Wake up, scroll. Pour coffee, scroll. Get stuck in traffic, scroll. Check notifications, refresh and check again. How many times have you sat down to pee only to get lost in a social media vortex because you must have your phone with you in the lavatory?
Since the stone ages of Nexopia, I have been addicted to social media. I love it. As a young professional and small business entrepreneur, Instagram has become not only my favourite social media channel and networking tool, but also my portfolio — a place to gloat, if you will. And I’m not one to feel the need to disconnect — I’m not an overly outdoorsy person, or someone who longs to be off the grid. I’m open, public, easily distracted. No moment or coffee date goes undocumented. I am a walking essay on the narcissistic compulsions of millennials in the western world.
The visceral need to share, scroll and creep is a common dilemma which posits our generation as lazy, gratuitous, self-congratulatory, technology-obsessed robots. Unfortunately, the vortex of social media becomes that much more inviting and addictive when you start to play “let’s compare myself to other successful women my age that travel all the time, are impossibly candid, effortless and have those boots I’ve been wanting for years but never had the money to get.” It becomes this overwhelming, endless cycle of comparing yourself to others and seeking virtual affirmation.
A year ago, my husband and I ditched our nightly and morning routines of incessant iPhone scrolling and started leaving our phones in the living room (shout-out to my therapist for this advice). We got an alarm clock radio in replacement. Our nights now end with conversation, intimacy or reading a book. I no longer wake up to a scantily-clad photo of Kim Kardashian in my face, and to my surprise, I lived to tell the tale. This judicious attempt to disconnect on a small scale has been a truly cathartic experience for our mental health.
Due to the nature of my job and work, getting off of social media altogether is not an option. However, like the best of us, my obsession with the internet took its toll, and over the past year I’ve found the secret sauce for mental clarity, and a quality of life away from my phone. Call it conscious uncoupling, if you will.
Here are some attainable tips I’ve compiled from my own experiences to help you beat the social media blues.
Unfollow accounts that don’t serve you
Are you obsessed with an Instagram account (or five) that exude the life you want? Do you feel jealous, inadequate and slightly depressed about your own life when you creep this human? Unfollow them. The comparison game is one I know very well, and it’s all-consuming; like a social media rain cloud that follows you, constantly whispering that “you’re not good enough.” Ditch that account from your feed, but keep that to yourself. Nothing is more passive-aggressive than posting about your social media purges.
Get your phone out of the bedroom
My first reaction when my therapist suggested this was to argue that I needed my phone for my morning alarm. Remember alarm clock radios? I got one for less than $25 and I now recommend this small act of “disconnecting” to everyone I know struggling to put their phones down. Your sleep will be deeper, less fitful and you’ll wake up to the sweet sound of an alarm clock like it’s 1997!
Replace nighttime scrolling with journalling
Keeping a journal is not for everyone. Even as a writer, I’ve found myself neglecting my nightly journal time for my iPhone. Last fall, I started journalling monthly as a way to jot down my thoughts and wants without having to commit to daily diary entries (and a hand cramp). I got creative with pencil crayons, felts, stickers and photos. Putting my phone down to get into this monthly personal art project has been therapeutic, fun and thought-provoking.
Take a fitness class
It doesn’t matter the fitness level or intensity, but taking an hour to sweat in a class setting is a great way to maximize on some screen-free self-care. Bonus points for not telling the internet you worked out that day!
Join a book club
Reading always sounds like a good idea, but then again, you could also spend that time creeping your husband’s ex-girlfriend’s new beau. Joining a book club gives you something to read and a healthy reason to get together with other people. Currently, I’m reading Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women — a compelling and beautiful compilation of short stories.
Set your phone to Do Not Disturb
I love this setting because it doesn’t make me feel unreachable, but it does quiet the constant chime of texts, emails and Instagram DMs. I try to leave my phone on Do Not Disturb in the evening when I’m catching up with my partner, cooking a meal or taking a bath.
Learn more about the long-term effects of using social media in the video below.
It’s time we started talking openly about our mental health. Join the conversation on Bell Let’s Talk Day, January 31, and help end the stigma around mental illness. For every text message sent and mobile or long-distance call made by Bell Canada and Bell Aliant customers, Bell will donate five cents to Canadian mental health initiatives. The same goes for anyone sending a tweet using #BellLetsTalk, watching the Bell Let’s Talk Day video on Instagram or Facebook, or using the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter. But talking about it is just the first step: Visit letstalk.bell.ca for more ways you can effect change and build awareness around mental health.