How one woman realized she need time away from her social media feeds, and what to do if you need a hiatus, too.
One day last summer, I realized I needed a break. Not from a busy work schedule or family commitments—but from my Twitter feed. I would often grab my phone while I was still in bed to scroll through the morning's updates. Before I knew it, 20 minutes would pass and that lovely sleepy feeling would be replaced by the lives and news of the people in my timeline, some of it upsetting. I'd be off-centre before the day even really started.
This isn't the first time social media has got to me.
Four years ago, I quit Facebook. Between comparing myself to others and dealing with political rants I disagreed with, I felt crummy every time I was on the site. When I logged o for the last time, I turned to Twitter; I really enjoyed the short snippets of news and the interesting conversation the platform fostered. But when it started making me feel like Facebook did—gloomy—I knew I had to log off.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like have become xtures in our media landscape, changing the way we communicate. Mostly, this is a good thing; it makes it easier to meet intelligent and diverse people and to keep in touch with world-changing social movements. But its ubiquity can be overwhelming. Research is starting to show what many of us have already noticed: a link between social media and our mental health.
Pioneering research published earlier this year in the journal Depression and Anxiety looked at the relationship between depression and using one or all of the most popular social media platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn. Researchers found that "any level of social media use was associated with an increase in the risk of depression," says the study's senior author, Dr. Brian Primack, director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Primack, also assistant vice-chancellor for research on health and society at the university, notes that the study didn't look at causality; in other words, the question of whether increased social media usage causes depression or vice versa still needs examination. "It's very plausible that it could be a little bit of both," he says.
For most people, however, spending too much time on social media is less about a formal diagnosis and more about a general sense of well-being. A 2014 University of Michigan study about social media breaks (specifically, those who gave up Twitter for Lent) found that "three concerns surfaced with respect to social media use: spending too much time on it, trade-o s of not spending time elsewhere, and a concern about social media not being ‘real life.' "
I knew it was time for a break because Twitter had lost its vibrancy; there was too much scrolling and not enough engagement with what I was reading. Patricia Pike, an addiction and intervention specialist with private practices in both both Vancouver and the San Francisco Bay Area, says that's an important indicator. She advises asking yourself these questions: Are you neglecting interactions with loved ones? Are you distracted and unable to complete day-to-day tasks? Are you living for your next social media hit? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it might be time to rethink your relationship with social media.
I wasn't planning to leave Twitter for good—I don't think that's possible, or even preferable, in today's connected world. Instead, I decided to take a month off. I deleted the app from my phone, logged out of my account on my laptop and prepared to white-knuckle it through the next four weeks. But it turned out to be surprisingly easy. For the first week, I was constantly reaching for my phone, used to scrolling through my feed on a work break or while wait- ing in line. But then, the desire to log on died down and, perhaps stereotypically, I began to feel more peaceful and focused. I started filling my newfound pockets of time with other interests: reading, knitting and suing my phone to call friends and family (gasp!). When my month was up, I cautiously reentered the fray, but I found I didn't feel the old urge to check in constantly.
The break allowed me to do what Dr. Primack recommends: "Learn what patterns of use are more problematic and what patterns are more beneficial." I realized some social media platforms just aren't for me. (No to Facebook, some- times to Twitter and yes to Instagram; I mostly follow knitters, so it has always felt like an oasis.) And now I know I don't have to be "on" all the time to enjoy the boons of social media; these days, my Twitter usage is much more measured.
It's clear that social media—and our increased Internet usage, in general— plays an ever-growing role in our mental health. But temporarily unplugging is a valid form of self-care, a way to minimize overstimulation and hit the reset button. Give me a break, indeed.
5 steps to a successful social media detox
1. Have a plan. Decide how long your break will be, but resist the temptation to make it permanent. "Shutting social media out of your life completely is a great way to set up failure to control your social media needs," says addiction expert Patricia Pike.
2. Write down your reasons. Think about what you want to achieve this break. Is it figuring out which platform works best for you? Or do you feel overstimualted?
3. Use technology to your advantage. Delete the social media platforms you want to avoid from your phone. (If they're not there, you can't mindlessly click on them.) And on your desktop, use time-management apps like Anti-Social or SelfControl to block sites you want to avoid for a period of time.
4. Enlist help. If you think you'll be tempted to long on prematurely, have a partner or a trusted friend change your password for the duration of your detox.
