When is enough, enough? When have you shifted from documenting your enjoyable vacation to forgetting to experience your holiday because you’re so focused on capturing the perfect moment in a 2x2 Instagram square?
In this day and age, our lives are so fast-paced that sharing sound bytes and photos online allows others to feel like participants even when far away. But media that are built to support connectivity can sometimes lead to disconnection. There’s no magic quota; everyone is different. But when you’re worried you may be online too much, you’re probably online too much.
Instead of playing that additional round of Candy Crush, you could check in with your partner about their day or call a friend. Even taking an inventory about what you might be doing if you weren’t on your phone could shed light on activities you may be putting aside for extra screen time. Like that new Mediterranean restaurant you’ve been meaning to check out or the book that’s collecting dust on the coffee table.
When assessing for disorders in counseling, I always ask about disruptions in functioning. The same can be done with social media. Where does social media interfere with your real life? Beyond obvious issues like texting and driving, consider something as innocuous as scrolling while watching television. This sort of multitasking teaches the brain to live in a state of distractibility and constant gratification. We get into a habit of being unable to sit with self or find pleasure in little things. Basically, we can’t be without our screens. We develop an automatic urgency to check for new notifications in order to replenish our pleasure centers. This can lead to being more concerned in documenting an experience rather than experiencing it.
Next time you’re unsure about your online time, ask yourself: Are you driving the medium, or is it driving you?
Daphne Bastien, LMHC, received her master's degree in clinical mental health counseling with a specialization in trauma studies from Lesley University. She spent the past several years in an array of mental health settings including community mental health, middle schools and high schools, universities, and nonprofit. She has worked with a range of clients (from age five to age eighty) with a variety of needs, including depression, borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and many other disorders.