A Social Media Detox Sounds lovely in Theory, but If you Feel Quite Resistant, You’re Far from alone.
When social media first arrived, it was somewhat a novelty to me. Facebook had been around for a few years at this point, so I signed up simply because it was what everyone else was doing. I didn’t login much for that first year. Then Facebook grew in popularity, and I frequented it more often. It became a platform where I could reconnect with school friends and distant family, and it was fun. Just as I was getting the hang of Facebook, Twitter arrived, and I was suddenly trying to condense my thoughts and views down into 140 characters. Then Instagram seemingly popped up overnight and I was obsessed with how many likes photographs of my lunch could achieve.
Fast forward a few years, and I suddenly had apps for a lot more social media platforms, all of which I’d signed up for. And you know what? I was starting to get obsessed.
For many months, I was unaware of the toxic pattern I had succumbed to. My phone was the first thing I reached for in the morning; I’ve seen 2-3 hours pass by, scrolling through all my social media accounts, not having even gotten out of bed. Statistics show that the average person spends at least 1 hour and 40 minutes per day looking at social media sites and apps. Well, at my worst, I reckon I was doing double, if not triple, at that time. I was hooked. I’d be with friends or family and still have my phone in my hand. I started getting migraines from where I’d be staring at the screen of my phone or laptop for hours on end. And every moment of my life turned into an anecdote for Facebook or Twitter.
After ten years (ten years!) of heavy social media use, I decided it was time for a break. I started to resent social media; there was no enjoyment in it. In fact, it felt like a chore. I became somewhat cynical and at times even jealous of other people. And one day I woke up and shut down all of my social media accounts. For the first week, my fingers would reach on auto-pilot to open Apps that were no longer there. After a few weeks, my fingers would still twitch but the desire to log on had eased. After a month or two, I stopped caring altogether and instead started taking note of how the people around me were social media obsessed themselves. I’d been ignored many times while trying to talk to someone who was on their phone. And it got me thinking; couldn’t we all benefit from a social media detox every now and then? Here are 8 healthy benefits taking a social media detox offers and the inspiration to get started today.
1. Improve your overall mood
Studies have discovered that the more time someone spends on social media, the higher their chances are of developing depression, something that hit me in my twenties. While social media wasn’t the catalyst for my five-year battle, it did impact my depression greatly. It was during this time that I felt overwhelmed by social media and decided to shut down all my social media accounts. It was the break I really needed. The amount of time you spend on social media sites will impact how you feel, and whether you’re feeling happy or stressed out.
Therefore, if you’re someone that feels anxious, stressed, or who suffers from depression, it may be a great time to take a social media detox. Depending on how frequently you use social media, it may come as a shock the first time you shut down your accounts. But over time, you will start to notice your mood improving when you stay away from platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and it may be the very best thing you can do to heal yourself.
2. Begin living in the moment
How many times has a moment happened in your life, and your first instinct is to document it on social media, whether it be a status post on Facebook or a photo on Instagram? I used to consider life events as a chance to post content to my social media, and it grew stressful.
While some may view this as a way of preserving memories, for me, these moments are fleeting and instead of living in them fully, everything from spontaneous trips to planned holidays suddenly became a burden. When you take a photograph, sometimes the quality is never quite the same as real life. The lens of social media is the same; your life experiences are going to become lower in quality, and far less memorable when you’re worrying about putting them online. When you take a social media detox, you’ll learn to live in the moment far more, and really appreciate the life you’re living.
3. You’ll stop obsessing over the past
How often do you reflect back on past statuses and tweets? How many of us Facebook stalk (or Instagram stalk) our exes? The obsessive cycle that comes with social media can put you in a negative headspace, halting your progress when it comes to moving on, especially after a breakup. As harsh as it sounds, when going through a break-up, I tend to delete all traces of that relationship. If it was a good relationship, I have the memories in my mind to look back on. If it wasn’t so great, why would I need physical reminders? I’ve checked up on exes before, and even as I was doing it I was thinking: Why do you care? Did I want them back? No. Did I regret the breakup? No. So, then why was I still looking at their Facebook page?
