Again and again, I read on Facebook or on blogs about people who are planning a social media break or who have just finished one. Sometimes it’s a week without Facebook, sometimes a month completely without the Internet.
What they all have in common is that they try to take a break to avoid the stress of constant accessibility and the sensory overload with news and cat videos. As much as I can relate to this, I want to suggest a different approach: a mindful use of social media.
Your day has only 24 hours
On average, we spend 50 minutes a day on Facebook and Instagram. If this number seems low to you, keep in mind that there are still enough people in the world who don’t visit Facebook every day.
50 minutes a day is almost as much time as we spend eating and more than any other hobby except television. So it’s no wonder that many people long for a break or a different way of dealing with social media.
Finally time for reading again, the undisturbed meeting with friends, the right conversations, the sport.
When the boundaries become more and more blurred
For many people, it is not so easy to take a longer complete break.
Who doesn’t need emails or the internet for his work today? Most people today do not live in the same place as all their friends and relatives. WhatsApp and Facebook are wonderful tools to keep in touch. But if you also have to deal with Facebook and Instagram professionally, it will be especially hard for you.
It’s the same for me, too. It used to be easy. I’ve been on Facebook for almost 10 years now, but before I left Germany I stopped by every few days at the most.
On my way around the world, it was an easy and practical way to stay in touch with many friends and relatives. Without Facebook, I wouldn’t have met a former classmate for a coffee in Paris after 19 years.
But since Facebook has also become for me a means of marketing my online counselling and networking with colleagues worldwide, it is becoming increasingly complicated.
When switching off is not possible at all
Sure, I’d like to get a message from a friend late at night. But a request for online counselling with a detailed description of psychological problems and personal catastrophes that I would rather not read in bed in the evening. With emails it is still quite simple, I do not let myself be informed about each new message immediately but load these consciously then if it just fits.
Unfortunately, this is not so easy with Facebook. Separation of private and professional life is important. Especially in a profession like mine, but basically also for everyone else. But those who work online and acquire their clients via social media, or are simply friends with their colleagues on Facebook, are increasingly blurring the boundaries. What used to be a purely private medium is now also a professional one. While years ago emails were only read in the office, today it is almost standard that they are also answered in the evening and on weekends.
This mixture of private and professional life makes us long for a break. A longer time-out is still not necessarily impossible but requires a lot of preparation, understanding of the surroundings and the pile of work has probably not become smaller afterwards.
Above all, however, the question arises as to whether such a radical time-out is really so helpful…
Taking a complete break or mindful use of social media?
In general, breaks are great. For a few weeks, you can consciously do without something. A week fasting or a month completely without alcohol can be wonderful measures that provide new insights and do the body and mind good. But if we continue to do the same afterwards as before, was the break really successful?
Wouldn’t it be much better to change our behaviour in the long run? Or to put it another way, why do we react so drastically? Are we really so weak that we can only do it completely or not at all? What would it be like if, instead of turning away, we rather learn to deal with it in a targeted way? Would we not benefit much more from an attentive, reduced and mindful use of social media and the Internet in the end?
Let us be honest, as much as we curse these media from time to time, we love them at least as much. They open up completely new worlds for us, allow us to be informed and stay in contact with friends even over great distances. Yes, they allow people like me to tell others that psychological help is also possible online.
Small steps to success
My advice, therefore: Take complete breaks if you want (and can). But above all, learn a more mindful use of social media and consciously reduce your media consumption. How can this work?
Here are my tips for you on how to handle social media and the internet more mindfully:
- Review the situation: be honest with yourself and observe your own behaviour. How often do you use your mobile phone? How often do you check to see if you have received new messages or what’s new in the world?
- Set yourself concrete and realistic goals. What do you want to change? Why? (and what do you want to do with the time gained?)
- Start small. Switch off notifications, don’t synchronize emails automatically anymore, don’t take your mobile phone to bed (or only in flight mode if you don’t have another alarm clock).
- Practice mindfulness in everyday life. Stop multitasking and devote your full energy and concentration to the one thing you’re doing. (You are watching a movie? Do you really need your mobile phone at the same time?)
- Consciously do without your mobile phone. Go to the supermarket without your phone. Leave your mobile phone in your pocket when you meet friends. Try to get by without social media for a whole day. Treat yourself to an internet-free weekend.
- Don’t be discouraged by small setbacks, they are also part of it. Don’t be too strict with yourself and remember to reward yourself for success (offline, if you can?).
- Review the situation and adjust your goals and procedures if necessary.
How do you deal with social media? Do you reach for your mobile phone first thing in the morning? Have you ever tried taking a break? Or are you maybe someone who practices a mindful use
of social media?