You probably know the well-documented warning that the blue light emitted from our screens inhibits our melatonin levels – a chemical that tells us it’s time to go to sleep.
But there’s another, maybe much more crucial reason you should reduce social media usage, especially before bed – our tendency to social comparison.
The happy, shiny life of others can make us feel inferior
We’ve all been there. As you lie awake in bed doing a quick scroll through Instagram, you look at others’ happy posts and photos polished to a shine and think that your life is a bit dull in comparison. For example, a childhood friend who smiles at you, looking happy as a clam on holiday in the Caribbeans. So you hit the “like” button even though you have that sinking feeling in your gut.
Or maybe you’re unemployed and wondering how you’re going to pay next month’s mortgage when you learn via LinkedIn that a former colleague – who you didn’t think was particularly capable – has just landed his dream job.
Or you’re clicking through Twitter when you stumble across the old guitarist from your high school garage band. It turns out their rock’n’roll fantasy has come true, and they’ve got 100,000 loyal followers and a record deal.
Social media presents itself as a tool for human contact, but for many of us, it is a driver of self-doubt.
The life that flashes on our mobile phone or computer screen often looks so much more enticing than the one we live every day.
Consciously, we know that these images are curated. People post disproportionately about the highlights of their lives – promotions, milestones, and trips abroad – and tend to leave out the mundane aspects of their everyday lives.
Still, it’s hard not to get envious when your own feed is endlessly updated with happy pictures and exciting news from other people.
Research is clear: too much social media is bad for mental health
Frequent social media usage may lead to various problems, including increased feelings of sadness, isolation, and envy and a decrease in overall well-being. In addition, these platforms are addictive, which means that the problems they cause quickly become self-reinforcing.
Platforms like Facebook or Instagram encourage social comparison on a scale that humanity has never experienced before, and psychologists have long agreed that social comparison is harmful.
Whether we feel inferior to a high-achieving friend or superior to one who is struggling, the urge to compare damages our relationships and distorts our values. The message we get from social media is one of competition and scarcity. As a result, the world starts to look like a zero-sum game. Someone else’s gain becomes your loss and vice versa.
Does this mean we all need to delete our accounts? Not necessarily, although it probably wouldn’t hurt to limit our daily dose of social media networking. As with so much in life, it comes down to knowing what’s important to you.
So while social media does come with risks, it doesn’t have to be a flop. On the contrary, with some thought, it can live up to its claim and bring people together instead of pushing them into competition.
So how to reduce social media intake before bedtime
These are some things you can do starting today to better deal with social media before bedtime;
- Before you log on today, think carefully about what you like about social media. Maybe it’s exchanging news with a friend who lives far away, watching highlights of a favorite sports team, or looking at pictures of a fast-growing niece or nephew.
- When you go online, go straight to the accounts and features that make you happy. Treat your attention as the precious commodity that it is and resist the urge to linger and scroll.
- Instead of scrolling through your phone, screen-free time helps you prepare for sleep. I found that keeping the last 30 minutes free from tech devices is crucial for my restful sleep. Maybe read a hardcover book, relax, take a bath, or listen to music. Try whatever relaxes you without looking at the screen.
- If possible, don’t leave your phone in your bedroom at night. Instead, buy a cheap alarm clock and leave your phone charging in another room.
- Arrange your bedroom so you can sleep well. This means you should limit distractions in the bedroom and make the room a welcoming, quiet and comfortable retreat.
Try these things for yourself and give it at least 30 days. You will most likely see that reducing exposure to social media helps you disconnect and improve your sleep quality.
And the chances are that it will also increase the total amount of time you sleep.