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This Is What I Learned From A Social Media Break

10/23/2015 12:33 EDT | Updated 10/23/2016 05:12 EDT
Tara Moore via Getty Images
woman taking selfie with cell phone

Over the past decade, social media has influenced our lives in so many ways. It's changed the way we work, the way we share information, the relationships we have, and the way we socialize. But did you know that our brains crave social interaction and being online gives us the same satisfaction we get from being with others? It creates a chemical reaction inside us - and it can be very addictive!

As of last year, there were over 2 billion active social media users. Considering there are 7 billion people in the world, that's almost a third of the total population on earth. It's staggering how popular these communication tools have become over their history -- from blogging in the 1990s to MySpace in the early 2000s, to Facebook in 2006 and Instagram in 2010. The average person has over 7 social apps on their phone right now. And new platforms are constantly being created to tempt us -- it's no wonder we're all hooked.

How many of us have gone out for dinner and found our friends -- or even ourselves -- spending more time posting on Instagram than enjoying the meal? Dinnertime used to be about conversation; but now it's about reporting. And if we're not posting our own updates, we're reading up on other people's. It's like everyone feels we need to document not just occasions in our lives but every moment. Like if we don't snap a photo of something, it doesn't actually mean anything. What happened to enjoying the moment?

That's why I decided to take a break from social media. A friend and I made a pact to delete the social apps off our devices and not personally post anything, or look at anyone else's posts, for one week. I love social media -- but going off it gave me a fresh perspective.

Here's some insight from my social media break:

"Be present in all things and thankful for all things." Maya Angelou

Pay attention to how it makes you feel. Social media can be a fun way to connect with friends, it can be a highly effective business tool and a streamlined way to get up-to-the-minute news, but it can also cause its users to experience negative side effects. There's even a name for it: Social Media Anxiety Disorder. Sufferers experience anxiety and depression when their posts are not liked or when someone else's are, they become obsessed with maintaining a specific online persona, and they feel a sense of being unconnected if they're away from their devices. So, that panicky feeling you get when you leave your phone at home or the moping you do after seeing your friend's selfie get 50 likes - that's actually a real thing.

This funny article about social media addiction from the Telegraph actually makes some valid points about how to tell if you're getting too hooked on social. If you see yourself in some of these points, it might be time for a little break.

"You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars." Gary Allan

Taking a break helps you refocus on what's really important. Social media can also make us become too concerned about other people's lives and we can get jealous or judgemental. We might even become attached to online strangers as if they were our close friends or family. We care what they're up to, or what they're wearing, or who they're with, and this can lead to unhealthy FOMO! When you take a break from social media, you are able to focus more on your own world, on the things that make you happy, and on the people who actually matter to you. Being able to put your time and energy into what's really important will help shake off any negativity or anxiety that too much social may have created. You'll put less emphasis on how your posts are received and more on how you make the people in your life feel. Plus, without the social pressure online, you won't be as influenced by what others are doing and can be a more authentic version of yourself.

"When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everyone will respect you." Lao Tzu

Think of it as a detox. I'm not advocating a total, cold-turkey rejection of social media. It is a great way to stay in touch with friends who don't live nearby or to share big news with a large group - it's also great for work and helps your brand reach a wider audience. Social media can even benefit relationships. But do we really need to be on it 24/7, at work and at home? I don't think so. Like everything in life, moderation is key. Here are some great tips on how to overcome your social media addiction. The suggestion that speaks to me the most is "Check With Purpose." What that means is - don't go on social media aimlessly because you are bored because that's when you're more likely to end up wasting time or eliciting those negative emotions. If you want to post the amazing recipe you just made, do it -- and get off. Or if you want to look at your second cousin's photos from their wedding last weekend -- check them out and close the app. The point is, go on with some sense of purpose.

"Everything in moderation, including moderation." Oscar Wilde

Social media is a tool that we use; it was invented to keep us further connected. But when its use gets too excessive, we might need to take a break. So, the next time you're out with a friend, put your phone away and check it when you're done. I love social media and I am grateful for all the positives it provides -- but like everything in life, it's all about balance.

Have you taken a break from social media? What did you learn? Tweet me @NatashaNKPR

Xo Natasha