Social media has become a central part of most of our lives, especially to get news in real time about everything from ongoing wars to frequent mass shootings. But Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Harvard University and social scientist who studies happiness, thinks we should all use social media a lot less to improve our wellbeing.
“I’m in the public eye, and I’m doing a lot of work every single day. I have to know what’s going on, but I don’t need to read more than about half an hour a day of news,” Brooks said during the CNBC Work Summit 2023 on Wednesday.
“As a matter of fact, I recommend that everybody watching us, that they have a strict limit on the amount of time that they spend on social media.”
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Brooks recommends that everyone be mindful of not just their social media use, but also their overall news consumption for their own happiness. Here’s what his idea of a “strict” social media policy looks like.
Harvard happiness expert’s social media, news consumption policy
Brooks suggests sticking to, and not exceeding, these limits when using social media and consuming news:
- 30 minutes a day across all social media platforms
- 15 minutes of digesting political news coverage of any kind daily
- 30 minutes of reading about or watching all kinds of news a day
If you feel like now isn’t a time when you can consume less media, Brooks has a counter for that: “There’s zero evidence that the world is worse or more dangerous than it’s ever been in the past, but we have more people telling us that if we’re not outraged and sad and angry, then we’re not paying attention,” he said.
Though, Brooks didn’t suggest being oblivious to what’s happening in the world. He’s simply advocating for “more emphasis on what’s going on inside our heads and inside our houses and inside our families,” he said, “that’s going to go a long way towards making a happier country.”
It’s also important to note that the effects of extended social media use on mental health has become a major concern for children and teens.
Parents can set a good example for their children by showing them what a healthy relationship with social media looks like, Dr. Stacy Doumas, a child psychiatrist at Hackensack Meridian’s Jersey Shore University Medical Center, told CNBC Make It in June.
“Ideally, you set aside time to look at [social media or news coverage] for whatever reason, and then you put it aside for the rest of the day,” Brooks said.
“The rest of the time [you can] actually be paying attention to the things that matter: the love in your life, the spirituality that you enjoy, the relationships that sustain you and the work that you’re doing to serve other people. Then your life will get a lot happier.”
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