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Stay online, it’s healthy

Lol, just kidding, it’s actually not okay.

Almost everyone is online these days, so we might as well be healthy about it right? Here are some tips on how to make your online experience less addictive…

1. Use Social Media like a phone or a post office: to communicate with people

Facebook is a medium just like any other. It cannot replace real face to face communication – but neither can letters, telegrams or even phone calls. No matter what your view is regarding social media, whether you like it or not, you might agree that it is there for you to use in the right ways.

Of course, there are cons to using it – but it does gives you the ability to connect with people who are important to you. “People whose friends write to them semi-publicly on Facebook experience a decreases in loneliness,” says a Facebook researcher for The Atlantic.

However, it is essential to note that social media is good for maintaining relationships you have previously made offline. Not necessarily for creating new meaningful ones.

2. Be happy talking to others, not sad scrolling through their posts

Research shows that going through other people’s posts for prolonged periods of time correlates with depression. Happy people, on the other hand, spend their online time actively communicating with others or searching for information.

So stop comparing yourself to people’s profiles: you cannot measure your real life against virtual profiles that only show what their users want others to see (i.e. their supposed happiness, success, travels, etc). Instead, message these people and ask them how they are doing, see if you can meet them for a coffee or a drink and remind yourself that they too are just people! Remember, people communicate with those who communicate with them.

3. Keep track of the time you spend online and ask yourself ‘why am I online’?

Do you feel sad, bored, or even drained after spending a substantial amount of time on a social media platform or a website?

Understandable. There is so much stuff to do and information to find online, that you can easily get lost there (you know what I’m talking about, the hours and hours spent scrolling until you find yourself googling how to talk to giraffes or something odd like that).

But you can also re-focus and keep in mind the purpose of your online activity.

  • If you’re just chilling, make sure you don’t chill for hours, motionless, staring into the abyss that is your screen. Hit up a friend or if they are busy, meet someone new!
  • If you’re on your coffee break, make sure you have a look around before burying your eyes into your phone, there might be someone to spark a conversation with.
  • If you are chatting to a friend, see if you can make a plan to meet them without a screen in between!

4. If you are spending too much time online, think about the ‘why’? Again.

Before the dawn of computers and smartphones people would sit down and write letters to others, maybe even have a glass of wine while doing it because it was enjoyable. But no matter how enjoyable writing letters may have been, they only satisfied a fraction of our communication needs. It would be weird if someone was spending their life writing letters. You would ask: Why isn’t this person going out and talking more to people?

Nowadays, people aren’t spending their time writing letters but rather constantly being online. And the question remains the same: Why aren’t they going out and talking to real people instead?

Being online makes sense in a lot of ways. For introverts for example, it is comfortable to occasionally stay at home, and enjoy your space (which is a good thing sometimes) but it is worth asking yourself why, if you are doing it all the time. If you are too shy (which is totally cool to be) – what would help or empower you to be a little more extroverted (believe me, it is worth putting yourself a bit out there and meeting great people)? If you’re not introverted but don’t have anyone around – how can you meet someone? If you don’t have that much time – how can you fit into your schedule real social activities?

Be aware, that the vast majority of social media sites and apps are designed to keep you browsing ceaselessly; they are made to keep your eyes glued to the screen. Mainly because It is your virtual presence what generates their revenues. Terribly, spending all that time online can make you feel lonely, because it is an activity that usually, you do alone.

If you feel like spending your evening online, it’s fine. But if you’re surfing the web to escape or avoid an unsatisfying reality, perhaps you should consider changing that reality. Meet someone online to grab a beer with, find activities, volunteering opportunities or classes you can attend – but don’t waste time entertaining the illusion of online togetherness.

5. Take (much needed) breaks

If you are a daily user, the best way of removing yourself from the immersiveness of your device can be to turn it off for a few hours everyday. How about trying a week without socializing online? You may find out to what extent the web is distracting you from other things, what you enjoy more than your apps – and what you truly enjoy online. A piece of advice: don’t postpone it ‘till tomorrow.

Besides, too much screen time can have adverse effects for your health. Our nervous system is not made for being exposed to myriads of colourful blinking lights. Our screens are exhausting us and even our brains are feeling the effect: we can track changes on the brain on magnetic resonance imaging. Not to mention that the negative effects are not just physiological but also psychological. Even psychiatrists are suggesting digital fasts (digital detox) to their patients.

With all the noise that is going on in the internet, it may be worth unplugging for a bit don’t you think?

Meet real people and be part a community!