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For Your Mental Health: Social Media Detox

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Like the food we eat and the air we breathe, human connection is vital to our wellbeing. Social media expanded our ability to reach out to one another. Through social media, all types of information is at our fingertips. The connection is constant, reliable, and has a far reach well beyond our borders. With that continuous connection and information overload, we have to wonder, is there a limit to how much social media we should be consuming? 

A social media detox may be a practice that you should adopt if you find that you feel negatively affected by the amount of media you consume. Research shows that over-indulging in technology and social media puts your brain into information overload. Over-indulging contributes to higher social media anxiety and stress levels. 

Some Percentages That May Astonish You:

  • 96% of adults use digital devices or social media for recipes
  • 83% of adults use their devices as an alarm
  • 46% of adults cannot imagine their lives without their smartphone

What is a Social Media Detox?

Research has shown that 90% of Americans use digital devices for two hours or more per day in recent years. With the convenience of having a constant connection and modern amenities at your fingertips, this is not surprising. We must acknowledge the benefits of taking a break from digital devices and social media. 

A social media detox is a period of time that a person takes a break or refrains from using social media. By engaging in a social media detox, you may find benefits in your relationships, productivity, physical and mental health. If you are feeling stressed, it might be time to unplug.

The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

Social media users have reported that they often find themselves jealous of other people’s lifestyles. They reported feelings of depression, loneliness, shyness, and are less productive at work. So, is deleting social media a sign of depression

A case study of nearly 10,000 teen participants in England began in 2013 with the intention of studying how social media dictates the mental health of its users. The teens were asked about their frequency of social media use, their psychological health, sleep habits, physical activity, and well-being. By year three, 69% of boys and 75% of girls claimed to be frequent social media users that scrolled their devices multiple times per day. Of these percentages, 28% of girls that used social media frequently reported emotional distress compared to 20% that used it less regularly. The higher of the two declared a lower level of life satisfaction and happiness. They also claimed to have higher levels of anxiety. For teen boys, 15% reported psychological distress compared to 10% of the less frequent users. 

Technology can be very stressful.

The study shows that while social media in itself might not be harmful to us, the amount of time that we use it is. Taking a break or committing to social media detox can help eliminate some of the stressors that frequent use creates. 

However, while social media is designed to bring people together, sometimes it has the opposite effect. A 2017 study of young adults ages 19-32 years found that people that reported to use social media more were three times more likely to feel socially isolated than those that used social media less frequently. 

The Impact of Social Media on Physical Health

When we think of frequent social media use, we often talk about the effects on an individual’s mental health. Social and digital media also plays a role in physical health, as well. What is the impact of social media on our physical health?

  • Excessive screen time on digital devices can lead to eyestrain. Symptoms of eyestrain are blurred vision or excessively dry eyes. Eyestrain can also lead to pains in other parts of the body, such as the head, neck, or shoulders. 
  • Long term excessive use of screen time encourages incorrect posture. Over time this can lead to musculoskeletal issues. Many standard technological devices promote a “down and forward” user position. This creates a hunched position that puts pressure on a user’s neck and spine. A five-year study found that mobile devices’ use led to neck and upper back pain in young adults. 
  • The use of social media close to bedtime has often been believed to cause sleep problems. This is attributed to the blue light from most technology devices that stimulates the brain by disrupting the body’s natural circadian rhythm. This disruption makes it harder for an individual to fall asleep and more likely to be less alert the following day. 
  • With higher user, digital technology usage comes less physical activity. Most digital use is sedentary. If you’re using social media, it’s safe to assume that you are sitting down. More extended use of digital and social media can take a toll on your body as it can promote a more sedentary lifestyle. Adverse health effects include obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. 

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Reasons to Detox from Social Media

Being fully engaged in the digital world is just a part of everyday life. The connection is valuable, but the frequency of use can ultimately harm us. Often we forgo alone time for screen time. What can we gain from detoxing from Social media?

  • Technology can be very stressful. The constant need to check emails, texts, social media messages, and notifications can be overwhelming. The quiet that one might crave is lost in the constant bombardment of digital media. A study showed that high technology use in young adults led to sleep problems, depression symptoms, and higher stress levels. 
  • Constant connectivity can affect the work/life balance of an individual. With continuous connection comes the burden of dismantling boundaries. While at home after a long day or on that long-deserved vacation, it’s effortless to check that email, respond to a text, or check your social media. If you are engaging in those activities on your own time, can you ever truly relax? Refraining from digital and social media can rebuild those much-needed boundaries. 
  • With social media comes the constant reminder of what your friends, family, coworkers, and strangers are up to. Have you often found yourself comparing your life to theirs? Detoxing from social media allows you to focus on what’s essential in your life and not what’s happening in others. 
  • “FOMO” or the fear of missing out. We all have experienced it, but if you find yourself excessively scrolling for fear of missing out on the experiences that others are having, it might be time to take a break from social media. 

The Signs that you Might need a Digital or Social Media Detox:

  • You get anxious when you cannot find your phone or device.
  • You compulsively check your phone every few minutes.
  • You feel depressed, angry, anxious, or stressed after scrolling your social media feeds.
  • Likes, comments, or reshare counts are crucial to you. 
  • You are fearful that you will miss out on something if you don’t check your feeds.
  • You go to sleep exceptionally late and are up early to check your devices.
  • You struggle with concentration due to the need to check your social media accounts. 

How to do a Social Media Detox

While a detox from social media might sound scary and unrealistic, it doesn’t have to be. It’s important to remember, especially at times like the present, social media is an essential connection to the outside world. A social media detox does not have to be a complete removal from the social media platforms. It can be, but by setting limits, you can take back control over what it is used for. 

How Much Time Are You Spending on Social Media and Your Devices?

If you believe that you might need to detox from digital and social media, it might be time to look at how much time you actually spend on your devices and which platforms you use the most. 

iPhone users have that built-in. You can see your screen time use and what apps you engage with the most. Take advantage of this feature if you have it. 

Write down how you use your devices and the average amount of time you spend using them. There is a pretty good possibility that you might discover that you use social media much more than you ever realized.  

Be Realistic

While a complete removal from all social media platforms can be liberating, it’s not always an option for everybody. A lot of users rely on social media for school, work, and other obligations. 

If you use technology and social media for any of these responsibilities, you can still detox by setting limits on your use. For some, that might be turning off your devices after work, school, or other obligation is through. Use that time to be free of all digital distractions. 

Setting Time Limits

Suppose you are not looking to refrain entirely but still want to detox from social media, set clear time limits for use. Or only engage with the platforms when you want to limit the usage. Times such as dining with others, before bed, or while working on a project are great examples of when to disengage from social media. 

Remove Distractions

Notifications may be helpful in the workplace, but they can disrupt your personal time. If you want to experience a proper detox from social media, try turning off all your notifications during your downtime. This will create boundaries and prevent distractions during the time that is truly yours. 

What to do with Your Extra Time

Make an “If I had time” Wish List.

If you are going to detox from social media truly, you have to develop a plan of what you will do with all of your extra time. Boredom will break a good habit if you let it. 

Take action by creating a list of things you’d like to do with all of this extra time you now have. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Exercise more
  • Read more books
  • Meet with friends and family in person
  • A home project you have wanted to conquer
  • Learn to meditate

Social media does not have to be a priority in your life. Whether you choose to step away entirely or for just a little bit, a digital detox can be freeing. 

You might simply find yourself by disengaging from social media, even for just a moment. Take that time for yourself and regain control over what you digitally consume. 


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