Every few months, I like to take breaks from social media. Sometimes these breaks are total, self-enforced social media blackouts. I delete the apps on my phone, use another app to block the websites, and even recruit a friend to change the passwords.
Social media — like other methods of instant gratification — triggers the pleasure cascades of the brain. In that way, avoidance can be more difficult than simply not clicking on the app. Ensuring there are mechanical preventative measures in place — literally being unable to sign into the apps — helps to dam my impulses. If I know I don’t the passwords, I won’t try to check them.
Other breaks are more relaxed. I don’t have my buddy change the passwords, but I avoid the apps as best as possible. I’ve found with the harsher breaks, I feel guilty when I decide to end the break after a few days. Looser breaks are more like resets.
When I go on my social media hiatuses, it forces me to be more mindful of my habits. We tend to check apps incessantly, whether or not we’ve posted something. And with the many types of social media, we are stimulated in whatever way we want. Our friends are never more than a Snapchat away, and salty drama is never further than opening Facebook. Instagram memes are at our fingertips, and firing off hot takes or reading depressing news is there for the taking on Twitter.
The first day after a self-imposed exile is always particularly interesting. I recognize how often I open Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook (rinse and repeat) while waiting in line for coffee. Even the minor breaks of the day are punctuated with social media checks. (To be clear, this is mostly an indictment of my own social media habits. I’d venture to say that most millennials — and even boomers — are checking social media dozens of times a day, but perhaps others are more disciplined than I am.)
I’ve spent a lot of words discussing the perils of social media. Yet to its credit, social media is nothing if not accessible. It’s critical for the cystic fibrosis (CF) community. CF can be isolating. We are advised not to come into physical contact with others in our community due to the risk of transferring dangerous pathogens to one another. During my breaks, I realize I miss my community of people with CF.
Social media enables us to eliminate the physical divide and have a digital connection with one another. We can cultivate relationships due to the ever-growing nature of social media and technology — the advent of Skype and FaceTime means we can have real-life conversations. And as much as social media is just a narrow portrait of who we are, it does have its benefits for isolated communities.
In the past year, I’ve become friends with a lot of people in the CF community through social media, and I’ve had to take breaks because of its perils. Like all technology, social media is a virtue in moderation and a vice in excess.
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Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.