Social media opens us to a whole new world. However, due to its addictive nature, it has become increasingly harder for us to get out and interact with people in the real world. Here are seven ways to achieve a healthy balance between these two worlds.

Treat people like people

It can be quite easy to forget that it is other people that you are interacting with online, which has given rise to cyber bullying. Always remember that there is always a person on the end of the other screen. If an argument gets too hot, you can simply end it.

Savour real connections

Avoid using your phone when with loved ones. For instance, if it is dinner time with friends or family, choose to put your phones away. If by any chance you need to take pictures with it, do so. But strictly take the pictures and put it back. Do not use that time to post the pictures you have taken as you might be tempted to look at your notification bar or scroll through your timeline.

Go on a social media detox

When was the last time you went a full day, from wake to sleep, without checking social media? If sites like Facebook, Snap Chat, and Instagram disappeared tomorrow, would you feel empty and depressed? Has social media become an addiction for you? Like with most addictions, social media addiction impairs the quality of your life hence the need to periodically get off it to rewire your brain. During this detox period, be sure to find something you enjoy doing. You might find that you are always on social media not because you want to but because you do not have anything better to do.

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Make plans for real-life connections

Social media is a great tool to contact people and make plans for real-life interactions. Face-to-face interactions are a lot meaningful than online interactions. Resist the urge to reach for the easier alternative of catching up via social media. Occasionally, hang out with friends over lunch or coffee and see what that does to your soul.

Clean up your social media accounts

You do not need an account on every social media platform. Instead, choose one or two platforms you like the most or find beneficial in terms of business or career connections and stay active on those. You can also delete or unfollow people who you consider toxic online. If you have reached the maximum number of friends, unfriend dormant connections or those you feel do not add value to your life to make room for others.

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Call, do not text a friend

If you find face-to-face interactions a bit challenging, picking up the phone and calling friends and family also does wonders. In an interview with Everyday Health, Louise Hawkley, Ph.D., a research associate in the psychology department at the University of Chicago, said that research shows people seem to feel best when their relationships happen face-to-face or over the phone as opposed to just through social media. So, the next time you're feeling the urge to connect, try making a call to a friend instead of posting a thought online.

Set time limit

Section off specific time for using social media. Try reserving a concentrated hour - no more, and no less - to social media every day and see how it feels. There is no good reason for checking social media sites for extended periods of time. Even if your job depends on it, you should set a limit to how much you can go and stay online. This can give you something to look forward to instead of stealing glances at your phone every time.

This article was first published in the February Issue of Parents Magazine

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