Taking a well needed break from social media will give you the space you need to stop obsessing and help you move on with your life. And if you do decide to return after your social media detox, why not block exes or anyone else who you frequently check up on to eliminate the pain it causes you? If you can’t visit their page, you’ll break the habit of checking up on them, and you’ll step away from living in the confines of the past.
4. You’ll gain more free time
Do you ever feel like there’s not enough hours in the day, yet you somehow still find time to scroll through Facebook? Or do you spend large quantities of time on social media when you should be doing something productive? By detoxing from social media, you’ll regain time that is otherwise wasted. With the average person spending at least 1 hour 40 minutes on social media every single day, you’ll find yourself with at least 1 hour 40 minutes of spare time daily, if not more. Start using that time in a more productive manner. Even a short 15-30 minute walk will offer huge physical and mental health benefits, making that a much better use of your time. All too often, when we’re living online, we neglect our lives offline, and even mundane chores like housework can be put on the back burner. Taking the time to work on a project, or cleaning your home will leave you feeling accomplished and less stressed.
5. You’ll reconnect with the outside world
Do you find that you socialize with a lot of people online, yet not so much offline? Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, we all need to schedule time for in-person contact. Without it, it’s easy to become lonely and feel isolated. When I was obsessed with using Facebook, I convinced myself that I had a lot of friends because I would always be talking to people via Facebook Messenger. But the amount of friends or followers you have on social media isn’t a reflection of your relationships or popularity in the real world. In fact, when I suffered with depression, not one of my social media “friends” reached out to me, it was my friends and family who helped me overcome my battle with mental health.
When you let go of social media, you’re forced to make time for people, which is a far healthier way to maintain great friendships and relationships. The online world is a superficial one.
6. You’ll stop competing with others
Whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, social media brings out a competitive streak in all of us. Facebook and Twitter have become platforms where someone can boost their popularity; brands will promote their products via social media to gain attention the same way we send Facebook statuses and Instagram photos out into the world hoping to gain followers. Each like or comment is used as a means of measuring our popularity. We start to associate likes and followers with acceptance. I, for one, have felt that crushing feeling when a photo failed to get more than 10 likes.
This itself can spark an unhealthy obsession of striving to outdo those around you; it can become easy to grow jealous of people around you who gain more likes, or who have more followers. This type of competitiveness is far from healthy. In fact, it can cause you to suffer from anxiety and even depression. When you take a break from social media, you learn that your worth as a person is not dictated by your reception on social media.
7. You’ll stop comparing yourself with others
Social media can also cause you to compare yourself to those you follow or who you know. At one point in my life, I remember feeling like I was somehow failing in life due to what I was seeing on my Facebook. People younger than me were buying their first home, or having their first baby, and I felt like I should have been achieving more. There is no outline for how life should be, and you shouldn’t base your life expectations on those around you. This can have a severe impact on your self-esteem, and even open you up to anxiety and depression.
When you participate in a social media detox, you can help to break this unhealthy cycle. When you stop comparing your life to those on social media, you will be able to reconnect with your own life and to appreciate what you have. You may not be in the same place as someone else, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, or you’re under-achieving.
8. You may sleep better
I never used to grind my teeth, but it was a habit that started around the same time I became attached to my phone. I’d go to bed and spend a further hour or two scrolling through my various social media apps before turning over and sleeping. And guess what? My sleep was broken, and I’d often wake up with a headache from the intensity of teeth grinding.
Going to sleep with your phone can have a negative impact on your sleep. The blue light that our phones emit can interfere with the hormone responsible for helping us get to sleep. So if you’re someone that scrolls before you sleep, this may disrupt your ability to fall asleep, and you may find you toss and turn seemingly for hours before nodding off. Further more, when you have a broken sleep pattern, many of us reach for our phones to help us go back to sleep – but this has the opposite effect. By taking a social media detox, you will likely find you use your phone less and no longer feel a desire to use it right before you sleep.
At night, try to put your phone down an hour or two before you physically go to sleep. This will allow your body to unwind naturally. And when you realize how much greater your quality of sleep is, even if you do go back to using social media, hopefully you’ll keep from using it right before bed.
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