People talk about ways to make money through social media, but we don’t really discuss how much it costs. Sure, it can be a helpful tool in learning about topics such as personal finance. But is it costing you more money than it’s saving you? We found five essential reasons you should consider putting down your phone and quitting social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
1. Opportunity Cost
If you frequently post unsavory content to a public social media account, it’s possible that at some point you may miss out on a new career opportunity. Posting on social media can evoke the scrutiny of human resources and hiring professionals. As such, the wrong content could potentially lose you a new job or client.
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There are a number of stories and news articles online detailing how unscrupulous online behavior has lost people their jobs. While everyone is entitled to an opinion, especially on their personal social media accounts, many employers, clients, and customers will judge you based on your online persona.
“At our company, we check social media when we are on the final stages of the hiring process,” says human resources director Katie Zarazinski of automobile rental startup Xtreme Xperience.
“Since we are a young company, we will not exclude a candidate if there are a few pictures of them drinking. If all of their pictures consist of them being drunk and inappropriate, however, then those are red flags.”
Plus, if an employee’s social media presence doesn’t appropriately reflect a company’s image, it could reflect poorly on the company. “If a client was to come across pictures of employees doing things that do not match the company brand, it can certainly have a damaging effect,” says career coach Gina Curtis of Employment Boost.
“As a practice, if you choose to share photos on a public account, avoid posting sensitive photos or change your privacy settings.”
So if you frequently post photos of yourself drinking to excess, let the world know your political affiliation, or openly discuss provocative subjects on the internet, know that someone might be watching you. And it just may cost you an important opportunity, such as landing a new job with a higher salary, or worse, becoming suddenly unemployed due to a poorly planned Twitter rant.
2. Time Is Money
How much time do you spend on social media? The average adult spends more than two hours a day on social media, according to a 2018 Nielsen study. Consider what else that time could have been spent on — that’s two hours you could use to complete a side hustle, do freelance work, exercise, or meditate.
It’s hard to say exactly how much time is too much time on social media. However, many professionals agree that pushing two hours is too long.
“When you consider that most people spend two hours on social media on top of the nine to 10 hours spent staring at a computer screen, it’s way too much,” says clinical program manager Kristen Fescoe of Resility Health. “While the research is mixed on an exact prescribed amount of time, an hour or less of social media seems to be a good rule of thumb.” That includes your cell phone, people.
If you’ve ever told yourself that you just don’t have enough time for everything you want to do, it may be related to spending 14 hours a week on social media. Think about the additional income you’re leaving on the table by essentially wasting two full days of work over the course of a week.
Consider the huge well of untapped productivity inside you. Ask yourself if you’d rather continue scrolling or attempt to create something on your own. If you answer with the latter, stop using social media for a while or consider cutting back over time.
“Back off by five to 10 minutes each day, and when in doubt, set a timer and hold yourself accountable,” recommends Fescoe. It’s amazing to see what you can accomplish in the daily extra two hours.
3. A Troubled Personal Life
If you’re constantly surfing Instagram and Facebook, you may be sacrificing time that’s better spent with family. Social media can strain in our real-life relationships. For example, a 2016 study showed that envy increases in friendships and relationships when one person gets more likes than another on Facebook.
If you’re feeling a sense of Facebook inadequacy or envy — or even just feeling uninspired about your relationships — it may be time to stop using social media. While these sites were first heralded as ways of bringing us closer together, they have the side effect of making us feel less than.
“Many people do report feeling inadequate as a result of what they see online and on social media,” Fescoe adds.
Her advice, however, is to make an effort not to conflate an online persona for the actual individual.
“It is helpful for people to remember that social media is generally slanted with a rose-colored lens,” she continues. “Most people post the things they are most proud of. It’s important to remember that all people experience the highs and lows of life. They just may not be advertising this fact.”
It can be difficult sometimes to separate an individual’s online presence from their humanity as an individual. As such, if you find yourself envious of a friend’s “success” on social media, perhaps it’s time to step back.
4. It’s a Mixed Bag for Business
Not only can social media cost you the opportunity to get or keep a job, but it can also take time away from your business.
