Do you think you spend too much time on Facebook? If you answered yes, you're probably right. The social media giant revealed last year that its 1.8 billion users spend an average of 50 minutes on its services (including Instagram). That's more than one-sixteenth of your time awake, or one-eighth of your workday. And that number is climbing, up 25 percent from 40 minutes a day just two years ago. If you'd like to reclaim some of the time you spend on social media--or just find out why you might want to--TED has provided a list of talks that will inspire you to unplug, step away from social media, and perhaps back into relationships and experiences in the real world. Whether or not you spend too much time on social media, nearly all of us spend too much time with our eyes glued to our various mobile devices.

Here's why you should change that.

1. Social media may help us connect, but it's also making us lonely.

Why do we so often spend time with our family or friends while using our mobile devices to read and post on social media? Why do so many of us feel more comfortable sending an email or text than making a phone call? Because, like Goldilocks, texting and social media allow us to feel in control of our conversations, keeping the other person not too far away, and not too close, but just right. That insight comes from sociologist and psychologist Sherry Turkle, who's been called the Margaret Mead of digital culture.

It's a problem, she says, because this constant sharing via digital device robs us being comfortable alone with our thoughts, which is why people standing in line or even at stoplights tend to pull out their mobile devices. But at the same time, because these interactions lack the immediacy and intimacy of a real conversation, they can leave us feeling isolated and ultimately unhappy. But we can change things, she says, and offers some practical advice for overcoming that isolation.

2. We interrupt ourselves every 3 1/2 minutes.

That frightening statistic comes from designer Tristan Harris, who argues for technology whose purpose is to provide better human experiences and bring people together in meaningful ways. The constant interruptions we get from social media and chat have trained us to interrupt ourselves, checking our smartphones for new email or messages or stock movements or whatever an average 17 times an hour. Software that limits interruptions except when something is truly urgent could help, he explains in this fascinating talk.

3. When we go offline, we become mindful.

Manhattan-based novelist Abha Dawesar discovered just how deep her Internet addiction was after Hurricane Sandy hit. Although she had no power, had to carry bottles of water up to her seventh-floor walkup, and could take a shower only by walking 40 blocks to her gym, her biggest concern was finding cafes and other places where she could charge her mobile devices. By focusing on what she calls "the digital now," we lose the true experience of the present moment, she argues in this thought-provoking talk.

4. We need quiet time to understand ourselves.

You could have the greatest experiences in the world, and fail to appreciate or fully experience them if you're not able to be centered and mindful, explains travel writer Pico Iyer in this deeply thoughtful talk. Not only that, we need quiet time to reflect on our experiences to fully understand them--something Iyer learned after a mind-bending trip through North Korea.

To help himself unplug and reflect, Iyer moved to a quiet spot in Japan, goes on three-day retreats several times a year, and observes an "Internet Sabbath" of at least 24 hours offline every week. Here's why he finds that quiet time at least as important as all his dazzling travels.

Published on: Feb 7, 2017
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