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You could call me a natural health nerd. I'm a husband and father of four young kids. I wear funny looking toe shoes. I wear out podcasts and audiobooks faster than people can make them. I get paid to ask thoughtful questions and I love writing about what I learn.

 

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  • Christian Elliot

What Your Social-Media Diet is Costing You

Updated: Mar 14

Ever eat fast food and feel...not-so-good when you were done?


Similarly, ever get lost scrolling on social media and feel emotionally bloated afterward?


Perhaps more importantly, ever quantified what (and how much) your social media diet is costing you...as in, what else you're saying "no" to every time you pick up your phone?



In case you're inclined to skip the rest of this post because whatever may be below sounds like I might ask you to do something extreme, let me just say this...I'm not asking you to give up your social media.


Whew!


Yes, we can still be friends, and if you stick with me, I'll offer some (potentially) life-changing questions, but first...


A QUICK, CLIENT STORY


I was coaching a woman recently who 1) has a significant amount of stress/responsibilities, and 2) some very real reasons why she needs to get her health in order.


She recently got back from a vacation where she saw all her markers of health improve significantly--we're talking blood-test quantifiable, and emotionally-satisfyingly quantifiable.


She realized how much more capable her body is, and how much more present she feels when she isn't constantly stimulated by media.


Her 30,000-foot question became, "How can I get some more of this in my everyday life?"


A BREIF, STRATEGY INTERRUPTION


As we always do with people we coach, one of the most important factors we have to address is the question...


"How are we going to pull off this health transformation?"


In other words, we have to ask, "In light of all you have going on, where are we going to find the time, energy, and motivation for the journey?"


It's not like we ask clients to jettison all responsibilities and live in an ethereal world while we coach them.


Nope.


We coach (and very much love coaching) people who "live in the real world."


We help them strategically face what has been holding them back, and what they can realistically do about it.


As you can imagine, one of the most important variables we have to account for is "where is all your time going?"


NOW BACK TO THE STORY


A few weeks into the journey, after we had clarified her S.M.A.R.T. goals, mapped out how she can engineer her weeks to accomplish them, and started working the plan, an important variable rose to the surface (an obstacles needing special attention)--her social-media "diet" and more broadly, her "phone diet."


After tracking her phone and social media usage for a couple weeks...let's just say it was ugly--really ugly.


The time lost was in the dozens of hours a week.


Here's the telling part though:


It's not like after the first week of tracking we didn't know it was a problem.


We put some measures in place to attempt to reclaim the time...to no avail.


We had clearly identified a thief of progress, and it was something she had total agency over.


So what was really going on? Why no improvement?


THE MOST OVERLOOKED ASPECT OF TRANSFORMATION


Here's the critical variable you (and she) have to account for...you're emotional.


It's ok, I am too.


So is everyone else.


Rather than fight that reality, we have to account for it, and I would even argue, embrace it.


FINDING THE REAL PROBLEM


As my client and I talked through the allure of the phone, and social media in particular, three things rose to the surface:


  1. A very-real, Pavlovian (and commonplace) addiction

  2. A genuine, unmet, human need for connection

  3. A serious avoidance mechanism


In the midst of a stressful day, or a social-connection starved day/week, social media is a way to 1) avoid facing something hard, or 2) fill a need to connect with others.


Even though it's a form of procrastination, and the connections we make are shallow, at least social media is a form of "spending time with others" and it's better than nothing...or is it?


WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MCDONALDS?


As we talked, what clicked for my client, was how similar eating poorly is when you compare it to mindless scrolling.


When you eat food low in nutrition, your body keeps sending you signals that you're hungry.


In reality, your body isn't craving more calories, it's looking for more nutrition.


When you're consuming the equivalent to emotional fast food (social media), your desire isn't for more screen time, what you're looking for is probably one of two things:


  1. Genuine human interaction.

  2. An escape from some form of stress.


But as important as that recognition is...


HERE'S SOMETHING PERHAPS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT -- YOUR MINDSHARE


It's probably not a surprise to you that the news is focused on what's negative in the world.


In a world with fierce competition for attention, news agencies know humans pay more attention to what's negative (to perceived threats) than we do to sunshine, puppies, rainbows, and cat videos.


Ok maybe not that last one.


In short, to stay in business and be relevant, the media has to talk about what we'll pay attention to, and that means feeding you a diet of negativity.


WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA (or any media) DOES TO YOUR ATTITUDE


Follow this logical thread:


  1. Your inputs (what you give your attention to), determine what you think about.

  2. What you think about determines what you will observe, believe, and work on.

  3. What you put your hand (and mind) to determines your results.


Makes sense so far, right?


Now let's take it two, important steps further.


  1. You can't control your thoughts. They come and go like the wind. Anyone who has tried to meditate knows this.

  2. What you can control are your inputs.


You see where this is going?


By opening yourself up to social media, you're not only giving yourself over to the "connection" equivalent of fast food, you're also opening yourself up to other people's agendas, political drama, and a disproportionate look at what's wrong in the world instead of what's right, what's positive, and what you can control.

In short, garbage in, garbage out.


The inputs you choose have everything to do with your mindshare and thus, your results.


SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE SOCIAL MEDIA...AND FAST FOOD

None of the above is to say that there's no place for social media in your diet, but if you think of it like fast food, reducing it (potentially dramatically) might be the best option.


Chances are, like most people, you're addicted to your phone.


How much cutting back might be appropriate for you?


It varies by person.


How much alcohol is appropriate for a recovering alcoholic?


None.


For a lot of people, a place to start might be with a cold-turkey vice check--i.e. is social media the master of you, or are you the master of it?


Going off it cold turkey for 30 days would give you your answer.


If you can't handle cold-turkey, you're addicted.


NOT READY FOR COLD TURKEY?


Here are some other options you might consider:


  1. Get/use a screen-tracker type of app, and see how low you can get your numbers.

  2. Think about who you can connect with face to face (or over the phone) and see if you can spend more quality time with people than you do with your phone.

  3. Don't bring your phone to the dinner table.

  4. Leave your phone in the car, or at the front door, when you go to church, or a friend's house.

  5. Put your phone in another room when you're with your kids--what an example to them that will be!

  6. If someone is talking to you...ignore the text you just got. Doing so tells the person you're actually with that they are important.

  7. Try blocking or unfriending toxic people, groups, or pages on social media.

  8. Bury your social media apps on the last page of your phone, tucked away in a folder. Simply seeing them less can reduce screen time.

  9. Commit to only using social media on a computer and not your phone.

  10. Schedule a small block of time when you can guiltlessly enjoy what's good about it.

  11. Ask for accountability publicly--tell people to bust you if they see you on social media.

  12. Set your wifi to turn off at 9pm at night.

  13. Parent your phone: Put it to bed, in its own room, and turn it off by at 8pm. Fun fact: There is actually an off button on your phone. :)


FINAL THOUGHTS


Whatever steps you can take, take them, even if they're small.


You won't look back on life when you're old and wish you'd spent more time texting or on commenting social media.

Recognize when you're looking for a real connection, when you might be avoiding what you need to do, and see if you can find a better, more nutrient-rich way to spend your time.


Reclaim that time, and you might even quiet a racing mind, experience less stress, honor the people you're with, and wonder why the heck you didn't make these upgrades sooner!


You can do this.

Until next time,


Christian


PS. If you could use a comprehensive (we call it Whole Human) approach to building a healthy lifestyle, check out our personal coaching program. It's life coaching, nutrition coaching, and fitness coaching all in one. It may trigger just the breakthrough you need.