Today, social media provides us with some amazing benefits - the ability to connect with people across the globe, for businesses to reach a wider audience, and as a wonderful source of alternative media and information.
However, as with any technology, there is always a dark side.
Today, more and more people are becoming social media dependent, contributing to less productivity and more anxiety and depression than ever before.
Social media is just a tool, but if scrolling through instagram or facebook has become your favourite pastime, it's probably time for a digital detox.
For all its benefits, social media can quickly distract us from important tasks and even fundamental real life values; like getting outdoors and spending time with loved ones in a meaningful way.
Once social media becomes all encompassing, it can become a fixation that compromises relationships and even your lifestyle in many different ways.
Read on to discover five clear signs that it may be time for you to take time out and do a social media detox.
The Drawbacks of Social Media
Since it's advent, social media has gone from a fun way to reconnect with long lost friends, to a rampant means of constant communication in everyday life.
Excessive use of social media has been shown to increase depression and anxiety, while decreasing confidence, productivity and physical activity. The constant habit of looking down at phones has even been shown to cause spinal degeneration.
What's more, while a little social media is a great way to connect with others and increase empathy, too much social media can actually isolate you from others and decrease your ability to feel real human empathy: the ability to share and understand the feelings and opinions of others.
You only need to look at any comment thread on an even mildly polarising topic these days, and you will see how easily people can forget to respectfully share their opinion and disagree with each other. Social media, in excess, can diminish our basic humanity.
It's one thing to be aware of social media's drawbacks, but it's very easy to not realise when it's taking control of your life.
This short list of signs will help you to self-assess if you need a social media detox, whilst providing you tips for better managing your time on these platforms.
The goal is to become more conscious of how you use social media - making it more productive and less destructive - so that you can get the wonderful benefits without the pitfalls.
1. It's Your First and/or Last
If checking your social media is the first thing you do in the morning and last thing you do at night, then chances are, you need a detox.
These transitional times (when we are waking up and preparing to go to sleep) are sacred, vulnerable spaces for our minds and bodies: times when we should be connecting with ourselves and reflecting on our days. They are not times we should be exposing ourselves to disruptive media or the thoughts and opinions of others.
The fix: A great habit to get into is to avoid checking your social media for an hour before bed or within your first half hour when you wake up waking up. This will give you time to adjust to the world and into yourself on your own terms, without outside influence.
You'll be amazed how much calmer and more self-assured and aware you are when you learn to value and prioritise your own thoughts.
To avoid temptation or interruption, its best to leave your devices out of the bedroom when you sleep.
2. You Get Agitated Scrolling
If you find yourself feeling anxious after a few minutes of scrolling social media, then it's definitely time to detox.
Some of what you see on social media is a reflection of people's "false perfect life" in pretty pictures. Constant exposure to this type of content can cause you to feel like you're not enough or envious and this can fuel anxiety and depression.
The key is to be very selective about who you follow and the types of content you choose to consume. Look for positive messages and information that educate, entertain or add value to your life in some way, rather than as a tool to check on a random bunch of people you hardly know and the "amazing" life they are living.
While many people may tell you not to worry; that social media isn't "real", the fact is social media is very real and can be a source of anxiety, depression and even bullying in some circumstances.
The fix: Reframe your perspective around social media as being 'just a tool', not a lifestyle. If you notice you are constantly checking in on your 'likes' or 'followers' and it causes you even mild stress, it's time to take a break from social media or consider going off it all together.
You can set up your accounts to take a break, so that your page will be temporarily unavailable. Or, you can just do a self-imposed break.
Take breaks throughout the year to detox your mind and body and to help you reset your intentions and refocus on what you really want for your life.
How long should you break? Start small, but still make it a challenge.
A good place to start is the 1 hour before/after bed rule. Do it for a week and make it a habit. This step alone could reduce your weekly social media exposure time by up to 14 hours = 56 hours per month = 670 hours per year!
If you need more than that, go cold turkey for a day or two without any social media at all. Instead, use the time to get outside and move, or read a book, listen to a podcast or watch a mini-series on Netflix. The point is with less exposure to social media you will bring back an element of control into what you allow into your mind.
When you do log back in, unfollow and/or unfriend people who incite negative feelings in you.
If you are feeling sick and tired of social media and see little to no benefit of staying on, then deleting your social accounts may be the best option. Millions of people have done this and live happy, fulfilling lives—still connected to the people they love.
If you're a public figure, business and can't be without a significant social presence, you can always create a business account or page so that you can maintain that presence and hand over the management of your page or group to a skilled assistant who takes care of the bulk of the day-to-day content and communication for you.
3. You Compare Yourself to Others
We all compare ourselves to other people—that's part of being human. But, if you are constantly comparing yourself to others, then you need a social media detox.
US President Theodore Roosevelt is famously quoted as saying, "Comparison is the thief of joy." When you measure yourself against others, you are diminishing all the wonderful things that make you, you.
The fix: As suggested before, unfollow and/or unfriend people or accounts that make you feel badly about yourself. Follow inspiring people and brands. (You can follow us here!) Surround yourself with goodness. There is enough darkness in the world that we cannot escape. Social media, a form of escapism in itself, should not contribute to it.
4. You're Poorly Invested
Again, social media may not be part of our tangible life, but it is real and it is understandable if we spend some time thinking about the things that go on in this world.
However, if your social media life is the ONLY (or even main) life you are invested in, then it's time to detox.
Signs of being poorly invested in terms of your time, include:
- Spending more time communicating with people you don't know on social media than you spend communicating with people you do know, both online and in real life.
- Ignoring people in your life to spend time on social media.
- Hiding your social media use from friends and family.
- Forming intimate relationships with others on social media, despite being in a committed relationship.
- Letting social media take up too much mental real estate (i.e. thinking about social media a lot even when you're not on it).
- Becoming increasingly negative. If you’re finding yourself brimming with negative toxicity (e.g. starting or prolonging petty arguments, having a glass-half-empty view of everything), then it’s time to detox.
The fix: Prioritise the people in your life or develop a connection with nature. While you can certainly form meaningful connections online, the most healthy and meaningful connections will continue to be formed and cemented when you are with people face-to-face or experiencing the outdoors and the beauty of mother earth.
Don't ignore your family to scroll Instagram. Put down your phone or shut down your computer and engage with the people who are right in front of you when you're together, at meals times etc. so that you can experience meaningful connections and conversations.
5. You Spend More than 1 Hour A Day on Social Media
Technically, experts agree that anything over 30 minutes a day on social media is unhealthy and can lead to a decrease in mental and physical health. In terms of your mental health, it can lead to the depression and anxiety we spoke of earlier.
The overuse of social media naturally will confine you to a more sedentary lifestyle, meaning less time doing healthier and more productive activities that add value to your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing - like being out in the sunshine.
Additionally, digital eye strain is a clear phenomenon that occurs as a result of excess screen time, leading to degeneration of the eyes and long-term vision problems.
The fix: Depending on how much time you currently spend on social media, start by reducing your exposure by 30 minutes a day. Begin by eliminating those small blocks of time that you currently habitually tune in to social media, replacing that periodic habit with another more important or productive activity.
Whilst it may take conscious effort at first to reprogram your patterns, it's worth the effort because you'll gradually wean yourself off your social media dependency.
Social media is a wonderful tool that gives us an unprecedented level of connection with others, the ability to do business online and access to a wide variety of important information. However, it's important to remember that it is just a tool and should not take over your life.
Choose wisely the amount of time you spend on social media each day and who and what you choose to expose yourself to and you'll get the benefit of social media as a wonderful tool, without the unhealthy downside.
Tolman Self Care.