Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Confession time: when I’m feeling low for any reason, I find myself opening Twitter. Rather than processing my feelings in a healthy way, I send out a tweet that reads something along the lines of “oh look at that, I’m crying again lol”. It’s a habit that often makes me wonder whether it would be more beneficial to ditch social media, at least for a brief hiatus, in a bid to better my mental health.
Social media has entered our lives in a massive way: in fact, by 2021 it’s forecast that there will be around 3 billion active monthly users of Instagram. As more of us find ourselves online, we are becoming increasingly aware of the negative impacts social media has. Research associates link intense social media use with lower mood, decreased life satisfaction, body image issues and addiction. Posts that fail to get enough likes can be damaging psychologically, leading to a negative self-perception and lack of personal validation – both of which contribute to increased anxiety and loneliness. The pressure to maintain the appearance of a “perfect” life online creates a false reality founded on unrealistic expectations. With this abundance of proven dangers, surely the solution is to just ditch social media altogether?
It’s undeniable that taking a breather from social media can benefit a person’s mental health. Uninstalling all those countless apps from your phone can break the social comparison cycle we regularly find ourselves caught in, protect a person’s data, help us to reconnect with the world and conquer the dreaded fear of missing out. From my own experience, taking time out from social media gifted me with so much more free time and gave me a new lease of life. I was no longer obsessively refreshing my Twitter feed; hours were not wasted lurking on Facebook; my hobbies broadened beyond being an amateur photographer for Instagram.
The premise of detoxification isn’t to ban social media altogether, but to ask people to be more mindful of how they use it. We should question whether we are using these tools to connect with one another, or whether they merely push us to compete with each other. Allowing ourselves to switch off from the online world is an act of kindness and a manageable form of self-care: by momentarily bidding farewell to Facebook, we look beyond our online posts and reflect inwardly on ourselves. These breaks allow us to use the mental energy we reserve for drafting witty and topical tweets to instead recollect our thoughts and focus on ourselves. It’s these hiatuses that stop us from worrying about our online popularity, and ask us to objectively look at our lives for the tangible accomplishments that we are proud of – not those only experienced through a screen.
Somewhat ironically, there are now countless apps available to help users kick the habit of spending excessive periods of time on social media. The most popular include Forest, Moment and Offtime – all of which challenge people to gradually cut down how much time they spend on their phone. In this digital age, the act of social media detoxification can be incredibly overwhelming and perhaps even isolating, but those who endorse these cleanses emphasise the importance of starting out small. It’s always worth asking yourself whether some time out is needed from social media in order to schedule in some well-earned TLC. Social media can be extremely exciting, but it can also be horrendously harmful. To benefit mental health, the most important thing is finding that balance between having fun and knowing how to manage your limits.