How Reframing My Relationship With Social Media Calmed My Anxiety

"Simply put, humans are not wired to be constantly wired."

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It’s easy to get sucked into a doomscrolling cycle these days. Every corner of the internet is seemingly saturated with end-of-the-world news and stories featuring the worst of humanity. Binging the news every hour of the day hoping your next swipe will bring a speck of good news can take a toll on your mental health. It did for me—I was working as a social media specialist when the pandemic first hit the U.S. While most people tried to steer clear of the ugly news cycle, my job was to dive in headfirst every morning and not surface for the rest of the day.  I was acutely aware of all the bad news. All the time.

When I read that about half a million tweets are sent every single minute around the world, I wondered how much of that content was actually adding to my emotional and mental wellbeing. Not much, it turns out. I tried setting my phone to limit my screen time, but I would end up overriding the alert every time and go back to scrolling. Even deleting the apps from my phone only lasted a day or two before I reinstalled them. 

I finally read Digital Minimalism, which had been sitting on my shelf as I kept choosing to scroll Twitter instead. The book says that “Simply put, humans are not wired to be constantly wired.” We’re not meant to be in front of a screen all day. We’re meant to learn, not to simply consume information. It’s no wonder that mental health has become just as much a health crisis as the virus. 

What ended up finally working for me was to reframe my relationship with social media. Digital Minimalism compared checking your “likes” to smoking. It’s literally an addiction. The way I had to face my addiction was to not take something from my life like social media apps, but replace it with something that made me feel better and happier. 

Hiking has always been something I’ve loved to do. Spending time outside feels like a personal reset from my workweek. I decided that to help limit my screen time, I’d spend more time outside. It’s a simple, but surprisingly effective strategy. I’d go on short walks throughout the day, and on the weekends I’d focus on finding longer, more remote hikes. And it worked. Of course, being far away from cell service made it easier to detox. 

My career demands me to be up-to-date on the news and conversations happening on social media. But that doesn’t mean it has to overtake my life and hurt my mental health. As I’ve committed to less screen time and more time outside, I’ve noticed a positive change in both my emotional and physical health. The doomscrolling cycle has finally ended.

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