Why is it so hard to quit social media?

November 19, 2016 — Leave a comment

Greg Swan WCCO space150

We all have friends who have announced, unceremoniously and often emotionally, that they are taking a break from or quitting social media.

Especially in this post-election spin cycle, more people than ever before are considering taking a break from the always-on newsfeed.

Why is it hard to let go? 

For starters, it’s important to remember that modern social media is more than 10 years old. It’s no longer a nice-to-have distraction, and instead it’s often our 1) primary connection to others, primary source of news and entertainment, and 3) our opportunity to have our voice heard. And thanks to the anytime mobile web and our smart phones, we have 24/7 access.

But the truth is that we share less personal information on surface (public) social than ever before. Personal social sharing on Facebook is down 15% this year over last year, which means a lot of the content you’re seeing in social media isn’t about your friends. It’s more often comfort content click-bait or political-fueled news.Much like how we used to get our news primarily from late night shows or The Daily Show, now it’s more from social media headlines that inform our notion of what’s happening in the world. And of course, fake news sites have contributed to the burnout, especially if the people in your network aren’t thinking critically about what they’re sharing.

So what should we do about social media fatigue?

For starters, please don’t declare you’re taking time away from social media like you’re going to be missed. Just do it.

Greg Swan space150 WCCO tv

Here are three ideas:

  1. Turn off notifications on your phone — lesson the constant reminders and distractions
  2. Delete social networking apps on your phone — check via desktop only
  3. Take a digital detox. I personally take an unplugged week every single year. You should, too.

I was interviewed by our local CBS affiliate this week on the topic. Here’s the story…

FROM WCCO-CBS-TV:

Over the past few months, you may have heard friends declare, “I’m done with social media.”

Then they post again the following day.

So, why is it so hard to quit?

Our feelings about social media can span a range of emotions. Some may feel it is too political, too negative or too polarizing — while at the same time see how well it allows for connection and access to information.

“First, we have to think about the benefits of social media,” says Greg Swan, a vice president of public relations and brand Innovation at Minneapolis advertising agency space150. “Why do we want to be on social media?”

He points out three major benefits: connections with other people, a way to share your voice and a popular vehicle for getting the news.

We are sharing fewer cute kid photos every year. Personal social sharing is down 15 percent year over year, making way for more news and commentary online.

Sixty-two percent of people now say they get their news from social media.

“You think about why you can’t quit social media? That’s where you get your news in 2016,” Swan said.

Cornell researchers looked at some of the reasons people who quit Facebook were drawn back in. They studied surveys of people who chose to take in the “99 Days of Freedom” Facebook challenge by stepping away from the social media site. Not everyone could stay off Facebook the entire 99 days.

They found four major reasons for returning back to the site. First, people who think it is addictive are more likely to fall back into the habit.

Second, people who use Facebook to influence how other people think of them had a better chance of not completing the challenge.

Third, good moods kept people off the site for longer compared to bad moods.

And fourth, people were more likely to stay away if they still took part in other social media platforms.

Swan says the ubiquity of our smartphones also plays a role.

“There’s more technology in this phone than what sent the first person to space. It’s no wonder we can’t put it down,” Swan said. “That said, it doesn’t take a lot to set them down and walk away.”

He suggests taking a social media break if you think you need it by unfollowing people or groups you believe to be toxic, deleting the apps from your phone or stopping for a short period of time.

He locks his phone in a safe for one week every year.

Watch the segment here:
WCCO Why Is it So Hard to Quit Social Media?

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