How to get the benefits from unplugging from social media when your job requires you to be connected all the time

Psychologists suggests deliberate breaks from social media when working online
Psychologists suggests deliberate breaks from social media when working online

We often log on to social media to connect with our friends or join in conversations. For some of us, that is what we use to do our work. But constantly being on social media can have negative effects on our well-being and sometimes we just need to disconnect. 

We spoke to clinical psychologists Tracy Kruger and Fergus Ashburner, both educators at the South African College of Applied Psychology, who share some practices to consider when dealing with social media in the workplace or otherwise. 

READ MORE: How to clean your social media accounts from old embarrassing posts

Considering “the world of addiction”, Tracy says a cleansing or a social media detox would only be beneficial or necessary if the following is true:

  • It is interfering with your wellbeing and daily functioning; 
  • There is a perceived benefit from detoxing from technology for defined periods of time and;
  • There is a sense of peace and tranquility experienced that overrides the excitement, instant gratification and unlimited access to whoever, whatever and whenever.

In cases where there is a need to disconnect, here are a few tips that may help to manage your social media use:

Take deliberate breaks from social media

“I do believe that regular conscious breaks from accessing social media platforms can insulate the user from the isolation that large periods of usage can steal. This time may be redistributed to purposeful, quality time spent with family and loved ones. Also, breaks from social media give the individual an opportunity to be directly engaged in their present life as opposed to the construction of a fantasied virtual (online) life,” says Fergus.

“Deprivations, diets and detoxes can be enormously valuable and finding a balance is often our aspiration,” says Tracy.

READ MORE: Want to stop seeing tweets favourited by other people popping up in your timeline? Here's how.

Don’t neglect your senses

Using cellphones and social media too frequently means that some of our human interaction may be compromised.

“People are seeing each other less; attempts at conflict resolution are often done over social media, messenger or email. The one-on-one, five senses, intuitive, energy exchange of humans facing each other and communicating and experiencing the other is becoming less frequent," said Tracy.

Constantly check-in with yourself

Tracy and Fergus propose U.S psychologist Jeffery Young’s Schema Therapy paradigm, which suggested people develop maladaptive lenses that they use to perceive the world when there have been unmet needs from our childhood and adolescence. 

READ MORE: How Facebook is looking out for your mental health

They summarise the five unmet needs as follows:

1. Secure attachments to others (safety, stability, nurturance and acceptance) Vs. Psychologically and physically safe relationships with others where both parties are unconditionally accepted.

2. Autonomy, competence and a sense of identity Vs. The unmet need would have been that the caring adult would only love and acceptance conditionally when the child presents a particular way.

3. Freedom to express valid needs and emotions.

4. Spontaneity and play vs. Being controlled and constantly instructed what to do. 

“Instilling fear is an effective means at stifling play and spontaneity,” says Fergus.

5. Realistic limits and self-control.




Tracy says based on these unmet needs, Jeffery Young identified 18 schemas that are activated in a specific situation that include abandonment, failure, entitlement, unrelenting standards, self-sacrifice emotional inhibition etc. 

“I would recommend keeping the list of Young’s core emotional needs somewhere and referring to them often.

“When we allow social media and time on our technology to detract from meeting our core emotional needs, we are going to develop a pattern of relating that may be harmful to ourselves and cause us distress. This distress may then impact our well-being and be a precipitator to challenges such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, feelings of inadequacy and so forth,” she says.

READ MORE: Should the people who have the power to fire you, follow you on social media

“I think it is crucial to reflect on how we spend our time and do more of what is important and meaningful and less of what hurts ourselves and others,” says Tracy.

Do you find it difficult or impossible to unplug? Share your story with us here so we can share it with our other readers.

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