After Facebook crash this week, experts recommend more social media breaks
We lived to tell the story. But how did we feel in the process?
When people can’t scroll and post like they usually do, Kerner said they can get bored and vulnerable to difficult emotions and stressors – sometimes without knowing how to deal with them.
“People find they are alone with their own thoughts. And they’re a little alien to themselves in a way. Before social media, I think we were much better at being alone, finding ways to engage us. and stay curious, ”Kerner added.
A feeling of relief
The collective nature of the outage freed some of Kerner’s customers, he said.
“People are really scared of missing out on something,” Kerner explained. Losing or breaking a phone, or killing a phone can cause people to panic, he said, because it prevents them from knowing what’s going on and being connected to others.
The blackout, conversely, “was a great relief because everyone was experiencing it. So people didn’t feel so lonely, isolated or panicked,” Kerner told CNN.
Therapist John Duffy reported having similar conversations with his clients on Monday.
“Once people realized, ‘oh, these networks are almost all down,’ there was this weird, but very clear sense of relief. The feeling was, ‘I have nothing to do with it. I don’t miss out on anything, ”Duffy told CNN.
During the blackout, “people realized in real time the importance of face-to-face relationships, and the relative emptiness of a connection that takes place only through Facebook or Instagram,” he added.
Customers who have expressed relief during the outage have taken concrete steps to connect with others in real life, Duffy said. “One took a friend for coffee. Another took a walk with a friend,” he said.
Some came out of the experience realizing that their fear of missing out was unwarranted, and they could approach applications with more moderation.
“I think some of us realized yesterday, ‘I’m way too involved and invested in social media in my life,'” Duffy said. People realized that “maybe I can check this once or twice a day instead of 20 or 30 times a day.”
Social media and the brain
Most people are guilty of spending too much time scrolling and posting.
But if some of us have felt relieved when social media apps have been silent for a while, why is it hard to stop checking our feeds so frequently?
Dr Anna Lembke, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford University and medical director of addiction medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, examined the brain for answers.
“The smartphone is the hypodermic needle of modern times, delivering 24/7 digital dopamine for a wired generation,” Lembke wrote.
Although “social media addiction” is not currently included in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” Lembke told CNN she believes social media can be addictive, based on her experience. clinical knowledge and knowledge of the human relationship and dopamine release. .
“We can verifiably prove that human connections stimulate the release of dopamine, this is how they get stronger, and anything that stimulates dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway has the potential to be addictive,” Lembke explained.
The Facebook outage was sort of an “accidental mass experiment that hopefully revealed to people just how addicted they have become,” Lembke said.
How to develop healthier digital habits
Therapist John Duffy said some of his clients spend four or more hours a day on social media – double that amount in some extreme cases.
“The people who are on (social media) the most tend to be the most lonely because they don’t feel connected. Even if they send messages to people, even if they comment on people’s posts, even if they publish themselves, something is missing in that regard. It’s really digital, and it’s not directly interpersonal, “he told CNN.
For clients who might benefit, Duffy recommends a month-long “digital detox” to develop a more intentional relationship with social media. “The people I work with now will just voluntarily remove social media apps, news apps, and all other unnecessary apps from their phones for a month-long cleanup.”
“I find that if people take a month’s break, they might be spending a third of the time they used to spend on social media Therefore. I also see an increase in self-esteem and self-esteem that goes with that, ”Duffy said.
Marriage and Family Therapist Ian Kerner often assigns duties to his clients that include restricting the use of devices during time spent with partners and family members.
“The main complaint I think I hear from couples is that he or she is always on the phone,” Kerner told CNN.
Lembke hopes the outage “will encourage people to actually intentionally plan to stay away from social media, and maybe even their phones, for a while.”
She recommends removing social media altogether – whether that’s selected apps or putting the phone away entirely – for a month, enough time for the brain’s reward pathways to reset.
To be successful, said Lembke, it helps to plan ahead.
“Maybe you would do it with a friend or family member, which is easier than doing it alone. You would have some sort of message, alert or automatic response that would let people know that you are out. online during that period of time, so people know they don’t have to wonder where you are, what happened to you, ”Lembke advised.
During the month-long break, you should plan activities to provide yourself with “an alternative source of dopamine,” such as spending time in nature.
“When people start using (social media) again, just realizing how addicted they’ve become is a motivation to use them differently,” Lembke told CNN.
Some of those changes could include eliminating alerts, switching to a grayscale display, or setting time limits or specific days of the week to check our feeds, she advised.
Foster meaningful connections online and offline
All of the experts CNN connected with pointed out how social networking tools have many positive effects on society, allowing people to stay in touch with their distant loved ones and helping them to be better emotionally during a long pandemic. exhausting and insulating.
“It’s important to say that the ways in which these technologies allow us to be social online are very powerful and can do very well,” Lembke told CNN.
Plus, not all online connections are negative, just like not all real connections are positive, Lembke said.
“There are cases where our online connections can be more intimate, more positive, and more powerful in a good way than real connections. If you go to a cocktail party and only have superficial conversations, it won’t just do. people feel good, either, ”Lembke said.
As some struggle with social anxiety as life in person slowly picks up, we have the opportunity to rethink how we engage with each other in the real world.
“As a society, we need to establish a digital label and tech-free spaces where we intentionally leave our phones at home and really make an effort to be present in the moment in real life with each other,” he said. Lembke said.