About the Post

Author Information

Tania is currently the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Hudsucker, and Senior Editor at the Nashville, Tennessee based PopCulture.com. With past writing and editing credits with Womanista, Quietly, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and NBC Newsvine, she is currently a member of Indianapolis based, Society of Professional Journalists — one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists. She is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley and baseball fan as well as a lover of pancakes and fine cheeses, film, and music. Tania is a Hoosier at heart with a passionate wanderlust for always traveling and giving back to those in her community. She is currently studying at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Follow Tania on Twitter: @westlifebunny.

Adding a Social Media Cleanse To Your “Tech Diet”

With technology continuously advancing and social media setting new rules for all segments of society, every day we get more connected to each other. Conversely then, does being more connected mean being more communicative? Scientists don’t think so. In fact, a study out of the University of Michigan shows how online social media contributes to loneliness and reduces overall life-satisfaction, rather than making us feel connected.

Without a doubt, we have become addicted to our digital devices; we check our emails a number of times in a single day, photograph our food, post status updates about what we’re up to, and in many ways it seems like a quality way of keeping in touch with those that matter, but that’s not the case. Technology in these past few years has made aspects of our social life easier, giving hope and optimism to those using it. In many ways, social networking has glorified the virtual romance of technology but has made users pay the price with their self-esteem.

With websites like Twitter and Instagram, particularly Facebook, we continue collecting friends like stamps, without distinguishing between quality and quantity. By adding “friends” on various social networks, we think we are exchanging that deep meaning and intimacy that we longed for, through photographs, status updates, and tweets, eventually sacrificing the charm of one-to-one and face-to-face interactive communication just for the sake of connection. In many ways, it creates a paradox where we have many friends who are commenting, liking, and retweeting, but are lonelier.

In social media you can alter your identity to self-project and become the best possible ‘you’ by deleting text, or cutting and pasting it,  and adding filters to your image. That is really never the true picture of oneself in some cases and that creates a dilemma for self-worth as we constantly strive to look good and connectable in the eye of others. This constant desire to be accepted and approved is much like addiction increasing a need for approval but is at best illusionary, the effects of which are short lived.

Here are some reasons it might be essential to add a social media cleanse to your tech diet this year:

1. Social Media is a ‘Psyche’ Killer:

Last year The University of Salford in the United Kingdom did a study on social media’s effects on self-esteem and anxiety. Reports concluded that half of their participants said the use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter made their life worse. It’s an evident fact that in today’s culture, everything is a competition to the hungry man but when we compare ourselves and our accomplishments to our online friends, that becomes the deterrent for a declining personal worth. Knowing too much about some individuals can have a negative effect on a person, ultimately making one sad and incredibly depressed and create feelings of inadequacy. In many ways, it can make you anxious and create a compulsive sort of behavior with regards to updates and always ‘knowing’.

What You Can Do:

Prune any negative influences from your accounts. Social media can trap you in a sea of self-criticism, so why take that? With the case of Facebook being a big culprit in the weakening of self-esteem, unlike any pages that don’t provide value or that you can agree with. It is best to unfriend people you don’t know or cannot keep in touch with and or hide or restrict them if you want to spare yourself the drama; and ‘like’ pages that you will enjoy seeing in your feed that will benefit your knowledge. Let’s be honest—do you really want to have 2,500 friends that you don’t talk to all the time, but instead, proverbially, watch their lives go by? What is that doing for you? The way we use social media has become a reflection of not just our intelligence and personality, but has deeply rooted sentiments of ourselves embedded. The professor of communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State University, S. Shyam Sundar discovered that the types of actions users take and information that they share on Facebook has become a reflection of their identities. “You are your Facebook, basically, and despite all its socialness, Facebook is a deeply personal medium,” Sundar says.

2. Social Media Can Harm Your Physical Health:

Social media can not only harm your mental health by dabbling in your psyche, but your physical health. By subjecting yourself to users and information you have become irritated with or are unable to connect with, it can bring about great stress. When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced, making us more susceptible to infections, and that’s not a good thing at all. Further, sites like Twitter and Facebook, known for open debates, can irritate and incite us like to no other. In addition to adding stress, anger can easily be developed over social media and that is bad for blood pressure, eventually raising it and putting one at risk. Social media can even raise blood pressure through the lack of sleep, particularly for those who stay up late on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, depriving their sleep schedule. According to recent findings, just one less hour of sleep per night can lead to an increase of 2mm/Hg in systolic blood pressure. Social media could affect your weight, as per a study from the Harvard Men’s Health Watch. While scientists don’t fully understand how obesity spreads, they question whether social media has the power to influence how users perceive what is acceptable and the norm. If someone sees their friends becoming heavier over time, they might accept weight gain as a natural occurrence, even inevitable. In many ways, it’s almost a way of conforming through social networking; simply going with the flow and joining the crowd.

