How to keep social media from becoming all-consuming

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Feel like you have to be everywhere all the time? Studies show too much social media is bad for you. Here’s how indie broker Pam Blair keeps a healthy relationship with her feed.

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It’s the end of a long day and I am getting ready for bed. As my lavender tea steeps, I pick up my phone to see if anyone has “liked” my Instagram post. I scroll.

In a matter of seconds, the image of my colleague with a “just sold” sign flashes across my screen. The next second, I see another friend speaking at a real estate conference. I feel a pang of discomfort.

The self-talk begins. “Am I closing as much as he is this year? Maybe I should have gone to that conference?” I go to bed tired but find myself tossing and turning unable to relax.

Sound familiar?

Social media and wellness

In our industry, we are bombarded with messages about the importance of social media in building relationships and promoting our businesses. It’s undoubtedly an immensely powerful tool when used mindfully. Like many things, there are two sides of the coin.

Numerous studies correlate social media use with increased incidents of anxiety and depression particularly among teens.

A spring 2022 study in Harvard Magazine focuses on similar dynamics among adults. The question of the chicken and the egg comes up here.

Are people who are more prone to anxiety and depression more likely to be affected by or become addicted to social media, or does social media promote anxiety and depression? I will leave that to the experts and suggest that social media use can affect our general well-being.

The science of social media

A couple of things that we know is that the “social craving” is real. New York University professor Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, explains what happens to your brain when someone likes your post on Instagram or any other social media platform.

“The minute you take a drug, drink alcohol, smoke a cigarette if those are your poison, when you get a like on social media, all of those experiences produce dopamine, which is a chemical that’s associated with pleasure.

“When someone likes an Instagram post, or any content that you share, it’s a little bit like taking a drug. As far as your brain is concerned, it’s a very similar experience. Now the reason why is because it’s not guaranteed that you’re going to get likes on your posts. And it’s the unpredictability of that process that makes it so addictive. If you knew that every time you posted something you’d get a 100 likes, it would become boring really fast.”

Because social media plugs into these basic survival mechanisms, I often ask myself, “Am I using social media or is it using me?”

In real estate, we have the added pressure of needing to be on top of things 24-7 with little downtime. This tendency can translate to our social media habits and lead to unhealthy scrolltime particularly when we are fatigued and looking for some relief.

4 red flags social media habits need to change

Here are some signs that our social media habits are potentially causing harm rather than boosting our personal and business lives.

  • FOMO: Experiencing the fear of missing out
  • Toxic self-comparison: Comparing ourselves to others in a way that degrades our sense of well-being
  • Lost time: Spending time on social media instead of doing other things that promote our well-being like being in nature, with loved ones or other fulfilling activities
  • Lost connection: Interacting on social media instead of connecting with others in-person or in a more satisfying way

4 ways to keep a healthy relationship with your devices

Using social media intentionally is key to healthy habits. Here are some practices that have helped my relationship to social media over the years.

  • Scroll with purpose: Assess why you use social media and when you scroll keep that intention in mind.
  • Time-block it: Set aside a specific time each day to address social media — and stick to it. For me, 15 minutes is sufficient for posting and intentionally commenting.
  • Notice how you feel: As you use social media, take note of your moods. If you sense any negativity or destructive feelings, take note and adjust your behavior. Perhaps you don’t follow someone, or you change your expectations.
  • Monitor your self-thoughts: Write your self-thoughts down as you scroll to become more aware of how social media is affecting you.
  • Take a pause: Before you open social media, intentionally pause. Put on your “detachment cap” before you scroll. Recognize that social media portrays what a person wants to post and not the whole picture. Take it all with a grain of salt.

In a challenging market, being vigilant and focused on our relationships with social media is imperative to our wellness. Becoming more aware of the effects of social media and being intentional about using it gives us the freedom to enjoy the benefits and avoid the pitfalls.

Pam Blair is the broker-owner of YogaBug Real Estate in Portland, Oregon. Connect with her on Instagram or LinkedIn.

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