In this age of information overload, social media has become the main source of everything, whether it’s communications with our friends and co-workers, newsfeed, or sharing all sorts of content.

Since the internet has alleviated many logistic challenges in our daily lives, it’s not really surprising that our dependence on technology has been growing. This phenomenon was further exacerbated during the pandemic lockdowns and now has grown into the lifestyles of (let us hope) the post-pandemic era.

Due to the social distancing protocols implemented worldwide, we were forced to adapt to the online environment of digital platforms to keep communications going, regardless of the constraints of physical isolation. It definitely helped many of us to get through, keep our jobs, connect with friends and family, staying informed. Social media platforms work wonders to help us stay connected. But it comes at a price.

Here’s the catch: you’re bound to spend way too much time on social media because that’s how they’re designed. They want to keep you hooked. At first, there’s no harm felt. However, as you grow accustomed to the minimal motor activity of just scrolling and swiping, you might find yourself becoming more stressed than usual, and unable to sit still for more than 5 minutes without it.

Can’t Sit Quietly Alone…

As the French mathematician, Blaise Pascal observed in the 1600s, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”  We have not evolved far from that, except the distraction has become more addictive.

Many studies show that social media often triggers anxiety, depression, and polarization. Jaron Lanier, a Silicon Valley computer scientist wrote a book entitled “10 Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now” to illustrate how detrimental social media can be to mental health. Several university studies have indicated a high correlation between social media use and depressive states. Some of those studies also showed that users seek out information that corresponds to their mood, which further deepens their condition.

However, given their heavy integration into our personal and professional lives, it’s quite challenging to disappear from these platforms altogether. We can, however, attempt a “Social Media Detox”.

What is Social Media Detox?

A “social media detox” or a “social media break” takes place when you go without using social media for a certain period of time. This break can last anywhere from a day to a month—or even longer if you wish to do so. Although social media detoxing is not an ideal solution for long-term changes in habits, it can still give you a reset. It helps to cut out unwanted noise and emotional triggers brought on by the platforms.

There could be plenty of reasons why you may want a social media detox. Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed by the events that are appearing in your newsfeed or you are experiencing information overload. You may also need to become more focused on some big project, or maybe you just wish to be more intentional about how you spend your time.

Whatever it may be, it’s good to be aware of what you wish to accomplish with the detox.

Alas, some of us might not even be aware that we need a break. Here are some of the signs you can look out for.

3 Signs Why You Should Take A Break From Social Media

1. It’s not fun anymore. Social media platforms are designed to be a fun and engaging way to communicate with family, friends,  and communities. If they are no longer a source of joy and connection in your life, then it might be a sign that you need to take a break.

2. You’re comparing yourself to others. If you’re feeling like you’re not good enough, beautiful enough, or successful enough while reading about all the glamour that your newsfeed bathes in, take a break. It makes no sense to stay on social media if it makes you feel worse about yourself and all you crave is more LIKES, it’s time to call it quits.

3. It’s the last thing you see at night. Browsing on your phone before bed may keep your mind active and awake, interrupting your sleep. The blue light from your phone lowers melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Because blue light corresponds to a high-energy visible spectrum that mimics daylight, your body will believe that it is midday and keep you energized, preventing you from falling asleep. In addition, images available online tend to be pre-selected to generate visual overkill. This overstimulation may further deepen depressive symptoms.

Benefits of Social Media Detox

Improved Relationships

We often treat our social media exchange as substitutes for real-life interactions. Online dates are now more frequent than real dating, but how real are they?  It has also become all too easy to ‘ghost’ someone online as soon as there’s any disagreement.

This leaves us little chance to practice our relationship skills. Many of us even scroll away on our phones while being with our friends and family. By taking a break, we can become more meaningfully involved with our loved ones. We also become less judgmental of others, and of ourselves. We relate to a real human with flaws, instead of fantasizing about others’ (allegedly) perfect life.

Lowered FOMO

When we quit using social media, our fear of missing out (FOMO) decreases. One of the main drawbacks of these platforms is their potential to make us feel as if we aren’t getting enough exercise, vacations, rest, work, recognition, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, and whatever you can think of.

