Are you a serial social media user and all the time you spend on social media is eating into other aspects of your life? The world runs on social media and it is a sleepless, ubiquitous presence, so it takes real effort not to get hooked or take a break. Let’s explore the ins- and outs of social media, how it affects you and how you can switch off and manage these platforms. 

So, what exactly is social media? 

In short, it can be described as websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. Some of the most popular being Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube.

43% of South Africa’s population are active social media users. That’s 25.8 million people in the country. According to Statista, South Africa’s most popular social media platform is WhatsApp, with Facebook and Instagram coming in at second and third place. It was also found that the highest share of social media users in South Africa are between the ages of 25 and 34.

While each of these platforms focus on different aspects and offerings, the objective remains the same across the board: instant gratification. We have the power of sharing and connecting at our fingertips, so it is easy to get sucked into the black hole of wanting recognition and ‘likes’.

Why and how are we using them? 

We use social media to engage with our friends and followers, as well as brands or businesses. When you share, comment, or like on any of the above-mentioned platforms, your friends and followers will be alerted about your activity. This extends the invitation for them to engage with you. The problem comes in when people post just to get the gratification of knowing someone else likes your images and ideas. Studies have often referred to this as an ‘instant high’ when your dopamine (happy hormones) shoots up when you get likes and comments on your posts. Just like conventional drugs, it’s easy to get hooked wanting more and more each time. That’s when social media consumes you. 

Social media has such a widespread user base that even businesses and brands have been using these platforms to engage directly with their fans as well as attract new fans and clients, building their brand, increasing sales, and driving website traffic. This gives us all the more reason to be plugged in 24/7, we never want to miss out the latest release or a deal!

What effect does this have on us?

While connecting with others is generally a good thing when it comes to our health and well-being can the same be said for virtual interactions? Evidence suggests that the ability to connect with others via social media platforms can help strengthen social ties and keep us more attuned to our mental and physical health. But there’s also evidence that such interactions hinder human connectivity, lower our self-esteem, make us feel lonely and isolated, and just plain stress us out, says Emily Weinstein, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

And it’s no wonder we’re stressed out! There is more information flowing into people’s lives now than ever. This stress may come from maintaining a large network of Facebook friends, feeling jealous of their well-documented and well-appointed lives, the demands of replying to text messages, the addictive allure of photos of fantastic crafts on Pinterest, having to keep up with status updates on Twitter, and the “fear of missing out” on the beautifully captured activities in the lives of friends and family on Instagram. So, we need to ask ourselves, how can we set boundaries and use it to limit the harmful effects?

Limit your screen time

Most smartphones have a setting where you can set a daily or weekly limit for the apps on your phone. Decide on a time and set the limit. When you’ve reached the limit, the app will be greyed out and access will be denied until the limit resets the next day or week. 

Ditch and detox

If you feel you really need to take a break, a detox might just be the medicine you’re after. You can start small with a weekend off and build up to see how long you can go without reaching for your phone every 10 seconds. Here are 9 benefits of a social media detox and tips on how to do a social media detox right now.  

Leave your phone at the door

Don’t bring your phone or tablet to bed. Turn devices off and leave them in another room overnight to charge.

No notifications

Disable social media notifications. It’s hard to resist the constant buzzing, beeping, and dinging of your phone alerting you to new messages. Turning off notifications can help you regain control of your time and focus.

Streamline your feeds

Be mindful and intentional of your social media use. This includes following people and brands that make us feel good and unfollowing or blocking people that don't make us feel good. It might sound harsh, but creating a safe and serene space for yourself online, can do wonders for your mental well-being. 

Social media is ever changing and ever present, and will probably continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Without proper regulations, it is easy for social media platforms to dominate our lives. Our need for attention and gratification drives us to seek out social platforms to keep us engaged and on that dopamine high we mentioned earlier. Social media can be good but as with so many other things, it should be consumed in moderation. It is important to limit time spent on social media in order to maintain good mental and physical health.


How do you manage your time on social media? Join our members group on Facebook and share your tips or stories with us. We can’t wait to hear from you!