Whether it’s an hour-long break or a weekend detox, taking time off social media does wonders for your mental health by reducing anxiety and improving mindfulness. By SAMANTHA FRANCIS
When the World Wide Web was born in 1991, there was little fanfare nor the realisation of what it would eventually mean for our lives. Fast forward to this day, the Internet and social media have become such a major part of our daily routines that it’s hard to imagine a world without them.
With remote work becoming the new normal during the ongoing pandemic, more of us are telecommuting from home, making social media apps a crucial means to accomplish work-related tasks and social responsibilities. Need to update your client? You’ve got Zoom meetings pencilled in. Got a team meeting? There’s Google Meet. Catching up with your friends? There’s WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and more. Even if you’re not in the mood to text a buddy, it’s an easy scroll of the feed to check out what’s going on in his or her life, right to the minute.
Efficiency and communication aside, social media has a darker side. Even if you haven’t watched Netflix’s Social Dilemma—a documentary-drama hybrid that explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, you probably know that it’s a double-edged sword.
For each enviable image you see on the social media feed, there are a million ads based on data mining, a means for businesses to develop effective marketing strategies and increase sales based on your every move on the Internet. For every piece of news you read, there are many others based on fake news and factually inaccurate information. While there’s plenty of positive content to be enjoyed, social media platforms are also chock-full of depressing news on the daily. The young and impressionable may find themselves with a lower sense of self-esteem when they are constantly exposed to the filtered and unrealistic world of social media.
Although it’s important to keep abreast of the news, excessive media consumption can leave us with negative feelings of anxiety and the fear of missing out. According to Psychology Today, “A growing number of studies examine the link between social media usage and mental health. These point to one clear conclusion: Low levels of social media usage are associated with better mental health.”
That’s why taking a break from social media is highly recommended in order to keep your mental health in check. Not sure how to start? Here are some quick tips.
Identify the apps you use the most
Understand your social media habits by downloading an app like Moment (available on IOS and Android), which breaks down how much time you’re spending on your smartphone. iPhone users can view the in-built “Screen Time” to check out their “Most Used” apps, to identify which ones they truly need a break from.
Delete or deactivate your social media apps
Taking a social media break doesn’t have to be a permanent thing—especially if your 9-5 work requires you to be on these platforms. Whether it’s an hour away from your smartphone or a weekend-long detox, it’s equally beneficial for your mental health. By limiting unnecessary social media usage, you’ll become more mindful of how you’re spending your precious time, communicate better in person, enjoy better sleep, and even improve productivity. If you lack self-control, consider using apps like Freedom and Self Control to keep you from assessing social media apps on both your phone and computer.
Turn off your notifications
Should the thought of deleting your social media apps be too much to bear, try a milder cleanse by simply turning off your smartphone’s messaging and social media notifications. In a world of instant gratification, take some time to slow down and relax without having to constantly check what’s the latest and newest.
Detox with a buddy
Having companionship while taking a break from social media will ensure accountability so that you’re less likely to fall short of your goals. Discuss how you plan on carrying out your cleanse, whether it’s leaving your phone at home while heading out to run errands or reading a book instead of scrolling through Instagram. Make time for outdoor activities with a friend or two, as a means to help each other stay in the present instead of staring down at your smartphones.