Slow Down and Unplug

Congratulations! We made it to 2020!! New Year. New Beginnings. New Resolutions. New YOU. 

Two of my resolutions this year are to slow down and limit my social media usage. These days, we are all so busy! Filling our days with networking events, meetings, spin classes, content curating, brunches, happy hours, meal planning, play dates, and date nights. Ugh, I’m exhausted just thinking about it all! And worst of all, I feel like social media makes you feel like you have to be this busy.

All the time.

Whilst also sharing it with everyone you know. As the common internet phrase goes “Instagram or it didn’t happen!” 

But it can be exhausting and dangerous to our mental and physical well being to give into these social pressures. A recent article in the New York Times said “the reason much of social media feels so toxic is [because] it has been built for speed, virality and attention grabbing…”. Devoting so much time to social media or being overly concerned about what goes on when you aren’t logged in impairs and diverts your attention from other important things. Drivers who use their phone in the car to access social media are especially at risk. The excitement or unfortunate anxiety that is sometimes experienced with social media interaction can act as a cognitive distraction to drivers and negatively effect their ability to react to hazards on the road. Stress, sadness or frustration are forms heightened emotions that can impede driving ability and increase crash risk. 

A new scary trend has emerged in the last few years involving driving and social media. #RoadRage posts on popular social media platforms Instagram and Twitter have become a new release for people when they want to vent their frustrations at the actions of other road users. #RoadRage posts range from short 140 character rants on Twitter to actual videos drivers take of themselves raging in their cars. The psychology behind posting a video of yourself engaged in road rage is similar to why people express road rage to begin with. Psychologist Dr. Richard Sherry summarizes in an article the traffic psychology of road rage and those who take it a step further by sharing this behavior on the internet:

“Traditional road rage involves a strong sense of entitlement, which triggers a heightened sense of anger or rage at feeling wronged, for example, if someone cuts one off.

The self-centered sense of power – the street is somehow an extension of ‘our space’, and we are safely protected by the anonymity of our vehicle – makes it seem our ‘right’ to act out. And just like on the Internet, we don’t see up close the faces or reactions of other drivers. This is why we can become so emotionally reactive when behind the wheel, for example making a rude gesture or swearing, when we would rarely do this face-to-face.”

Click here to see an example of these types of posts in an NBC News article. 

So how do we shake off this icky pressure to stay plugged in all the time and start to calm down all of life’s noises? How can we learn to be more selfish with our time and prioritize our self care to keep our frustrations from spilling over and outward? I personally like to put my phone somewhere else in my house, where I can more easily fight the urge to pick it up and start scrolling. Or I may delete some of the social media apps off of my phone for a time to give myself a break. These things have worked well for me in the past and helped me realize just how much time I spent on my phone and social media.

So in this new year, give yourself and your loved ones the ultimate gift, time with you! Put away the distractions, planners, scheduling assistants and JUST BE PRESENT. Enjoy each and every moment as they unfold in front of you.

INTERNET/SOCIAL NETWORK USAGE SELF-ASSESSMENT QUIZ*

The short quiz below is a fun way to self-evaluate your usage of four popular social networking applications and your smartphone. Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly:

  1. Which social networking applications do you use?
    1. Facebook
    2. Twitter
    3. Instagram
    4. Snapchat
    5. Two of the above
    6. Three or more of the above
  2. How long have you been using your applications?
    1. less than a year
    2. 1-3 years
    3. more than 3 years
  3. How many times (on average) do you use these applications within an hour?
    1. 1-3 times
    2. 4-6 times
    3. 7-12 times
    4. more than 12 times
  4. How important are the applications you use in your life?
    1. very unimportant
    2. unimportant
    3. neutral
    4. important
    5. very important
  5. When you do not have access to these applications or your smartphone, how often do you feel irritated, uncomfortable or anxious?
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. Almost Always
  6. When your smartphone receives a notification from these applications, how intense is your urge to check them?
    1. Very intense
    2. Somewhat intense
    3. A little intense
    4. Not at all intense
  7. When stopped at a traffic light, how often do you use that as an opportunity to check your smartphone?
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. Almost Always
  8. How often do you use your phone while performing another task that didn’t involve your phone (ex: using the restroom or watching a movie)?
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. Almost Always
  9. The last time you had lunch/dinner/drinks with a friend, where was your smartphone usually?
    1. In my hands for (selfies, status updates, games…etc.)
    2. On the table next to me or in my pocket
    3. In my purse/put away
    4. In the car/at home
  10. Have you been called out at a social gathering or during a work event for using your smartphone at an inappropriate time with in the last six (6) months?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  11. When you forget your smartphone at home or the battery dies, do you ever feel a sense of relief?
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. Almost Always

How did you do? Did your responses surprise you or perhaps reveal that it may be time to reevaluate how you spend your time? Remember, it can only be helpful to be honest with yourself about your behavior. If you feel that your smartphone or social networking use are negatively affecting your life, but you’re not sure how to begin changing that, try some of my earlier suggestions to restrict your usage. Stay calm and drive safe!

*THIS SURVEY IS INTENDED FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION BY THE PARTICIPANT ONLY. ANY RESPONSES TO THIS SURVEY ARE NOT INDICATIVE OF A DIAGNOSIS OF ANY KIND AND SHOULD NOT TO BE USED TO MAKE ANY CLINICAL DETERMINATIONS ABOUT AN INDIVIDUAL’S MENTAL STATE.

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