Many entrepreneurs and small-business owners think that social media is the best way to get more eyes on their endeavors. While social media is a nifty tool that helps with your business, you shouldn’t feel that you have to spend an exorbitant amount of time on it to be successful.
Do you know how much time you’re spending on social media for your business? If it’s more than a few hours each week, it may be time to outsource, use a social media-scheduling tool, or just take a breather.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
“For a small-business owner, once they’ve set a content strategy, they can really spend as little as 15 minutes a day executing on their social media, if done correctly,” says digital strategist Christina Hager, president of Ovations Digital.
“By using a content calendar, creating assets up front, and then using a scheduling tool, everything can be streamlined for the business.”
By using tools to help schedule content and maximize the utility of your actual time online, you can spread the word of your business without getting bogged down in social media. This can be helpful if you are unable to hire a social media or digital communications strategist due to your salient, small-business budget.
Also, you may be spending more money than necessary on social media by trying to advertise. While “boosting” your posts may seem like a good idea at first, if it doesn’t have a good return on investment, you’re throwing money away. Take a look at your numbers — they may surprise you.
Look at Your Numbers
“So many small businesses just throw things at the wall to see what sticks when, in fact, they should be evaluating their social media analytics and seeing how their campaigns are doing at least once a quarter, if not once a month,” Hager adds.
Assess the benefit of your company’s social media budget against the perceived statistic benefits of your online reach, then adjust for optimal efficiency.
Among the small-business owners I spoke to, none recommended you spend more than 25 percent of your marketing budget on social media ads. Consider that the upper limit of your digital marketing expenditures.
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5. Increased Sadness
Recent studies show that social media is so addictive that a person can suffer withdrawal during a social media detox, according to a 2017 study in the journal Addictive Behaviors. Even if you aren’t trying to quit social media, it can still affect your health in some pretty negative ways.
Social Media Users vs. Nonusers
For example, heavy social media users may experience increased sadness, anxiety, and depression. These feelings are usually a consequence of the individuals’ directly comparing themselves to images and videos they encounter on sites like Facebook and Instagram.
“The difference is nonusers are out living their lives, while users who get depressed over social media are coveting the lives of people on social media,” says nationally certified counselor Sophia Reed.
“This is done without understanding that those people on social media only post the absolute best pictures and versions of themselves and their life, and that is not a real representation of their actual life. And users get depressed over what appears to be perfection and how their life is not measuring up.”
Advice From the Pros
Reed’s advice is repeated throughout the psychoanalytic community. At the core of social media-linked depression is the convergence of personhood and online profiles.
“In these situations, I have to remind my clients about the big picture,” says licensed family and marriage therapist Marina Braff, whose expertise lies in the psychological effects of technology on teens.
“I remind them of who they really are — not just who they are on their Instagram.”
“In discussing this, they are reminded that a like, a follow, or a comment have little to do with their goals,” Braff continues. “They have the opportunity to think beyond the world of their phone and are reminded of the world they want to create.”
In short, the consistent comparison of yourself against another individual’s curated web page can breed toxic negativity. And given the current cost of treatment for depression and anxiety, it all adds up to another reason you should consider giving up social media altogether.
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Is Quitting Social Media a Good Idea?
Social media isn’t inherently bad. That said, how you manage your activity on sites like Facebook and Instagram can mean the difference between a healthy and financially productive life and one of constant judgment, envy, and sleeplessness.
If you think you’re dependent upon social media, there are steps you can take to strike a balance. For instance, try to limit yourself to a maximum of one hour a day. You can use timers to keep track of the time spent on Facebook and Twitter. Slowly scaling back your usage of social media can be an effective way of getting a handle on how you consume social content.
That said, the only person who can truly decide whether you should stop using social media, and to what degree, is you.
“If social media is making your life worse, get off,” Reed says. “And only get back on when you receive counseling or feel you can be on without it having a negative effect on your mental health.”
A cold turkey approach may be difficult for some people. However, considering the potentially insidious effects of social media on the psyche, no measure is too extreme. By taking an honest look at how you consume social media, in addition to discussing mental health issues you may have with a licensed therapist, you can determine whether it’s okay to keep posting or time to log off.
Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney.