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July 25, 2017

Why We Need to Stay Away from the Black Hole of Social Media.

Like most people, I consider myself to be a social creature by nature.

But with more and more smart devices, it’s easy to be caught up in the latest social media craze that reduces social interaction to the glow of a smartphone screen. I should know. I’ve been there.

I didn’t realize how far I’d been sucked in until I had a wake-up call one night. I was stressing over my home not looking like the Instagram of Better Homes and Gardens when it hit me.

Was I really interacting with the world anymore? Weren’t my Instagram worries keeping me at home when I could be out actually spending time with my friends?

Since that night, I’ve set out to put down my phone. Instead, I’m picking up my friends so we can really experience the world around us.

Scientists have long pointed out the health benefits of staying social. I just hadn’t been listening. Remember how I changed my life by changing my brain? The next step in my journey was boosting my health by becoming more social.

The health benefits of staying social:

>> My sadness lifted. I didn’t realize how draining staring at my Facebook feed was. Once I put my phone down, my daily levels of optimism increased. I felt better the longer I stayed checked in—in person, rather than online.

>> My immune system improved. Did you know that increased happiness leads to a stronger immune system? I didn’t—until I started to place higher value on my in-person interactions. I haven’t been sick since!

>> My body got stronger. I used to forgo the gym in favor of watching fitness stars’ live videos. Since putting my phone down, I’ve joined a CrossFit gym with my friend Liza. Her motivation and support have strengthened my willpower as much as the CrossFit has strengthened my biceps.

>> My focus became sharper. Whenever I was stuck in a rut, I’d turn to Pinterest for some inspiration. All that did was make me dream about how my life could be. Now, I call my friend Coco and we meet for tea, where we discuss turning our dreams into realities. Face-to-face communication has encouraged me to become more productive about my future.

After work, I used to be so tired that I’d just go home and crash. I only (sporadically) saw friends on the weekends. Now I make it a priority to be social after work. I’ve gained new friends thanks to increasing my social circle. And I’m actually less tired now than I used to be, even though I’m doing more.

How I became more social:

>> I started a new hobby. I was worried about how I was going to make new friends until my boss suggested trying something new. The local library hosts a weekly knitting night, so I gave it a shot. I’m almost done with a scarf for my mom, and have plenty of fellow knitters to chat with.

>> I volunteered. Instead of flying somewhere on vacation, I volunteered at our local soup kitchen to help serve Easter dinner. I now work with them to serve Sunday brunch once a month with my new friend, Dan.

>> I joined a Meetup group. While Meetup is a social media app, it enabled me to connect to other people with a shared interest in learning how to cook authentic pasta. I’m now part of a “Cucina Italia” group that meets twice a month to try the latest Italian recipes.

>> I got a museum membership. The local art museum is only a few blocks away from my house. I bought a membership and now enjoy special events with other art lovers. Plus, I get an advance preview of all new exhibits.

I have to admit, I didn’t quit social media cold turkey. The trick was to only check it for a limited amount of time. Instead of late night binges on Facebook, I turned my social media accounts into tools for planning future dates with friends.

There’s a time and place for social media:

>> Facebook Messenger. I said goodbye to getting sucked into my Facebook news feed and hello to planning a getaway for the next weekend. Instead of sinking time into being jealous about other people’s lives, I use Messenger to group chat plans for our next dinner get-together.

>> Instagram Adventures. I let go of wishing I had the picture-perfect life. I’ve limited myself to 10 minutes a day looking through my Instagram feed. Instead of focusing on how everyone else but me seems to have the perfect life, I’ve started leaving positive comments instead.

>> Snapchat Stories. I wondered why no one looked at my snaps until I realized how much I was sharing. I stopped snapping every meal, and now only share a quick recap of my day. When my friends ask for more details, I tell them I’ll share the next time we meet up.

>> Twitter Tweets. I still like to catch up on news on the go. I’ve set aside 10 minutes each morning to browse what’s happening in Twitter moments. I don’t try to cram my opinion into 140-character responses anymore—instead, I have a lunch meeting with my coworker, Gail, in which we discuss all the trending topics.

There are social situations everywhere:

Once I set my phone down, I discovered that there are opportunities for real-world fun everywhere you look.

I’m no longer limited to the social scene conducted through technology. My friend circle has grown tremendously and we always have something fun planned for the near future.

I’m happier than ever and my health and well-being have improved all thanks to my newfound love of staying social.

~

Author: Tracy Layden
Image: Unsplash
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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Tracy Layden

Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.