Is Social Media Making Us Unsocial? #5 Simple Tips to Reduce Screen Time in

Jun 5, 20249 min
Is Social Media Making Us Unsocial

“Wait a minute, I need to upload this first.”

With the advent of social media, it is not uncommon for someone to put up an update first and then engage with others. You may have someone in your circle who would prefer time to spend time on social media over real-time interaction. 

According to the survey by Global Web Index, we spend on average 2 hours and 23 minutes a day on social media and it’s been increasing at a rate of 2 minutes per day, which would amount to 43,817 hours (Kemp, 2024)!

Studies have shown that people who spend time on social media are twice as likely to experience social isolation (Primack et al, 2018). As much as social media may make one feel good about themselves, it may serve only as a temporary high.

If you think about it, every minute spent on social media is a reduced minute from real-time interactions. Unfortunately, isolation is also one of the biggest predictors of depression. As you isolate yourself from others, it can become harder to reach out for support and connection, which further worsens your mood.

Does this mean social media is all bad? Not really. 

It is a powerful tool that can help individuals connect across distances in a minute. However, take a pause and think about this: Would you prefer a hundred more likes over a real-time conversation and laughter?

#7 Ways in Which Social Media Makes Us More Sociable in 2024

The impact of the digital age is undeniably seen in all areas of our lives, including our personal and professional relationships. Here are seven ways in which social media has made us social:

1. Eases connectivity

You don’t necessarily have to travel inter-state to reach your loved ones. Whether it is a long-distance relative or friend, they are just a chat or video call away. What once felt impossible, is now on our tips. Platforms like LinkedIn, can provide a work community and help you build professional connections. Interestingly social connection acts as a buffer against mental health concerns, like anxiety and depression.

2. Subjective well-being

Researchers have found that there are two ways you can use social media: one is active use and the other is passive use. Active use includes behaviours such as direct messaging, commenting on posts, updating status, and others. These behaviours have been linked to well-being.

Some studies also indicate that if you feel lonely, you can feel better and improve your health after actively using social media (Pennington et al., 2021). An example would be the use of social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cramped up in our homes, we felt lonely, but we could access social media to stay in touch with our loved ones. 

Passive use of social media often includes scrolling through the content, without interacting with others. It is not uncommon for us to see reels on Instagram, only to realize that hours have already passed.

3. Helps people find romantic connections

 Our world of dating has changed and our neighborhood uncles and aunts are no longer the go-to matchmakers. The internet has become a common place to find romantic connections. According to a survey, 39% of couples found their significant others through social media and online dating apps in 2017, compared to 22% in 2009. Additionally, in America, online meetings are gradually replacing the role of friends and family in bringing a couple together (Rosenfeld et al, 2019). This is also a game-changer if you are an introvert and don’t want to jump to in-person meetings. It eases the anxiety of meeting someone new for the first time.

4. Fosters creativity

 Thanks to social media, many individuals find it encouraging to start their businesses and launch their ideas without a lage capital. Platforms like YouTube and Instagram, allow individuals to express their creativity and showcase their talents to a global audience. This can boost your confidence and contribute to your mental health.

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5. Support groups

 Social media has also opened conversations about mental health and reduced the stigma around it. Online support groups take these conversations forward so that individuals can share their experiences in non-judgemental spaces. In India, some of these groups are organized by TheMindClan and SoulUp.

6. Offers spaces for safe connection

 There was a jump in individuals seeking therapy post-pandemic since many felt safer seeking sessions online than in person.  Online therapy then serves as a protective factor for those with mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, it had also led to a reduction of indirect costs of therapy, such as travel and time to meet the therapist in a clinic.

7. Can promote habit-building

According to the author of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, Nicholas Christakis, there are three levels of influence. An individual is influenced by their friends, their friends, and their friend’s friends. While this may seem like a long connection, it is possible through social media to promote good habits. We may see our friends incorporate a healthy habit, like exercise, and feel motivated to engage in it too. 

#7 Ways in Which Social Media is Making Us Unsociable or Antisocial in 2024

Technology and social media are not inherently negative, but how we use it impacts everyday lives and mental health. It is important to note that social media is designed to snare attention, be online, and stay on our toes for new updates. Here are seven ways in which social media takes us away from real connections:

1. Social Comparison

 More time spent on social media may lead to increased social comparison. If one person gets more likes and comments than the other on Instagram, the first one may be compelled to take their post down. There is a connection between how we feel about ourselves, posting on social media, and self-esteem. According to a study, comparisons on social media can lead to depressive symptoms. Additionally, individuals with depression are more likely to make comparisons on social media (Aubry et al, 2024).

