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Social media has long been hailed as the god of simple, easy and commitment-free communication. Not only can we share pictures, articles, movies and music with loved ones all across the globe, we also have the ability to feel more in-tune and knowledgeable about the people, products and world around us.

But with an overwhelming and ever-increasing amount of tweets, messages and images bombarding us when we’re online, is the constantly switched on and addictive nature of social media becoming too much for us? Do we need to slow down, switch off and take a break from social media?

Social Media Overload

Kit Kat, the brand synonymous with taking a break, believes that now more than ever we need to be wary of how much time we spend connected online. In fact, they have even developed an app specifically designed to help you switch off your social media so you can ‘have a break’.

Their reason for doing so? Social media overload. “Social media has definitely revolutionised the way that we interact with our friends, families and well, fans and followers too,” Kit Kat say on their website. “Yet, for all its benefits, it also has a dark side: creeping addictiveness and mounting obligations. Starting with a harmless, occasional status update or tweet, it slowly explodes into a disabling condition: Obsessive check-ins, pokes, sheep throwing, sharing random posts, replying to random posts – the list is endless and still growing. If you’ve experienced all of the above, take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone.”

While Kit Kat’s clever campaign is intentionally tongue-in-cheek, they’re actually not that far from the truth. The fact is that with the menagerie of social media sites out there and the cacophony of combined noise they are all making, individuals are left feeling stressed, anxious and exhausted.

Simply look at the recent example of Charlotte Dawson, a well-known Australian celebrity who sadly suffered a mental breakdown at the hands of online bullies and a perceived personal refusal to switch off from social media. Experts say that if Charlotte had turned away and ignored the online taunts earlier, a breakdown may have been avoided. But it’s not just our celebrities who need to learn to switch off.

Cara Pring is the owner of The Social Skinny, a business that combines the latest social media news with tips and advice to help businesses develop effective social media strategies. She recently reported that 62 percent of adults worldwide now use social media.

In her article, “99 New Social Media Stats for 2012” Cara states that Twitter currently has 140 million active users that send 340 million tweets every day. According to her research, every month the online population spends the equivalent to four million years online.

The impact of being constantly connected

With all of this time being spent online, it makes sense that something has to give. A survey by schools.com and Kristin Marino showed that 24 percent of respondents have missed important moments in their real life because they were too busy trying to share those moments with their online social network.

In Kit Kat’s online research, it was revealed that 53 percent of working Americans felt guilty if they did not respond to a social media message straight away. Bringing other negative emotions into the mix, the survey also showed that 57 percent of respondents experienced jealousy after looking at other people’s social media sites and 62 percent felt the pressure to appear witty on social media.

Jeremy Wagstaff, a correspondent for Reuters in Singapore, recently reported on a survey from advertising agency JWT that investigated the impacts of social media on individuals.

The survey revealed that more than half of the respondents “considered it too time-consuming to keep up with all their social media commitments and conceded that the time they spent on such sites had a negative impact on their job or studies.”

Jeremy Wagstaff continues, “Nearly two thirds of Chinese surveyed said they felt pressure to be in constant contact on social media, with 58 percent saying their social media obligations caused them stress.”

Taking a vacation from social media

So what should you do if you feel like you’re suffering from the symptoms of social media stress? A simple solution is to give yourself a ‘social media vacation’. That’s right – we’re talking about logging off twitter and logging back into the real world. Think long walks on the beach, leisurely strolls through the countryside and going to see a live show. The best part? When you’re not scrambling to record every moment via Instagram, you’ll have so much extra time to drink in the atmosphere and smell the roses! You’ll return to your virtual world bubbling with inspiration and with wonderful new things to share.

Tiny Buddha, a website devoted to providing ‘simple wisdom for complex lives’ suggests that the first step is deciding when to take a break and then to stick to it. Why not use your weekend or an upcoming holiday as an opportunity to declare a social media free zone?

Next, tell your friends, family and colleagues that for a set period of time you will only be available the old-fashioned way – either in person, or by phone call.

You should also try to set fair expectations for yourself. Tiny Buddha says, “Taking a digital break is about being willing to surrender, to let go completely, and to trust that when you return, it’s all going to be okay. Everything that needs to get done will get done—and no one will die if you aren’t checking email every day.”

Lastly, if you can’t go for an all-out break, at least try to limit the times that you spend using social media on the go. While Facebook is a great distraction for those in-between times when you’re walking to the bus or standing in line, it’s also a great way for you to feel stress on the go too.

So, why don’t you give it a try? Switch off. Take a breather. And remember, social media will still be there when you get back.

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Cassandra Lane

Cassandra Lane

Cassandra Lane is a freelance writer, editor and proofreader based in Sydney, Australia. With a particular interest in health, nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, business and automotive she aims to write interesting, well-researched pieces that inform, motivate, inspire and churn the imaginations of her readers. She has seven years experience (with no sign of an itch) and has been published in both online and print mediums across commercial and corporate publications. Visit her website at www.writinginthefastlane.com or follow her on twitter.

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