If you just answered yes, then you know the feeling of smartphone separation anxiety, also cleverly termed "nomophobia". It stands for "no mobile phone phobia" or the fear of being without a mobile device. Part of living in this digital era is our unconscious social media addiction. As technology has become increasingly personalized, it's as if smartphones and social media are extensions of ourselves. This is not to disvalue social media's impact on facilitating virtual networks and global communication, providing platforms for self-expression, raising awareness of certain issues, or providing readily accessible sources of information. Rather, it's to recognize the amount of mental energy we give social media sites and how it negatively influences our thoughts and behaviors.
Why Take a Social Media Detox?
If you're reading this, maybe you've thought about taking a social media detox or digital detox. Maybe you've experienced nomophobia and realize it's not healthy. While it is not classified as a specific mental disorder, more and more studies are shedding light on the negative implications of spending too much time on social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat. Phone calls and face-to-face conversations have been replaced by texting to 'keep up' and sharing humorous memes on Instagram. These apps allow people to feel superficially connected but erode the meaning of deep human relationships. Studies have also found a strong link between excessive social media use and an increased risk for depression, loneliness, anxiousness, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.
- Feeling inadequate: This is because social media can make you feel inadequate about your appearance or life. Even if we know images of influencers or models on social spaces are manipulated through filters and photoshop. Or that what we're viewing on social newsfeeds are only highlights of other people's lives, it doesn't lessen those thoughts of dissatisfaction or envy.
- FOMO: Ever find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media content at bedtime to see what others are doing? Or hastily reaching from your phone every time your social media notification pings? It's an addiction. Even though there are a few things that don't need an immediate response, this "feeling of missing out" on the latest news, gossip, or posts draws many people back over and over again. And that little bit of dopamine hit you feel when there's a new Like, Favorite, or Comment is addictive to your self-esteem.
- Isolation: A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that high usage of Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat increases emotions of loneliness and feeling disconnected.
- Cyberbullying: Social media apps provide an unruly space for cyberbullying. Statistics have revealed that an eye-opening 47% of young people aged 12-16 have received threatening, intimidating, or nasty messages online.
These issues are not spoken about enough and are a recipe for disaster. Now might be the perfect time for you to prioritize self-care, disconnect, and take a media detox.
Social Media Detox Expectations
So what are the benefits of detoxing? What can you expect from day I?
- More free time: You might find yourself a little bored when you start your detox. This means you need to replace your compulsive habit of carelessly opening WhatsApp or LinkedIn with another mindful distraction and something more productive. If social media is your way to interact with friends, try writing them a letter or grab a coffee. If it is your way of expressing yourself, try putting pen to paper, or paint to canvas - the old-fashioned way.
- Less stress: You'll find a significant decrease in anxiousness and a more relaxed headspace as you're no longer comparing yourself to the lives and appearances of friends or, even, strangers. Your stressed feeling of FOMO will dissipate as you realize you're really not missing out on much.
- Better mornings: Most people reach over to their nightstand and check their phones before they even take off the bedcovers. They need to investigate the notifications they received while they were asleep. With a social media detox, you have time to use your morning in a different way which sets the tone for the rest of the day. Instead of sitting on the couch and scrolling your social networks feed, try exercise and go for a walk. Experience nature and notice real life.
- More mindful behaviours: as you begin your social media detox, you'll notice how much you use your device and apps. You might catch yourself typing twitter.com into your address bar before stopping yourself to read an unproductive tweet. This mindfulness of actually being present in the moment and experiencing your feelings (whether that be boredom, happiness, anger) is positive and will help you reconnect with you.
Steps to Detox from Social Media
An action without a plan is the cause of all failure. It may seem simple enough to just avoid your social media apps. But in this day and age where technology is one of the pillars of our digital world, it's better to have a strategy in place to navigate this unchartered territory.
- The first step is to tell people you communicate most with you're going to unplug from all social media accounts. This will help hold you accountable, and also let people know your not M.I.A
- The second step is to delete all social media platforms and go cold turkey. This is non-negotiable. In order to set yourself up for success, now is not the time to test your emotional and mental toughness.
- The third step is to plan things to do. What you'll quickly notice is that your social media habit was a very time-consuming activity. With more free personal time, focus your energy on other things such as learning something new, exercising, spending time with family, or travelling.
Some final thoughts before you begin your social media detox journey is to enjoy it. Become addicted to this newfound freedom. You're mental health, brain, and well-being are all you have at the end of the day. Prioritize them.