My grandmother always refused to watch the local news. “It’s depressing,” she told me. The only news the local television stations seemed intent on covering was sports (which she didn’t care about), weather (which they seemed always to get wrong) but mostly they covered crime. Many times I heard, “Watch too much of it, and you’ll be afraid to leave the house.”
Today television viewership is down significantly, but social media usage is higher than ever. Research conducted by Informate Mobile Intelligence last year found that Americans on average check social media 17 times a day and spend anywhere from 1 to over 4 hours a day looking at various social media platforms.
If a half hour of news could depress you, I wonder what my grandmother would say about hours of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all our other apps?
Studies show that spending a lot of time on social media can cause anxiety and depression in many people. A research team from the University of Pittsburgh found that those who checked their social media most frequently were 2.7 times more likely to be depressed compared to those who checked less often. Those who spent the most amount of time on social media throughout the week had 1.7 times the likelihood of depression. For the complete study from the University of Pittsburgh, click here.
The cure? A simple one. Well simple but not easy. It turns out that the cure is to turn it off!
As an experiment, I deleted all social media apps from my phone for a week. I even took the extra step of downloading a blocking app on my computer. A simple Google search will reveal a variety of blocking apps. The program I used for my PC is called Cold Turkey (www.coldturkey.com). I found that at the end of the week, I was much less distracted and in better spirits.
If blocking everything sounds a little too extreme, fear not. There are several ways to customize your social media feeds to limit the not-so-happy stuff.
Since Facebook is by far the most popular app, let’s focus on changing the settings to turn the corner. Facebook uses a fairly complex algorithm that determines your feed. There are specific ways to customize it to your liking. This Mashable.com article lists a number of ways that you can customize your Facebook feed. Find it here: http://mashable.com/2012/02/12/customize-facebook-news-feed/#TqiXxpPdFSqq
This article shows you how to:
- Change the news feed from Top Stories to Most Recent.
Facebook uses a complex algorithm to decide what is most important. But that algorithm takes into account factors other than your personal likes. Changing the sort order to most recent will just give you the latest posts.
- Muting A Friend.
This allows you to stop seeing posts from those friends that maybe have a little too much time on their hands.Muting A Page
Does mostly the same thing aa muting a friend except that it is specific to a business or organization.
- Muting an Application.
Tired of seeing those invitations to Candy Crush? You can get rid of them.
- Edit Your News Feed Settings.
This also hides unwanted posts in your feed.
- Manage Subscriptions.
If you don’t want to completely hide a friend’s posts, but you don’t need to see how far they’ve progressed in Farmville or how well they’re matched on Tinder, then you can check or uncheck specific types of posts.
- Managing Subscriptions Globally.
Going through each one of my friends to change subscription settings would be a huge waste of time, you can do it all at once through global subscriptions.
These are a few of the options Facebook has made available for us to enjoy social media to our liking. It takes a little effort, but the rewards are great. And don’t forget, if it gets too consuming, just unplug!