Let me ask you something: are you currently reading my words through a mobile screen? If the answer is yes (to which I would not be too surprised), you’ll probably resonate with my words for the next six to seven minutes.
Why? Because most of us consume content online on a daily basis.
Even better, we consume content, engage with it and connect with people. All through our devices, mainly our phones, I must say. If you are reading my words via a smartphone, don’t worry; there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Since Apple added the ‘screen time’ option to iOS, I have been particularly interested in analyzing my very own trends when it comes to being ‘plugged in’.
Millennials and Gen Z are more connected than ever — and that has been a key player in the way their mental health is performing on a day-to-day basis, even more so than the older demographic. A survey of UK smartphone users by Chinese phone maker OnePlus suggests that young people are five times more likely to lose their temper because of slow download speeds than older phone users.
The phenomenon, called “load rage”, is linked to data showing that two-fifths of millennials admit feeling the symptoms of burnout — including fatigue, insomnia and anxiety — because of the digital-heavy nature of their lives (The Scotsman online).
This kind of data is not just linked to sensational headlines; it also can prove a very serious correlation between burnout, anxiety, and technology.
The truth is, we know that our screen time is affecting our mental health. The same OnePlus research suggested a high level of awareness about excessive phone use among younger people, with nearly half of those aged between 16 and 24 claiming they would like to reduce their screen time.
In early 2019, Instagram announced a test to hide the likes from the platform.
Despite arguing this is part of a bigger business ploy, there could be mental health benefits for users. When asked about this major change, a spokesperson told Mashable that Instagram is “exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram”.
Scientific studies show just how much social media affects our mental health, directly correlating social media use and depression. It’s making us more anxious, too. Anecdotally, you’ve probably felt social media anxiety at some point and, with this, you may have revalued your relationship with technology altogether.
Whether we love it or hate it, we all use social media — whether for personal interest or as part of our personal brand.
As a founder of a major startup, I see social media as a way to share our own message with our audience, answer questions and provide education.
However, as I develop my own personal brand alongside our company accounts — and I specialize in helping entrepreneurs reclaiming their time in their marketing efforts — so I do realize social can feel overwhelming — a topic that, in light of Mental Health Awareness month, feels like needs to be addressed.
Several studies have found an association between social media use and depression, anxiety, sleep problems, eating issues, and increased suicide risk, warn researchers from the University of Melbourne’s National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, in an article on The Conversation.
Is there any way we can take our power back?
While some of these studies have linked prolonged social media and mobile phone use with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem (especially in a younger audience), others suggest it can also provide significant benefits. At the end of the day and ask WHY we choose to be on a social account.
Automating for less screen time
Whilst I do believe in the power of true social engagement that comes from a genuine and authentic space, I am also aware of how much time we spend crafting updates — and pouring anxious thoughts over the last time we shared something on Twitter, or whether we should post on Instagram at 9 am or 7 pm.
Most of my clients (and members of our community alike) find that scheduling content helps them reclaiming time off and spend more time engaging with people rather than worrying about what to post.
There are many ways to automate your updates, but ultimately getting started by realizing how to make social work for you starts with a great host of tools.
Switch up your screens
Using social media on your desktop instead of the phone may decrease the amount of time you spend lost in technology and social and give you some control over the way you engage with your audience.
Most of my clients simply switch from using iPhone apps to the native desktop versions of their favorite social accounts.
Booking in your social time means you can treat social media as a conscious task, and not subconsciously consuming everything that comes your way — awareness is the first step to reclaim power over your mental health.
Go on a detox
Some people go on a seven-day detox. Having a complete social media detox might not be the answer for you, it may just be one or two platforms that you choose to take a break from.
Maybe it’s just one platform that you find yourself addictively scrolling through.
Think about when you feel the most anxious or affected by social media, and if you can’t put your finger on when that is, perhaps then a complete social media blackout is the way to go. Whether you cut out one, or every social platform there is, it’s your own choice and there is no right or wrong answer.
Remember, the world won’t end if you take a break — find out what happens when you delete social apps for seven days.
Clean up your accounts
How can you clean up your accounts? It’s all in the followers, believe it or not. Just like Marie Kondo would say “does this spark joy?”
Truth is, sometimes following some people can truly affect our self-esteem and how we see ourselves. In cases like this, a good clean up is in order.
Set aside a good hour to go through your feed, and scout any post that triggers uncomfortable feelings for you.
“Remember, if something does not longer serve you, just let it go.”
Being able to spot the signs and feelings I associate with being overwhelmed has been key for me when it comes to my relationship with technology. My most used ‘panic button’ is an “emergency meditation” available on Calm, my meditation app.
It’s no surprise Calm became the World’s First Mental Health Unicorn, securing $88 million dollars to invest in the mission of improving the health and happiness of the world.
Technology helping us with mental health and technology? This could just be the beginning of an amazing journey, opening up a whole new conversation about mental health and the way we consume content and engage online.
Looking for more inspiration on how to reclaim your time? Don’t forget to check Fab Giovanetti’s book Reclaim your Time Off.