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How to Balance Your Social Media Presence with Your Real Life

5 ways to make sure you’re not letting the Internet eat up your time or drain your energy.

Let’s face it: the grasp of social media, for most of us, is inescapable. Just waking up? Reach over through the sleep fog and check your phone. About to go to bed? Check your phone. Leaving the house? Check your phone, just in case… Like it or not, checking for notifications has turned into more of a compulsion or a reflex than a conscious decision, especially if a person is an avid social media user. Those of us well-acquainted with the Internet know that online presence can be tightly linked with a person’s real identity and personality. Human nature then takes its course — we want to get into every detail of what our peers and friends are up to, and social platforms give us the tools to feed that curiosity. Next thing you know, a simple scroll for the day’s highlights morphs into an hours-long, brain-rotting social media deep dive. You no longer know things from experience, but from how intensely you researched a person. Are you still living life at that point?

In the wake of COVID-19, society has been seeing a redefinition of social relationships. Social media is now entirely synonymous with connectivity, which is why it feels increasingly difficult to put the phone down and live life in the real world. Letting go means being cut off, right?

Well, it doesn’t have to. If you take a chance on these five tips, you will feel grounded, present, and ultimately more in tune with yourself, which is the true key to connecting with the rest of the world.

#1: Write it all down instead.

Constantly craving to keep up with other people shows a lack of harmony within the self. When we are unsure of our own performance or status in the world, it is understandable that we might be drawn toward comparing our own lives to everyone else’s. However, this is really only doing harm in the end — we end up using stressors in our own lives to foster insecurity, when we really should just be reflecting on our emotions properly. Keeping a journal is one of the most productive ways to keep track of feelings, clear the mind, and get some much-needed catharsis in the midst of a hectic life. By writing down negative emotions instead of projecting them through social media habits, we are able to let go of harmful thoughts and express problems into manageable affairs. Understanding ourselves will ground us in the real world and help fade out a subconscious motive for overusing social media.

#2: Focus on what’s tangible.

While it is easy to get wrapped up in the shiny aspects of social media- likes, comments, interactions, validation — we must also be able to recognize that none of these are going to keep us happy forever. The rush will wear off sooner or later (it’s almost always sooner), and it only takes us back to the same place, each time hungrier for even more validation. Somewhere within this vicious cycle, the original point of posting to social media is lost: it is supposed to be a place to share your favorite memories, not to put yourself in competition with everyone else. In order to alleviate this, the problem must be taken out at the source: remind yourself of the feelings you had when the moment you shared took place, and place value on the moment instead of the aftermath. Print physical pictures, strengthen relationships with the friends and family that were part of the shared moment, make a collage, write down your thoughts, make a playlist — there’s so much you can do to make your moments more about the lived experience than the external validation.

#3: Turn off/limit your notifications.

This one seems self-explanatory, but the fact that it is such an obvious fix is proof of its power. If you see less notifications on your phone, you won’t feel as inclined to click on your social media and scroll through them endlessly. Their value to you is degraded since they bring nothing to the table, and when you do end up using them, it will be because you want to, not because you have to respond to a comment or look at another person’s story. You’ll be more present in the real world when the obligation to check your phone is no longer visible. Out of sight, out of mind.

#4: Get creative.

Some ways to limit social media usage might require a bit of outside-of-the-box thinking. Think about your environment, especially at home, and what the different spaces make you want to do. A simple way would be to spend more time in rooms where you feel less likely to use your phone, but it doesn’t have to end there. A personal favorite method of mine is leaving my cell phone in one room of the house once a week, and it can only be used in that room for the entire day. While it can be harsh at first, it definitely helps with productivity and wanting to get out of the house more often to live your real life. You may even discover a new hobby or two while your phone is out of the picture!

#5: Pick up new hobbies.

The saying “A day without learning is a day wasted” rings true here: getting into a new hobby or activity will exercise different parts of your brain that might be growing idle with your constant social media use. Maybe it’s learning to type quickly, learning to cook, playing a new sport, making crafts, or even reading — no matter what it is, you’ll feel excited about the prospect of having accomplished something new at the end of each day. Those valued experiences feed your desire to be validated, because in your mind, you already know that the new thing you did holds importance to you.

None of this is to imply that social media isn’t valuable or necessary in its own right — it can connect people to each other and even be a healthy outlet for expression. However, if used improperly, it can be a huge burden on time and energy and the root of deep self-doubt. Social media can feel like it is overpowering at times, but it only holds as much strength as you allow it to have. Let your mind be your friend rather than your foe, and you can have a fulfilling life unhindered by the pressures of social media.

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