Because of social media, we feel obligated to do way too much, but end up doing none of that with focus. It’s all passive consumption. Once you take a break from it, you’ll give yourself time to focus on the activities that offer you the greatest joy instead of the ones that get you the most clout. Rather than following the current TikTok craze, you can do things that truly improve your life.

Better Self-Worth

We can often feel lacking because social media is people’s highlight reel of idealistic “success”. This is where they publish app-ed photographs of their glitzy triumphs and splashing fun. Now, having fun is not a bad thing per se, but it becomes one when all we do is compare ourselves to other people’s “fun” and “success”. Whether it’s our appearance, our career, our current relationship status, or anything else, social media can have a negative impact on our self-esteem.

By taking a break from social media, we relieve stress and realize that our lives are already amazing in all their simplicity. We have more time to interact with real people and do things that nurtures us.

Increased Productivity

Because social media is renowned for distracting us with trivial things, removing this influence allows us to allocate more time to what we do intentionally.  Without this recurrent urge to grab the little screen, you will have a higher chance of reaching the flow state that is necessary to accomplish deeper work.

Surveys have indicated that adults and teenagers spend between two to nine hours every day on social media. Just imagine what you could achieve by claiming back that amount of time!

How to Take A Break from Social Media

Turn off notifications

Every time you get a notification for a “like” or “comment”, it generates a positive social stimulation associated with dopamine inflow. This dopamine spike can be highly addictive, making it difficult to stay away from social media. The incessant blaring, jingling, and buzzing may prompt you to check your phone more frequently. Disabling notifications will help you stay on track with your detox.

Delete apps

Maybe you’re on your phone for something completely different, such as checking your account balance on a financial app, but then you notice Facebook’s logo and decide to click on it.

Delete the apps from your phone to avoid “accidentally” popping up on social media. That way, you won’t come across the logos “by accident” and be enticed to use the platform that beckons you at the distance of your thumb. The deletion will raise the barrier to entry because you’d have to re-download the app and sign back in to check social media on your phone.

Allot time to use social media

You can also determine what types of accounts make you feel good and which ones make you feel bad. You can then start planning to reduce exposure to information that makes you unhappy. It is possible to put restrictions on how much you use specific feeds, based on the range from enjoyable to anxiety-inducing.

For each person, the tipping point will be different. Observe yourself and make adjustments. If you find execution difficult, install an app that limits your time on social media.  And, in any case, ban the smartphone from the bedroom.

Replace social media with new activities

girls having fun offline

First, determine how much time you spend on social media, and plan on doing an activity that accounts for that time. The activity can be anything, but it is preferable that it keeps you away from the screen altogether. You might also just consider leaving your phone behind while indulging yourself in your chosen activity.  What better way to plunge into the physical world of 3D interaction?

Prioritize self-care

Replacing your social media use with other mood-boosting activities that don’t require your phone can be very beneficial. Instead of checking your phone and browsing through it, try one of these other healthier alternatives:

  • Hang out with your friends (no scrolling around the table!)
  • Take a walk around the park, go for a bike ride, or engage in any basic motor activity.
  • Cook your favorite meal or learn a new recipe.
  • For at least 15 minutes, write in your journal using a physical pen and paper.  It doesn’t matter whether it is something completely random or pre-planned and deep.

Such activities have one thing in common.  They all force us to use our bodies, our minds, and our senses the way – and our ancestors – always did.  In full presence and away from the reduction of ourselves to the singular focus on our thumb, however agile it is.

Although social media has many great aspects, it can be detrimental when used excessively. While social media addiction is not a new topic, many individuals still struggle with it.

In order not to fall victim to this addictive cycle, you can begin by taking tiny steps and putting the advice in this article into practice. Slowly, you’ll gain more control of your time and actions, and you’ll be amazed at how much of an impact it will have on your quality of life.

The New York Life Coaching Institute

At New York Life Coaching Institute,  we subscribe to a  holistic approach to life coaching. We are interested in the client as a whole person and approach their goals in an integrative manner.

We help clients cultivate resilience to embrace all that life has to offer, and we explore the frontier between their comfort zone and their true potential.

If you need help to change unproductive habits or patterns, consider hiring a life coach!

If you want to help others change unproductive habits or patterns, check out our Coaching Training and Certification Program.

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