By Nour El-Miligi
We can’t deny that whenever boredom takes over, social media comes to our rescue featuring threads of memes and cool gossip that can hook us up for hours. Sometimes social media takes its toll on us; with all the hectic news and mass hysteria going on lately over the virus, things can go out of proportion. This mindless scrolling seems harmless, yet sometimes it can actually cause you to feel drained and dissatisfied, triggering anxious and depressive thoughts without you noticing. And because you should prioritize your mental health and give it the rest it deserves, we’ve decided to address some indicators as well as necessary steps you need to be taking when it’s time to pull the plug.
When would we need a social media break?
Now let us start off first with reasons why you’d need a break from social media in the first place. The most common reason social platforms might affect one’s mental health, is the floods of frightening news posted on daily bases, from the virus spreading, brutal murder incidents, rape cases, and everything in between. The frequent encounter of disastrous news scientifically has a significant impact on our thinking, behavior, and emotions. This explains why this over-consumption of news has led to a noticeable increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Another reason, which is usually most common among the youth, is the comparison game/war that skyrockets. Though this comparison trap is as old as humanity, the introduction of a huge channel surfing platform featuring millions of high-profiles bragging about their success, wealth, relationships or even the place they dine in, has only made it worse. Being in a world where the number of followers, likes, and comments are considered rock-solid proof of a person’s worth, and since no one posts about their failures, some might find it challenging to stay confident, unwittingly taking that bait. That’s why it’s extremely consequential that one monitors his pattern of thoughts and even reads about that psychological symptom of the comparison trap many falls into.
Moreover, a case in which you’ll need an immediate social media detox is when you find yourself disengaging from your real life. This might include you spending many hours surfing the internet without you taking notice of the time, posting about your life before even living it. Take a moment to recall the last time you went out for dinner. How many times did you use your phone? Did you have a genuine chit chat with your friends or were you busy filming them for your Instagram stories? Did you enjoy your meal or were you more involved in finding the perfect words for a post? Your frank answers will surely be a determining factor.
Finally, a break should take place when you find your mood hugely under the mercy of social media outlets. Social media includes non-predictive stimuli aka the notifications which put you in a state of anticipation and conditioning because you start waiting for those text messages, anticipating those likes and share notifications alerts right after posting a new post, even before they come. This feeling of instant gratification once you upload a new picture and get the number of likes you were hoping for and experiencing a huge let down otherwise, is a clear red flag, because social media was meant to serve, not enslave.
How to have a healthy detox
Now that we’ve briefly examined the reasons why we would need a break, let’s have a look at how to do it.
1) Delete your social media apps
Now before you tell me it’s impossible to do so, just reconsider this again. We all know you can re-install all the applications the minute you want to, so there’s nothing to panic over here. So take this as an opportunity to self reflect and see how social media impacts you and what thoughts it provokes.
2) Set time limits on your applications
If deleting the apps seems like a step you can’t afford to do now, then the second-best option is to limit your time using your social media platforms. With the “locked mode” feature that doesn’t allow you to undo the lock, you’ll ensure to keep your hands off these apps no matter how much you want to. This will allow you to have a gradual detox as well. Baby steps!
3) Do it with a friend
The best way for you to stay motivated and determined is to take this decision together with a friend. Feeling the commitment and having someone to hold you accountable will boost your willingness to stick to the plan.
4) Replace social media with a hobby or an activity
The thing that worries us the most when considering a social detox, is the plenty of time we’ll have in our hands with nothing to do in it. So in preparation for your healthy detox, find a hobby you once enjoyed but left behind; it could be drawing, reading, or simply anything that brings you pleasure!
This whole detox process isn’t meant for you to beat yourself up and feel pressured nor guilty, but rather to detoxify your thoughts and protect your own mental health from any intruding thoughts hovering over your head, and at the end, we always find our way back to our social platforms again. But this time we’ll come back healthy-minded and cognizant of our thinking patterns.