Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, have both an upside and a downside for people with ADHD. On one hand, these sites seem built for people who have trouble focusing for long periods of time. Twitter gives you very quick updates from others, and Facebook provides a way to stay in touch with family and friends, something that is often difficult for people with ADHD. But they also provide endless distractions and can waste hours of your time.
Downfalls of social media
Some of the downfalls of social media, especially for those with ADHD, include:
You have a sense that you are doing something when looking through other people’s statuses but can spend hours without getting anything productive done.
You might lose track of time and miss important deadlines or commitments.
There are many distractions, from getting caught up into reading articles other people have posted to completing quizzes to find out which first lady you are most like.
Some people report feeling bad about themselves because their friends all look like they have much more interesting lives.
You might start to depend on whether others “like” your status as a form of self-validation, or your self-esteem can suffer if no one “likes” or comments on your status.
You might react impulsively to other people’s posts, typing the first thing that comes to mind, and then regret your response later.
Social media imitates social interaction, but it isn’t meant to replace it. People with ADHD often have trouble with making and maintaining friendships. When you replace face-to-face contact with time spent on social media platforms, you miss the real-life experiences that can help you sharpen your social skills and provide a feeling of connection with another person.
Despite the drawbacks, social media platforms can give you opportunities to connect to people you might not otherwise have the opportunity to talk to regularly, such as relatives who live in another area. It also exposes you to different viewpoints, helps you learn new things and find support, and allows you to network with other like-minded people. It is possible for people with ADHD to engage with others on social media without it taking over your entire day.
Tips for managing your social media use
1. Decide on your purpose for using social media. It’s easier to limit your time and focus when you are on a social media site if you understand your purpose for being there. Do you want to expand your business contacts? Stay in touch with family and friends? Better understand different perspectives and opinions? Once you know why you use these sites, you can focus your energy and time.
2. Be selective in who you accept as friends or who you follow. Use your purpose for being on the sites to help you decide whom you want on your friend list or whom you want to follow. Whenever you receive a friend or follow request, ask yourself: Will this person further my purpose on this site? Don’t be afraid to block people if they no longer are a positive influence on your social media time. If you find yourself constantly angry at someone’s posts, or you feel bad about yourself after reading someone’s posts, it is okay to hide their statuses.
3. Limit your responses. It’s easy to emotionally react to a post you don’t agree, with but your response will live on forever in cyberspace. Before saying something you might regret later, limit your initial responses, maybe saying “Great,” “Congrats,” “Beautiful,” or “That’s wonderful” or simply like a post. For longer, more thoughtful answers, step back and think about what you want to say before you respond impulsively.
4. Set an alarm. The nice thing about social media sites is that you must access them through one of your electronic devices, and that means you have ready access to an alarm or alert. Set your alarm to remind you when you have been on the site for an hour or whatever your time limit is. You can also look for apps that will limit your time and shut down your device when the time limit expires; for example, Our Pact is a parental tool to provide limits for your children, but it can be used for yourself as well.
5. Take steps to create balance in your life. If you spend an hour each evening on social media sites, try to spend one hour outside as well. If most of your social interactions are through social media, make plans to meet a friend for lunch. Social media offers many benefits, but it should not replace other healthy habits.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.