There's bad news for those self-proclaimed social media "addicts": multiple studies from the last year show that too much time spent on your favorite platforms can make you depressed and less satisfied with life. It starts early, too; even young teens report negative effects from social media obsession.
Perhaps you have already sensed a need to pull back. Maybe you have even made a new year's resolution to spend less time on Facebook or Twitter. Even if you moderate your use, however, you can still make mistakes that have a negative impact on your career and relationships.
What should you look out for, and how can you fix the problem?
1. You may fall for fake news.
If this last U.S. election cycle surfaced anything, it was the fact that many of us are too trusting when it comes to online news sources. Are you prone to repeating those outrageous headlines in the break room? You may not realize how gullible you look, or that your co-workers now doubt your ability to think for yourself. It's time to learn how reputable news outlets verify their sources and check facts. Get your news from an agency that wants to spread knowledge instead of panic.
2. Your worldview narrows.
It's great that social platforms allow you to showcase the things you love, and stay in touch with the people you like best. Unfortunately, the algorithms that filter out the noise of ads and fads you hate are the same ones that block new, unexpected information from reaching you. Challenges, surprises, and obstacles may cause stress, but they also drive personal growth. Calculate how much time you typically spend with your favorite apps and sites. Commit to cutting that in half. Then dedicate the recovered time to exploring things outside of your comfort zone. Read something new. Visit a MeetUp group that intimidates you. Educate yourself on innovation that may disrupt your job or industry.
3. Your time gets stolen from more valuable pursuits.
I admit it--I've gotten caught in a "click hole" or two, myself. I hit Etsy looking to buy a client gift, and two hours later I'm browsing handmade chicken sweaters. Apps like Pinterest and Instagram can be terrific professional tools, but only if you focus on completing the task you logged in to do. Otherwise, you might find you have wasted the whole hour reserved for a critical project. Whenever you access a platform that distracts you, set a timer for 5-10 minutes. When it sounds, shut it down and move on to something else.
4. Your "friends" do not reflect well on you.
Most people have an old pal or relative they love in spite of themselves. No matter what you do or say, that person will keep on posting embarrassing, uninformed comments or links. You can carefully edit your own content, but you can't control theirs. If you are e-connected with your boss, clients, or direct reports, they will see that person's garbage in your feed. You will be judged by the people you hang out with online, just as you would if you brought them to an office party. Minimizing your social media presence will diminish the chances of your professional contacts being exposed to your buddy Bozo. If you just can't stay away, bite the bullet and mute or block that person.
5. Your ability to communicate suffers.
Is it a creative challenge to be pithy and eloquent in 140 characters? You bet! Does that format transfer to every professional setting? Absolutely not. On most platforms, the tone is informal and the dialogue tends toward unsophisticated. If the bulk of your communication happens there, you will have little chance to hone an ability to write and speak truly well.
Additionally, research already shows that personal relationships suffer from thoughtless, emotional posts. If deep, romantic bonds can be damaged by an angry rant posted in the heat of the moment, will work relationships fare any better when you lose control? Take your communication offline. Learn to express yourself persuasively and well. Do the research it takes to back up your views with facts and reason. Your career can only benefit when others see how well you combine passion with purpose.