What You Can Do:

It’s incredibly easy to forget that the Internet is not the end all, be all. It really shouldn’t be treated with such life and death gravitas. It’s important to get off the computer, put down your smartphone, and just go out. It’s as easy as that. The last thing you want is to fry your brain with constantly being connected and hitting an information overload. It’s been known that Albert Einstein would go sailing if he was stuck on a problem and most often, the solution would then arrive to him while on the water. It’s essential to break away every now and then in order to absorb new material and take in new experiences to further your intellect. Adding exercise will not only have you feeling more energetic and stimulate various chemicals in your brain leaving you happy, but will increase blood flow, glucose, oxygen and proteins to the old noggin. Physical exercise will control your weight and combat diseases and ailments as well, leaving you feeling far more relaxed and happy, without feeling the weight of a hard day. In addition, it helps to improve your self-esteem, combats depression, and boosts your confidence.

3.  Social Media Can Damage Real Relationships

Image Credit: Luong Thai Linh/EPA/Corbis

While being continuously connected, we’re missing out on “real life” and the joy and excitement of personal interactive communication with other person. Instead, we’re tweeting about it or giving another status update on Facebook, or even photographing a meal in good lighting all for Instagram. It can become awkward and at times, create social phobias. With being connected 24 hours a day, we underestimate the power of a real interaction. Liking a status update or retweeting a tweet is not the same as picking up the phone, or even going out for lunch or a quick coffee. They are extremely different. Whereas an online experience on Facebook can create doubt and a feeling of dejection, the in-person conversation, can positively alter the brain’s chemistry and mood. By being so engulfed with social media and constantly connected, we are harming our ability to interact with others and creating antisocial behavior. Such behavior prevents deeper bonds from forging with those you care about.

What You Can Do:

There are many individuals who have a fear of talking on the phone, but that’s only because they haven’t done it in so long! Since social media is impersonal and low intensity, requiring little to no commitment for those involved, many don’t bother getting together in person or talking on the phone. However, there are many ways to open dialogue with those that matter and break that mold social media may have cast and consumed you in. Pick up the phone or if that makes you nervous, try meeting up with them in person by seeing a movie or even inviting them out for coffee. Now with that in mind, don’t get me wrong with online friendships. It has its own place but is definitely not for everyone nor does it substitute for face-to-face communication. There is a boundless beauty in social media with the ease of finding people of similar interests, thoughts, and backgrounds; a great meeting of the minds, you would say. Like many, I’m one of the many who has forged relationships online and have even “met” some very good people and forged best friend relationships through social networks. I have found that the easiest way to interact with them has been through webcam and telephone, both incredibly useful tools for tightening a relationship.

4. Social Media Creates FOMO:

There is a real form of social anxiety called FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” It’s a compulsive concern that one feels they might miss an opportunity for social interaction and life experiences. We’ve all experienced it—we see friends at a party and you realize you weren’t invited. It feeds crazy thoughts and insecurity, exacerbating our sense of not being able to fit in or that something’s wrong with our life. But that isn’t true at all. Most likely if you see your friends having more fun than you, keep in mind that they’re probably thinking the same thing about you. Social media has a tendency to create drama and instead of experiencing life, many are Instagramming photos, Tweeting setlists of a concert or providing play-by-plays of a sporting event, but they’re not really experiencing their dinner or the concert, or even the football game. Instead, they’re looking for online approval and what are the chances those photos or tweets will be seen again? It may be proof of an event, but it’s not validation of personal experience.

What You Can Do:

Be daring! If you see friends on your social network feeds traveling across the country, attending music festivals, painting their face and rooting for their favorite sports team, what’s stopping you from doing the same thing? Use your social media skills to find you good deals on airline tickets or hotel accommodations, and set out on an adventure! Or call up your friends and head to a music festival. Don’t miss out on life. Live life like Ferris Bueller. Better yet, embrace who you are and try some alone time. With living in such a connected world, we are always surrounded by those we seek solace through, but when you’re always surrounded, you’re never really truly alone. Try going out on your own, seeing the world through fresh eyes and enjoying your own company.

With scientific studies claiming society has descended into a much lonelier, narcissistic and depressed culture, it might be wise to take time off from social media or even limiting your networking, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, or Pinterest. It might be a lot to ask of someone, but if you’re feeling low at the end of it, why put yourself through it? With a multitude of social media networks bombarding our life every day, cutting any form for an extended time is like asking to give up water for a week. Try it in incremental stages and see how you feel. Obviously, never do anything too sudden, or drastic or jeopardize your personal sense of being who you really are, even a career; but give yourself space and boundaries to disconnect for a bit if you are able to.

With the advent of New Year upon us, letting go of old habits may not only help put things into personal perspective, but it may open new visions and vistas to help guide you towards a path to happiness. After all, happiness is not something ready-made–it comes out of your own actions. Cheers to a Happy New Year!

Connect with Tania Hussain on Twitter and Google+!

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