.
But Can Social Media Help You?
For me, social media used positively can be a good thing but I’m learning how to implement boundaries. As a special needs mom with chronic illness and a woman in recovery, it’s easy for me to feel depressed and isolated at times and social media offers a great place to connect with old friends and those who share my interests.
Not only that, but it helps me to stay current with disability advocacy issues. But when I find myself using it to procrastinate about other things that I really should be doing, numb out or if I feel depressed after getting online, it’s time to reevaluate how I’m using it.
Learning how to practice mindfulness in my social media consumption has been really helpful. I’ve learned how to implement boundaries. For example, in 2008 when I first got my Facebook account, I got into a few stupid arguments that placed a strain on real life relationships.
I don’t always want to know my friends’ political leanings but I’ve had to learn to live and let live. I very rarely comment on public threads or memes that I know are designed to provoke. I hide people from the news feed who constantly post stories that are triggering. I do try to stay informed on what’s important but don’t get sucked into everything.
How to Stop Wasting Time on Social Media
If you’re not ready for a detox, learning to use social media mindfully can help reduce the screen time that may be stressing you out. Here’s a few suggestions:
Check in twice a day at set times. It’s a good idea to avoid it completely before lunchtime. Checking into your accounts with your morning coffee will cloud your productivity and getting caught up in the day’s drama will cause you to lose focus.
Focus on what matters most. If you’re a blogger or online business owner, when it comes to doing tasks on social media, money-making tasks should come first, then relationship building, then personal activities. If you focus on just whatever is in front of you when you check your social media, you’ll get sucked in. Develop a plan of attack.
Outsource. Find someone to help you with social media if you’re using it for business. There are many social media managers who are good at helping you do the job properly. If that’s not your main money-making activity, let someone else do it. (Shameless promo: I’m a virtual assistant and can help you lighten your social media load. Learn more here!)
Turn off notifications. If you use Facebook for business, turn off the notifications so that you’re not tempted to respond every time one of your friends posts something. If you’re a member of Facebook groups (which certainly serve their purpose) turn off the notifications and mindfully check in once a day.
Give yourself a set time limit for scrolling. 10 or 15 minutes tops is a good boundary to set.
Unfollow the people who stress you out. Seriously, even if it’s a family member. For me, I don’t need to know people’s politics or what crazy conspiracy theories they’re into. And I don’t have time to watch dozens of videos. You can always check in periodically so that they don’t think you’re completely ignoring them.
Be honest. Many times being busy feels good. It feels like you’re doing something and accomplishing something. But, the truth is, not all activities that make you busy are productive.It’s important that you develop the ability to be honest with yourself about why you’re really on the phone.
Be mindful. Whereever you are and whomever you’re with, be fully present with them. Practice the presence instead of being distracted by your phone. And when you do get online, take note of how you’re feeling first.
Do You Really Need a Social Media Detox?
For those of us who work online, doing a social media detox isn’t terribly practical. But if it’s a non-essential activity for you, you feel like you might be addicted and you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, doing a detox would be a really good thing for your mental health. Take the apps off your phone and tablet. You just might be surprised at how much better you feel!
Remember, if you’re already feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, it’s probably a good idea to do something else for awhile..something physical and tangible like going for a walk, journaling to get out of your head. If you’re looking to numb yourself, remember than social media can be abused just like any other substance like alcohol or food. And when you’re using it for the wrong reasons, chances are you’ll feel even worse afterwards.