2. Slacktivism

Social media activism can bring awareness to society, but it may not translate into real change. People may hit the like button or share button, rather than participate in live campaigns for a social or political cause. This may sometimes lead to a false belief that they are part of a big change when they are not.

3. Loneliness

 When forced to stay inside our homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, one found social media as a natural way to connect with others. Unfortunately, various studies show that the use of social media is linked to feelings of loneliness (Pennington, 2021). Interestingly, another study showed that people who use social media to find relationships feel more lonely than people who use it for other reasons, such as entertainment (Bonsaksen et al, 2023)

4. Decreased time with loved ones

 People can spend hours scrolling through their social media, without realising that they are not able to spend time with their loved ones. Additionally, someone who is deeply immersed is more likely to get irritated if they are interrupted. If left unchecked, it can affect the quality of our relationships.

5. Perpetuates jealousy

Particularly in romantic relationships, social media anxiety can perpetuate jealousy. When left unchecked, it can lead to emotional difficulties. For example, one may see their partner’s photo with a friend and feel jealous. They may endlessly scroll through their friends’ social media and find evidence against their partner.

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6. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Do you fear missing out on experiences and events? FOMO is characterized by anxiety and is exaggerated by social media. People often put up the best versions, experiences, and happiest moments of their lives on the net. This skewed representation can make you feel left out.

7. Betterment Burnout

Burnout is a state of emotional and cognitive exhaustion. On social media, there has been a rise in betterment burnout. What does this look like? People are posting about making the most of their every moment, hitting the gym regularly, seeking therapy, eating right, and other things that make them the best version of themselves. While all of these are positive activities, they can pressure some to push themselves to be better every day, leading to betterment burnout.

Read 7 Tips on How to Prevent Burnout & 7 Tips on Recover from Burnout

How Excessive Screen Time Adversely Affects Our Mental Well-Being

Imagine that someone has posted something on social media. How likely are they to keep looking at their phones? How long will they wait for the ‘ping’: someone has liked their picture? When one receives a like, comment, or other favorable reaction to their post, it triggers the release of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) in the brain. Unfortunately, after a point, every favorable reaction becomes brain candy.

The more an individual feels rewarded, the more they are likely to stay on social media, even if it negatively affects other areas of their lives. Research shows that increased screen time is linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety (Twenge and Campbell, 2018).

Additionally, it can also lead to difficulty sleeping. Social media is full of instant and catchy information, but the problem lies with blue light emission. This light interferes with one’s internal clock and makes sleeping harder. Additionally, it can also lead to overthinking and negative thought patterns.

When surrounded by negative news, an individual may find themselves reading every little detail about it. This is known as doomscrolling and we are likely to do it much more on social media. Constantly scrolling through negative news can trigger rumination, which is a repetitive thought pattern often seen in depression.

In a way, excessive screen time affects everything right from the start of the day till one sleeps at night. It is not uncommon for people to be glued to their phones and miss out on the chance to form a real-time relationship. (Image via Pexels/ Cottonbro)

#5 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Screen Time in 2024

There was a time when spending time outside was the norm, but many now find relief in spending time on their screens. It is always possible to reduce screen time and dependence on social media.

1.Set Limits

Imagine a fence around your garden. It marks your space and defines your land for others to see. Boundaries protect our minds, just like fences protect our garden. Without boundaries on social media, anyone can stomp into one’s emotional and mental health. By setting limits, you take charge of what information you are exposed to and for how long.

2.Time-out: 

Whether it is work, meeting people, or entertainment, everything is available on the internet. Take a time-out from devices, especially before sleeping.

3.Practice mindfulness: 

While there are filters on what we want to consume, there is little control over the information overload that one experiences through social media. Being aware of emotional state can help one recognize the impact of social media.  

4.Find tech-free zones: 

A café without WiFi can sound terrible, but can do wonders for mental health. By finding tech-free zones, one can learn to take active breaks from the media.

5.Spend time in person: 

Try to meet in a park, over video calls. Choose to spend time with family during dinners, overeating while watching Netflix. You can beat anxiety stemming from FOMO by being around people.

Conclusion

Social media may not itself cause harm, but it can disrupt routines and impact physical and mental health at various levels. If spending excessive time on social media leads to sadness, dissatisfaction, frustration, or loneliness, then it may be time to re-examine your online habits and find a healthier balance. At Mave Health, we help you build better habits and reduce dependence on social media to aid your mental health. We help you find a mental health professional who can help you build a healthier relationship with social media and use it as a tool to enhance your health.

References

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Mave
Clinical Psychologist