Whether you’re looking at memes on Instagram or Facebook messaging your colleague about a funny thing that your dog just did, you’re probably spending more time on social media than you realize.

Statista reports that in 2020, Americans spent over two hours a day on social media. Divisible by state lines, Arizona topped the list with citizens spending an average of 4.6 hours per day on social media, followed by Connecticut and Nevada, who both averaged 4.4 hours a day. States like Vermont or Oklahoma who were on the lower end of social media usage still spent around 1.5 hours a day on various platforms. And unfortunately, it’s not something that many Americans can just quit without a second thought.

Whether social media is an uplifting or upsetting addition to your day, for the most part, it is the primary way that many people communicate with their loved ones, colleagues, and friends. Another survey from USwitch reports that American smartphone users spend an average of 58 minutes per day on Facebook, and an additional 53 minutes on Instagram, Twitter, and other social media apps. Many can’t even watch a show without picking up their phone to text or post about what they’re watching. So chances are that occasionally, you’re probably tapped into social media at work. But is that a good thing, or a bad one?

Social media at work

Two hours of social media time might not seem like too much, especially over the course of an eight-hour workday. But imagine those social media breaks taking up five or ten minutes of your time a piece, spread out over hours – that’s a break every 20-40 minutes. As research has indicated that it can take up to 25 minutes to regain your workflow, if you’re taking a five-minute social media break every 20 minutes, you could be working without any flow at all.

That being said, sometimes, social media is used to aid one’s work efforts rather than distract from them. A 2016 Pew Poll offers an interesting breakdown of why many people log onto social media platforms at work, and what most of their social media time is spent doing. Many see social media as a “mental break” so that they can clear their head of their work woes, but many others see social media as a way to network. It doesn’t even matter if their employer has a policy about using social media on the job – over 77% of workers report using it anyway. The most popular reasons people tend to use social media during work hours are the following:

  • 27% use social media to connect with friends and family while at work
  • 24% use it to make professional connections (such as LinkedIn)
  • 20% crowdsource potential problem-solving tactics
  • 17% learn more about someone they work with or strengthen their relationships with coworkers

Even if you’re using social media to help you solve work issues, the majority of those polled in the Pew Poll determined that it can serve as an interruption anyway. Just about 56% of those who report using social media during their workday agree that it ends up distracting them from the work they need to do. Even if you start out by DMing a question to a coworker, or trying to network on LinkedIn, it can quickly slide into the mindless realm of doom-scrolling.

If you have a business account on social media like Instagram and can’t just forgo your growth or connection with your followers when you’re at work, you can use certain applications and services to your advantage. For example, using an Instagram scheduler or a mass DM app will reduce the time you spend on social media and make your job a lot easier.

But if your problem is with controlling the urge to scroll through different social networks, you’re not alone. So how do you keep an eye on your screen time, keep your social media feeds organized, and continue to use it in beneficial ways without letting it zap your flow?

Alternatives

If you find yourself getting sucked into a social media spiral, don’t worry – if it’s starting to impact your work, there are some easy fixes. First off, if you’re concerned about how often you’re checking your phone, the option to monitor your activity is right at your fingertips. Usually, smartphones can track your social media usage, and you can use that feature as a guide to determine if you’re over your personal limit for the day. If you see your social media time trending up, and you want to explore other options for de-stressing, here are some alternative ways to take a mental break during your workday without losing focus.

1. Take a hike!

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again – exercise is the best way to clear your head. Doing something active can increase your ability to focus, increase blood flow to your brain, heart, and extremities, and some doctors even say that for some people, a nice long walk can be neurochemically “equivalent to an antidepressant.” You don’t have to hop on your Peloton or do a 5K in order to reap the benefits of physical activity. Walk to the break room, around your floor, walk to the nearest coffee shop, or if you’re working from home, just take a walk around the block. When you come back, your neurotransmitters will be firing, your blood will be pumping, and you’ll be ready to work again.

2. Better communication

Often people report that they discuss work topics on social media as a way to resolve issues, get to know coworkers and get input on tasks. However, if your company has efficient tools to aid workflow, you won’t need to turn to social media as a means of communication. Problem-solving can stay off of your social network and in your office network when collaborative, streamlined project management materials like Hive Notes are available. And the easier it is to communicate about upcoming action items or deadlines, the easier you’ll find it is to get to know your coworkers in an authentic and meaningful way.

3. Talking to someone one on one

While you might think that social media is keeping you connected to your friends, that’s not the case at all – in fact, it’s a bit of the opposite. Rather than getting to know what the people in your life are really up to, social media tells you about the catered versions of their lives that they’re willing to share, and not necessarily their more emotional or intimate struggles. Instead of keeping up with your contacts in a way that ends up feeling hollow, take the fifteen minutes you’d be spending on social media and call a friend. Whether you’re both venting about your workdays or talking about the latest Great British Bake-Off episode, you’ll end your break feeling refreshed.

4. Meditative quiet time

Some people have physical limitations that would prevent them from getting up and about, and others might have a social bandwidth that’s completely taken up by the many Zoom calls or emails you’re required to answer throughout the day. If you need some quiet time to recharge your social batteries, try a simple, stress-free hobby. Repetitive, meditative motions like knitting, painting, or calligraphy can take your mind away from your troubles and give you the space to process the workday. Even if it’s just a five-minute break knitting in total silence, your brain will thank you for the screen reprieve.

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