5. Set limits. When you return to social media, put limits on your usage, says Pike. And give yourself a schedule, says Dr. Brian Primack, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health. For example, restrict logging on to your coffee break, instead of intermittently all day long.
We know that cleaning out your beauty kit can feel like a chore, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming thanks to our quick and dirty guide to de-cluttering.
When to toss old product
You have to let go of the old to make room for the new—and there are new products being released every day. Remember that beauty products do expire, especially the liquid ones like foundation, mascara, and skin-care. There should be a guideline on the packaging (it will look like a cream jar with a number on it—that number is the amount of months after opening that the product is good for), but if you can’t find it or don’t remember when you opened it, here are a couple of things to look out for.
Look for changes in consistency. Lumpy formulas or a separation of oil and pigment are red flags. If the smell resembles something rotting or the colour has darkened or oxidized in the bottle, it’s time to throw the product out.
If there’s a bad odour when you open the lid or the product is crumbling and breaking apart, you probably shouldn’t use it. Also, if you constantly have to scrape off a top layer of grime, throw it out.
If you detect a bad odour or if your lipstick is drying out or applying patchy, toss it. If your lip gloss is goopy and coming out in lumps, you don’t want to put that on your lips.
Quick tip: If you live in a warm climate, it's a good idea to keep your skin-care products in the fridge to preserve freshness.
There are times when you find yourself not using certain products because they’re stored in the backs of your cabinets or drawers. Out of sight is out of mind so get those products back in sight. Try pulling them out the night before and keep them on your vanity or dresser so you can remember to add the items to your rotation.
When to give away perfectly good product
If you’ve got products that are as good as new but you don’t find yourself using them, take a moment and ask yourself: Why did I buy this product? Why did I stop using it? Can I add this to my makeup routine or skin-care regimen?
Chances are if you haven’t used it yet, you probably won’t. Perhaps pass it along to a family member or a friend who might get better use out of it. Or even take a box full of your unused items to a women’s shelter. If you are going to donate, make sure your items are in clean and sanitary condition.
How to sanitize your beauty products:
For powder compacts, wipe the powder with a piece of Kleenex to remove the top layer. Then, take a new piece of Kleenex—fold it or cut it down to the right size—and place over the powder to avoid bacteria from getting into the fresh layer. If you threw out the box, seal with tape; no one but the new owner should be opening it. This works for face powders, blushes and eyeshadows.
For lipstick, lipgloss and other stick products, wipe them down with a piece of Kleenex sprayed with the cosmetic disinfectant. Once again, seal boxes or the products themselves with tape.
Always use a mini spatula for products that are in jars so you’re not dipping your fingers in there. Also, don’t throw away the plastic divider that covers the cream. When you want to give it away, all you have to do is seal the outside with tape.
Cosmetic sanitizers can be found at most beauty stores and makeup artistry stores. Always keep a sanitizer and a brush cleaner on hand.
Over 50 and fabulous? Our guide to aging gracefully helps you choose the skincare, hair and makeup products that are right for you.
To mark this milestone, the iconic brand launched the IKEA Then & Now exhibit at the Design Exchange, in Toronto this week. We recently sat down with Marcus Engman, head of design, to talk about his role at IKEA and his vision for the future.
Sarah Gunn: What changes have you implemented as head of design?
Marcus Engman: I like IKEA to be a curiosity-driven company, which is why we started short-term collections and collaborations. I don’t choose people to work with first—I choose topics. When we find a topic that we want to investigate, or are curious about, we go and seek out the best people to work with.
SG: Are there any upcoming collaborations you can tell us about?
ME: We don’t just work with product designers and fashion designers. Now we’ve started collaborations with three different universities around the world. It’s a little bit of a different approach that I want to try out.
SG: Do you have a favourite IKEA product?
ME: We’re redoing the Klippan sofa every year with different collections because we think it’s such an iconic piece. It has an important history for me because my father designed it. It was the first sofa designed for families with kids. We had one at home and he forced us to play on it to see if it worked.
SG: Would you consider re-launching any vintage IKEA pieces?
ME: Yes, you’re going to be the first one that hears this! We had a “golden era” of design at IKEA in the ‘80s. We’re researching products that we had in the range (and products that never made it) for a possible collection.
We're crossing our fingers that this Jarpen wire chair makes a comeback!
