Quit Social Media? Find Peace from Your Phone for Mental Health Awareness Month
“Going on LinkedIn makes me feel like a loser because all my contacts have such great jobs,” my friend said recently as we chatted about her current job situation. I agreed right away, LinkedIn and other networks often leave me comparing myself or feeling like I should be achieving more, as a runner, coach, business owner, woman, and “influencer.”
Coincidentally, as we chatted, I had my phone on speaker so I could text and also check my email. I received an email message from an influencer network about #GetOffthePhone campaign for Mental Health Awareness month. The campaign, championed by the Kennedy Forum, urges influencers to support their cause of taking a break from the phone and encourage people to connect in real life. How timely, I thought, as we were just commenting on how social media has often led us to feel in adequate.
If you are feeling addicted to your phone, you are not alone: In case you didn’t notice by looking around, statistics confirm that Americans are hooked on checking, liking, texting, emailing, shopping, and more on their phones. Consider these numbers:*
The average smartphone user checks their phone 47 times a day
85% of smartphone users check their device while speaking with friends and family
80% of smartphone users check their phone within 1 hour of waking or going to sleep, 35% of which will do within 5 minute
The official name for smartphone addiction is nomophobia, which is defined as having a fear of not being with your phone.
I admit I’ve become a statistic. Even worse, I probably check my phone hundreds of time day, as I do a lot of business and communications on the go, as well as constantly monitor and update Runstreet Instagram, not to mention Twitter and Facebook.
I knew it was a problem when my girlfriend asked if I could at least take a phone break while on our recent trip to Europe. People close to me have gotten upset at me for not listening or spacing out on my phone while they talk. I’ve had times where I checked my phone for hours without even realizing where the time is going. There’s also the comparison trap and mental health issues, especially since I have had some bouts of depression and anxiety in the past.
Again, I am not alone in this, as researchers have found that higher social media usage is often linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety.
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control issued some sobering statistics about student anxiety and depression. Teens are more lonely, anxious and depressed than ever. About a third of teens surveyed by the CDC said they’d felt persistent sadness or hopelessness. John Richter, director of Public Policy at the Mental Health Association, believes social media is exacerbating this trend.
“Researchers are finding that when someone develops depression and withdraws from peers, they see other people on social media smiling and at parties with friends. It magnifies their sense of isolation,” says Richter.
As with most things, our relationships with our smartphones is complex, as they can do so many helpful things for us, from finding our way around NYC to connecting with family across the world. But high amounts of phone usage and social media usage can contribute to mental health problems and feelings of isolation and lack.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, I have decided to cut down on my phone dependence by setting limits. Here are some tips to reduce social media usage and phone dependence. These can help you restore a sense of calm to your life, sleep better, and have more meaningful in-person connections with people.
Do not sleep next to your phone. Keep your phone across the room so you are not tempted to check it before bed or right when you wake up. instead, give yourself 5 minutes to meditate in the morning and then purposefully begin your day, eating breakfast and getting dressed before you check your phone.
Use airplane mode during social situations. When you are at a family gathering or hanging out with someone close to you, or even on a first date, put your phone in airplane mode. This will help you resist the urge to check it by quieting all those notifications.
Limit your notifications. Unless it’s vital for your job, limit your phone notifications, especially on social networks. I turned off my Instagram notifications because they were constantly lighting up my phone and spurring me to check every like or comment as it came in. needless to say, this is exhausting. Pare down your notifications to texts and work emails.
Use the time you save to do something you love actively. Whether you like to paint, write, run, dance, or eat with friends, celebrate your increased free time by doing something you love. Your mental health will thank you for it.
Maintain “work hours” for your phone. Unless you are charged with responding to social media or emails 24/7, stop checking your social networks by a certain time. This can be easier to do with people, such as once your family begins dinner, you power off. But if you are solo, it is still possible and worthwhile to give yourself a break mentally.
How do you maintain a balance between staying connected to the world and your networks and living more IRL? Comment below with your tips, questions and input.
Marnie Kunz is a RRCA-certified running coach and the creator of Runstreet Art Runs, which bring together communities through running and street art. She is a Brooklyn resident, running coach and writer. She enjoys traveling, art, and eating messily. You can follow her running and events at @Runstreet Instagram and Runstreet Facebook.