March 7, 2017
If you had to list the things which make you happy - right now, this second - what would you say?
You’d probably say things like family, friends, pets, your job (lucky you!), the cinema, eating food you love, playing sport, going to the pub or going on dates.
You probably wouldn’t say ‘I love going on Facebook’ or ‘Instagram cheers me up’. There’s a good reason for that - social media doesn’t make us feel happy. Yes, we might feel a brief surge of triumph when a photo or status gets a lot of likes, but we know deep down it’s a hollow, meaningless victory. Social media, in all its forms, is making us depressed. It makes us question our values, it makes us jealous and resentful, and it gives a false representation of others’ lives. The glowing yummy mummy doesn’t tweet her secret inner rage when her three-year-old messes up the hallway wallpaper, again. The blushing, designer-clad bride won’t Instagram her tearful, blotchy face from the night before the wedding, when the nerves, the expectation and the doubt all got too much for her.
We don’t even check Facebook because we want to. It’s become an insidious habit we use to deal with boredom, frustration, or just to pass 30 seconds while we wait for the next Tube. When did we become unable to deal with just standing or sitting still, and being able to cope with our own thoughts?
Here are ten things you can do instead of sadly scrolling through Instagram, comparing your life to the people you used to go to school with.
- Organise a meet-up. You have actual friends, people who you enjoy seeing, in the flesh, and hearing about the good, bad and ugly in their lives. Text or Whatsapp them and ask when they’re free. Ask how they are, and if they have any news. They’ll appreciate the gesture and you’ll have something to show for the time you spent on your phone.
- Breathe deeply. Put your phone back in your bag. Focus on the moment, your posture, and what you have to do today. If you feel a bit uncomfortable at being forced to spend time with yourself, that’s pretty normal - lots of people do. Go with it. The more you do this, the easier - and more comfortable - you will feel.
- Write a to-do list. We all have life admin we know we should be getting on with - bills we need to pay, birthday cards and presents, getting paperwork done, etc. Get organised - it’ll only take you a few minutes, and it’ll pay dividends in the long run
- Stretch, and adjust your posture! Roll your shoulders back, shake out your arms, gently roll your head from side to side. Take a few minutes to boost your circulation and focus on how your body’s feeling. We spend a lot of time in offices, hunched over our computers. Take some time out to gently correct your posture - your back will thank you.
- Call someone. If you think you need human contact, take some time out to chat on the phone. It’s more immediate and less fiddly than texting, and you never know - the person you’d like to speak to may also be needing a chat. Talking face to face with family and friends is the best way to communicate, but a phone call’s a decent substitute.
- Check the news.If you're determined to get some screen time, see what else is going on in the world or research something you'd like to know more about. Not sure what the Cold War was really about? Want to know who your local MP is? All it takes is a quick Google...
- Be grateful. It may sound a bit cheesy, but make a mental note of everything in your life which makes you happy. It's a nice way to take some time out and give yourself a quick boost.
- Have a chat. If you're sitting next to someone who looks like they'd quite like a natter, say hello and test the water! Older people tend to be fairly convivial, and will probably reciprocate; younger people or those with headphones in may be a no-go.
- Train your brain. Download a brain training app and spend a few minutes flexing your cerebral muscles. Don't let Facebook turn your mind to mush!
- Check your bank balance! If you're concerned you may have been overspending recently (tsk, tsk), take a deep breath, and see how you're doing. Yes, it may be a bit uncomfortable - but at least you'll avoid sleepwalking into your overdraft and you'll be able to limit some of the damage!
Just to recap, here’s what you should remember:
Social media saps your energy, drains your enthusiasm and encourages unrealistic comparisons
If you need to communicate with someone you care about, don’t text them - call them!
Remember - the key is focusing on what you actually have in your life, and what you can control. You cannot stop feeling nauseous at all the baby pictures you see. You can choose to ignore them, and do something else with your time
Don’t let anyone tell you that by spending less time on social media, you’re missing out. You’re not
Focus on what makes you happy and brings you pleasure - not what the world dictates should bring you pleasure (such as mournfully stalking people on Twitter)