A Social Media Detox

A Social Media Detox

I spend a lot of time online. The internet is where I educate myself on the issues I care about, it's the place I look for entertainment, and through social media I connect with friends and make new ones. The internet is amazing yet, with a phone always within arm's reach, it's far too easy to get sucked into unhealthy scrolling habits especially when we're bored or procrastinating. When we're spending so much of our time online, we should make sure it's making us happy.

The problem isn't with social media it's with how we use it. I noticed my phone was the first thing I picked up in the morning and last thing I put down at night. A terrible habit, I know. I'd open my social apps, scroll through them, move to the next, cycle back round and repeat. When I spoke to my friends, I found this was a common habit and it didn't make us feel good. In fact, it's mentally exhausting.

It was my relationship with Twitter that made me realise a social media detox was necessary. With the new algorithm showing tweets from people you don't follow; I found my feed had become a toxic mess of angry rants and it had started to affect my mental health. If you want to be more mindful of how you use social media and use it more consciously and effectively, I'm sharing how a social media detox can help you to do just that.

The Benefits Of A Social Media Detox

The benefits of a social media detox are countless. Excessive use of the internet and the constant access to social media affects our health; it impacts your mental and emotional well-being, messes with your sleep pattern, and can be a huge waste of time. Social media can be an unhealthy space for procrastination and time wasting; it's a place where we find ourselves comparing our lives to others; where it's all too easy to feel we're missing out, and the constant stream of news and negativity can overwhelm us. A social media detox enables us to take a step back, reclaim our free time, reconnect with the world, and as a result, improve our mental health and well being.

A Social Media Detox

A Social Media Detox Plan

Every time we post a photograph, send a tweet, or like a post, it causes a dopamine trigger that rewards us. Upvotes, likes, retweets, and reblogs act as instant satisfaction and gratification - but it doesn't last for long - so we chase more and more in an endless cycle. A social media detox helps break that cycle of reward triggers and gives our brains something more important to focus on.

Identify the problem. The first step in a social media detox is identifying the problem. For me, the app hopping cycle was infuriating; I'd go from Twitter to Instagram to Reddit to my emails and back around, so many times I'm too ashamed to admit. I can break that easily by leaving my phone in another room but the real problem was Twitter, where my feed had become toxic stream of rants from people I didn't follow. Identify whether your problem is with a specific app or the way you use it, and how you need to deal with that issue.

Decide on a time frame. It takes us approximately 100 days to change our habits. You might not want to go that long without using social media at all, and it might not even be necessary unless you're trying to remove social media from your life completely. Decide on a time frame that gives you enough space to work on your habits and create a healthier relationship with social apps. 24-hours or an entire weekend is a good starting point.

Uninstall apps. The only way to commit to a social media detox is to prevent access, either temporarily or permanently, to your social feeds. Uninstalling apps, logging yourself out, or deactivating your account removes the temptation to check in and encourages you to commit to the detox. This time, I removed only Twitter from my phone but in the past I've removed all social apps to give myself the time needed to break bad habits.

Turn off notifications. Every time your phone beeps, rings, dings, or lights up, it's a distraction - even if you try to ignore them. I've had my phone in 'do not disturb' mode for years, not just for social detoxes, and I highly recommend switching yours on too. If something important happens, you'll hear about it.

Block websites on desktop. If we know we can't access an app on our phone, we might try to access it via desktop. This might be an extreme measure not all of us require but it's worth knowing how to block social sites if you're really struggling to break a habit.

Replace social media with a different activity. The need for instant gratification can be overwhelming, it's why social media can be so addictive. When your brain is 'reward-seeking', replace the impulse to pick up your phone with a different activity. Mine is reading; whenever I have time to procrastinate, I pick up a book instead. It'll really open your eyes to how much time you waste!

Turn your phone off. There's certain places we use our phones when we know we shouldn't; the dinner table, in the bedroom, at work... Wherever your phone is a distraction, remove it entirely and you'll prevent the temptation. I'm terrible at having my phone on my desk and picking it up when there's a lull in my work flow. Leaving it in another room is a simple solution that removes the distraction entirely. If you find yourself seeking out your phone no matter where you leave it, switch it off.

A Social Media Detox

Reintroducing Social Media

After your detox you may feel so good that a permanent leave from social media is for the best. Many of us, myself included, are unable to check out for good and reintroducing the apps is the only way forward. The process of reintroducing social media back into your life must be a mindful one that enables us to do it in a way that is healthy so that we don't slip back into old habits..

Set boundaries. The only way to form new habits is to set boundaries. I decided not to reinstall Twitter and to read instead of scroll through my social feeds in the morning. You might want to reinstall apps and instead make a rule to only access them at certain times of the day, or to ban your phone entirely on the weekend so you can focus on other more important things.

Mute, unfollow, and block. Maybe the social media app itself isn't the problem but the people you follow. Make use of the mute, unfollow, and block features to curate your feed. Whenever I notice I'm not enjoying content from a specific account, I either mute or unfollow. If someone is being aggressive or antagonistic, I block them without a second thought. You don't own anyone your time or space on social media.

Install a productivity app. If your phone, rather than social media, is the real issue and you're struggling with the constant distraction; try an app that blocks access so you can get on with more important tasks. I use the Forest app while I'm working to block out chunks of time when I need to stay focused. It's a great tool for staying present in the moment.

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A Social Media Detox