I always recommend that clients perform a regular review of social media usage so thought I’d share my personal experiences of doing so too.
Each year I see increasing numbers of clients, both in-person and via Skype, needing help to overcome compulsive internet use or social media addiction. It is also often a significant factor in clients I see with sleep disorders.
Whilst I never felt I had this type of issue, I was aware that a significant amount of my time and mental energy was being spent on the activity.
However, it took an outside event to really make me take a fresh look and shift my thinking and behaviours.
A Happy Burglary
Many years ago, my previous office was burgled and amongst other things (including, bizarrely, a bottle of Lucozade), the perpetrator stole my Apple Mac. I had lots of thing backed up but one thing I had not backed up was my emails, about 2000 in my inbox and a near 5000 item folder entitled ‘To Read’. I had also lost a lot of my contacts too.
What happened in the following days and weeks suprised me. My burglar (later apprehended and sentenced due to cutting his hand and leaving blood at the scene) had done me a favour. My insurance company delivered a shiny new MacBook and I didn’t miss those emails or my ‘full address’ book at all. The important people knew how to contact me and I re-added those people who really did belong in my address book. As I sipped my (new) Lucozade, I reflected on how lighter and brighter I felt with an inbox back to zero. I’ve kept it that way ever since.
This time it was not being a victim of crime that made me re-think, but rather a surprise two month stint covering another hypnotherapist’s clinical work whilst he was unavoidably out of the country. I simply didn’t have time for social media at the level I did before, so what would happen?!
Being online always feels like work for me anyway since I provide sessions via Skype and I produce online training content.
I am very organised and structured with the sessions and programmes I provide, but curiously with my personal time spent online, specifically on social media, I now noticed I had previously been far more casual, even wasteful. Often, time spent on social media had just expanded, almost mindlessly, to fill a given period of time.
This is not surprising as it is designed to do exactly this. A social media platform is largely valued on the basis of its engaged users. Without these how can it hope to sell advertising or user data. So everything is designed to keep you online and doing things as long as possible. The more platforms are added (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram), the more checking needs to be done.
Just over a decade ago, some of these platforms never even existed and yet now a significant part of someone’s day and life is spent on them. I see people glued to their phones walking out into traffic. I don’t think I can remember a meal when someone was not fiddling with their phone. This is VERY new stuff in human history and just because it’s here doesn’t mean our (over)usage of it is always good for us.
Interestingly, when I have worked with people suffering from extreme social media addiction, they often talk about anxiety from the idea that if they don’t check, they might be ‘missing out on something’. Ironically, it is the very act of obsessive social media use which is causing them to ‘miss out’ on real world experiences.
Time for a Review
I would recommend everyone takes a fresh look at their social media usage and decide which aspects are working for them, plus, more importantly, which aspects mean that it is more like you are working for social media.
Now, you may conclude that being being glued to social media is great for you. Perhaps you love it, your whole life is functional and you are completely happy and fulfilled.
But more likely, there will be something you could change which will bring a benefit for your overall life, relationships and wellbeing.
New Rules, New Habits
Since my most recent review, I have never been so creative, productive or ‘chilled out’. Contrary to many people’s fears when they reduce online availability, I have got more results from less time spent online and social media.
I’ve found this new approach so beneficial that I’ve extended it to other types of online activity and contact.
Naturally, you have to find the blend that works for you. I’m dyslexic so typing, writing or reading anything feels like work. I’m also a super busy introvert so I’m never going to be a ‘poster boy’ for the joys of social media.
I’m not saying I have better things to do, just that I don’t want to be spending all my time staring at a phone or screen when (1) I don’t really want to and (2) It’s not like I’m even getting paid for it! 🙂