It was in the middle of an argument during a marriage counseling session that Jerry blurted out, “You are more interested in your phone than me.” His frustration had reached the tipping point with his wife as he revealed his insecurity and feelings of disrespect, detachment, and disconnection from her. Jan, his wife, denied his accusation at first but then admitted that she was very involved in social media.
Social media had become a substitute for her personal connections. She no longer went out with friends, instead, she liked their posts or posted on their page. She felt close to people she never spent time with due to their constant contact on social media. And she even experienced feelings of jealousy for the first time in her life while looking at her friend’s posts as they recounted their vacations and holiday plans. This sparked frustration and annoyance in her own marriage as she compared their life to hers.
After talking about it some more, Jan realized she needed to set some boundaries on her social media time. When she totaled up the number of hours that she was engaging daily in social media, it was anywhere from 2-4 hours. She spent more time doing that then all her favorite hobbies put together. Jan agreed to the basic concept that social media should spark joy not competition, envy, strife, anger, annoyance, or frustration. It should not be a remedy for boredom.
Jan also agreed to limit her social media apps to two. She deleted the rest and focused solely on the two that gave her the most joy. Here are a few of the guidelines that she put into place.
- Set one time a day to check social media. This should be a time that happens after all work, family activity, and other obligations are met. The idea is that it will move from once a day to once a week.
- Remove notifications from all social media apps. By removing the notifications, there is less temptation to check the app when it is not the designated time. Notifications are supposed to help (bank account information), not distract with social media posts.
- Only post what is necessary, timely, and significant. This is hard for most at first but after a while, it becomes easier. Avoid engaging in banter about matters that hold little long-term significance and could potentially alienate friends.
- Put electronics in another room at night. By keeping the phone in another room, there is less temptation to grab it in the middle of the night. Even a quick glance at a screen can disrupt sleep patterns and make it more difficult to fall back asleep.
- Do not look at electronics one hour before bed or during the night. When electronics are used just before bed, this delays the natural circadian rhythm and suppress the release of melatonin which is a sleep-inducing hormone. This is why the blue light emitted from electronics makes falling asleep more difficult.
- Don’t start your day with it. Allowing social media to begin the day is the same as allowing others to decided what will be done that day, set priorities, and expectations. Instead start the day with a personal goal, reflection, meditation, or journaling. This is an excellent way to start the day off fresh.
- When out with others, put the phone on silent. Being in the presence of a person should take priority over whoever is messaging, texting, or posting. By silencing the phone, this lets the other person know they matter and are being cared for.
- Call a person on your social media instead of posting them. Instead of sending out a message, call the other person. So much good communication is lost in a short message as it doesn’t allow for flexibility in topics or interests.
- Reduce the number of social media apps. Try to limit the social media apps to no more than two. Pick the ones that bring the most joy, energy, and encouragement.
- Have absolute “no screen” times during the day. For instance, at work, there should be no using of social media (unless it is job oriented). When at a party, don’t post until later. Rather, be present at the moment.
- Don’t eat and check social media. To enjoy food, a person needs to be present. A person is more likely to overeat when it is done in conjunction with something else. Make mealtimes no screen times.
- Don’t use social media as a distraction for your thoughts. Sometimes, social media is used as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable emotion. The problem is that social media could make the situation worse and not better. Rather, turn to a friend, in person.
- Have a substitute for social media. Creating new habits means breaking old ones. When reducing screen time, have a list of activities that as easily available such as reading, listening to a podcast, having a conversation, or taking a walk.
- Get comfortable with boredom. There is nothing wrong with being bored. This allows the mind to get creative. Creativity is energy for the brain, body, and soul.
- Journal instead of posting. Journaling is an excellent way to work through difficult emotions, a potential crisis, obsessive thinking, and challenges at work and in relationships. Sometimes the mere act of putting something down on paper brings clarity.
After Jan incorporated all these ideas, her relationship with Jerry improved. While they still had other areas that needed to be addressed, he no longer felt insignificant or invisible when they were out together.