Social media is a huge part of my life, both personally and professionally; however, lately I’ve been noticing an excessive amount of social media usage on my part.
Not a day goes by that friends, family, and coworkers don’t see me posting/tweeting/pinning/instagramming something, and while doing so keeps me incredibly well-connected online, it’s becoming an interference to my offline relationships.
To put it simply, I’ve become a social media addict – and it’s fascinating that that kind of addiction is possible in this day and age.
Dr. Peter Whybrow of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA likens smartphones to “electronic cocaine” because our brains seek out novelty as a reward (aka constantly refreshing social feeds drives our brain). So my constant need for social updates and interaction comes as no surprise, apparently.
Because of my profession and my profound love of being connected, I could never fully give up social media (plus, who would want to?), but a change was definitely in order.
On January 1, I began trying to alter my social media behavior by limiting the times and places I allow myself to connect to social channels. As bad as I want to instagram my awesome plate of food or tweet about the great discussion I had with a coworker, I’m working to instead focus on the enjoying my offline interactions and company.
To help jump start my new resolution, I read Dot Complicated, the new book by social media and technology expert Randi Zuckerberg that helps people understand how to navigate and interact with social media and technology without letting it get the best of them.
Looking at her own personal experiences in the tech world, Zuckerberg shares advice on how to achieve a tech-life balance in personal, professional, familial, and romantic relationships.
After reading the book, I walked away with some great tips to get my started on my journey to use social media in a more healthy way:
Stop worrying about responding instantly – People understand that you have a life away from your phone, and won’t be upset if it takes you 30 minutes (or even two hours) to reply to a notification or text. Instead of picking up your phone the second you hear that familiar “bzzzz,” let it sit for awhile.
Celebrate a “digital Shabbat” – Whether its an entire day or an hour, set aside a time where you can completely unplug. Turn your phone off, and just appreciate what’s around you.
Limit yourself – If you’re like me, you want to share every picture you take (even if its twenty of the same thing). Moving forward, try to pick the single image that evokes the feeling you would like to remember for years and post that one only.
Attention as currency – Think of your attention as a type of currency. You only have a limited amount, so be sure to spend it in the way that is most valuable to you.
When it comes to New Year’s, I know I’m not the only one who makes well-intentioned resolutions only to see them fall by the wayside months (or maybe even weeks) later. But I have high hopes for this year’s resolution, and I think it’s something everyone should strive towards a well.
Technology is a great thing, as is the instant connections it can bring, but we all need to set our limits – don’t you think?
Rachael Genson is an Account Executive at INK: PR + Brand + Social in Austin, Texas. Tweet her at @rmgenson.