The IKEA Then & Now exhibit runs until October 30th at the Design Exchange. From the 1970s to today, take a stroll through their evolution of design, and relive your youth by diving into the ball pit!
Put your slow cooker to work and save time with these 20 easy and satisfying recipes.
Serve this saucy pulled pork as sandwiches: piled high on buns, with bowls of garnishes, such as pickled jalapeños, sour cream, shredded cheese and thinly shredded red cabbage (or better yet, red cabbage slaw), and let guests build their own sandwiches.
This recipe can easily be left to simmer away in a slow cooker for eight hours before adding the chicken. It yields a large quantity of sauce that freezes well if you're feeding a smaller group. Serve over hot steamed basmati rice.
This roast, inspired by a classic Belgian stew, is juicy and tender over mashed potatoes, and the leftovers make the ultimate hot sandwich. Cook the bacon and onion mixture the night before so it's ready to add to the slow cooker in the morning without a lot of fuss.
This beanless regional specialty is a point of pride in Cincinnati, where fierce loyalty divides the city over which restaurant serves the best version. Cooked low and slow, with the distinguishing flavours of cinnamon and cocoa, the meaty, saucy chili is served over spaghetti.
This mild, sweet curry has all the comforting flavours of a curry without too much spice, making it a great choice for the entire family. Serve over steamed rice or with warmed naan bread.
You won't believe how tasty and easy it is to make this classic dish in your slow cooker. A piping bag - or plastic bag - makes easy work of stuffing the manicotti. Serve with a tossed salad and garlic bread for an easy family-style dinner.
A brisket needs to be cooked slowly, so using a slow cooker makes perfect sense. Ensure tender slices by cutting the brisket thinly across the grain.
Inspired by Portuguese caldo verde, this hearty, richly flavoured soup is a yummy way to use up an entire bunch of kale in one go. It freezes well, so leftovers make quick and easy lunches all week. The soup thickens as it stands; thin with water and adjust the seasonings as desired when you reheat it.
My mother, Shu-Lai Fong, makes famous pressure-cooked black bean spareribs. They're the inspiration for this recipe, which is just as delicious but uses a slow cooker. You'll find bite-size bone-in pork spareribs at most Asian grocery stores, or you can order them at your butcher's counter.
This hearty sauce is best served over a short pasta with lots of nooks and crannies it can tuck into and cling to. This ragu also makes a delicious lasagna filling when layered with sheets of fresh pasta and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Cost: $2.15/cup
There are few things more comforting than a bowl of rich, creamy seafood chowder. Sweet, licorice-like fennel naturally complements the seafood. Serve with oyster crackers or crusty bread and a simple green salad for a complete meal.
Chorizo sausage and flavourful spices make this chili a real treat to come home to. Stirring in chopped herbs at the end adds a welcome touch of freshness.
Slow-cooked then quickly finished on the grill, sweet and sticky glazed ribs are guaranteed to impress your guests. Pork side ribs are also called St. Louis–style ribs, but back ribs are equally delicious.
Finally a flavourful risotto that doesn't need any stirring! Dried mushrooms work perfectly to create an earthy aroma, we've used dried porcinis here as they're readily available, but any dried mushroom will do. Hearty pot barley makes adds a healthful twist and doesn't become overly mushy - even after 8 hours.
Sweet honey and tender shallots mellow the typically strong flavour of lamb shoulder. Serve with roasted potatoes and steamed greens for a complete meal.
We've swapped beef broth for chicken broth and onions for tender leeks but kept all the flavour in this lighter version of classic French onion soup. When you get home, just toast the baguette, broil the cheese and enjoy!
This veggie-loaded chili is so hearty that even meat lovers will ask for seconds. To freeze it, cook as directed, but don't add the mushrooms. Cook them separately and add to the chili after reheating it. Serve with crusty bread to soak up every bit of sauce.
Inspired by the traditional Mexican tacos served with spicy thin pork slices and pineapple, this slow cooker version features pork shoulder broken into tender bite size chunks. If you don't want to serve these as tacos, try serving the pork on top of steamed white rice instead.
This all-in-one meal is a roast version of classic beef and barley soup. The barley thickens the cooking liquid to make a delicious gravy.
Using stewing beef instead of ground meat adds delicious bulk to this otherwise classic chili. Serve as is or use it as a topping for baked potatoes.