He quit social media for 'deeper connections'

In Singapore, seven in 10 people are active social media users. Shan Herng, 22, is one of them, he posts up to 30 Instagram Stories a day. The Straits Times speak to counsellors to find out when it comes to social media use, how much is too much.
Mr Bryan Tan quit social media three years ago. He now focuses his energy on reading, writing and sports, and hopes to be a kayaking instructor.
Mr Bryan Tan quit social media three years ago. He now focuses his energy on reading, writing and sports, and hopes to be a kayaking instructor.PHOTO: ST VIDEO
Mr Shan Herng, 22, believes social media addiction could become a growing problem among those in his generation, but he is cautious not to fall into the trap.
Mr Shan Herng, 22, believes social media addiction could become a growing problem among those in his generation, but he is cautious not to fall into the trap.ST PHOTO: OLIVIA CHANG

Social media was a big part of Mr Bryan Tan's life. He would check his Facebook News Feed every day to get updates about his friends.

Three years ago, he quit social media. "I was hospitalised after I had breathing problems. After that, I felt there was just so much I wanted to do and I didn't need the noise from social media," says Mr Tan, 31, an associate director at law firm Nair & Co.

"When I stopped using Facebook, I met my friends more often and through that, I established deeper connections with them."

He now focuses his energy on reading, writing and sports, and hopes to be a kayaking instructor.

In Singapore, seven in 10 people are active social media users, more than double the global average of 34 per cent, according to a 2017 report on social media and digital trends worldwide.

The study was conducted by social media agency We are Social and Hootsuite, a social media management platform.

Giving up social media is not common, like in the case of Mr Tan, whose story is captured in OurSTories, The Straits Times' new video series. In fact, addiction is a problem.

It is a worrying trend for counsellors and psychologists, who told ST they have seen a twofold increase in social media and mobile device addiction cases here in recent years.

Last year, there were 76 such cases at the non-profit Touch Cyber Wellness, up from 34 in 2015.

On average, it receives five hotline calls a week from parents seeking help for their children's excessive mobile device or social media usage, said its senior coach Shem Yao.

Amid the flak, however, some young Singaporeans say social media platforms help them connect with their loved ones and peers.

Mr Shan Herng, 22, posts on Instagram about thrice a week and enjoys sharing photos of his outfits, holidays and activities, such as visits to new cafes.

The full-time national serviceman, who has over 2,000 followers on the platform, admits he "consciously thinks about" his Instagram feed, but says in OurSTories he is not preoccupied with the number of "likes" he gets.

Instead, he finds that posting snippets of his life online has helped him start conversations with others, who may be looking for recommendations on what to do.

He adds: "My friends and I have this rule when we meet. We would spend about 10 to 15 minutes at the start editing our photos and posting them on our social media platforms. For the rest of our time together, no one is allowed to pick up their phones."

He believes social media addiction could become a growing problem among those in his generation, but he is cautious not to fall into the trap.

"I would never let myself get to the point where technology gets the better of me. There is still value in human interaction and heart-to-heart conversations."

Correction: An earlier version of the photo caption wrongly identified Mr Shan Herng as Mr Bryan Tan. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2018, with the headline 'He quit social media for 'deeper connections''. Print Edition | Subscribe