I never really considered myself addicted to social media. Watching other people constantly glued to their phones always gave me a good chuckle and a slight superiority complex as I silently praised myself for being above all those superficial things. I shake my head at the influencers creating unrealistic expectations for all their young followers while they themselves are just starving for attention and social approval, while the mind-numbing content distracts young minds from even the idea of productivity as they foolishly scroll through Tik Tok for hours at a time. But I’m really no better than the next person using social media as a way to escape or seek that sweet dopamine boost from random strangers online. Maybe I’m just better at hiding it or I’m blinded by my limited self-perspective, but my dependence on social media ran deeper than I ever thought.
It wasn’t uncommon for people to find themselves struggling with their mental health more than usual during quarantine, and I was definitely among this group. After a particularly strenuous situation that led to a bit of a mental crisis, I made the decision to take a break from social media. At the time I wasn’t sure of what this would achieve or if I would even be able to do it, but I was running out of options and it felt like the right thing to do. To be clear, I was not permanently deleting social media from my life; I did not delete any of my accounts, I only deleted the apps from my phone and computer so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend all my time on there. I have some friends in which the majority of our communication takes place on these platforms, so I just sent them a quick text informing them I wouldn’t be active on social media for a while so they wouldn’t be angry or worried when I didn’t respond.
Then I was left to myself, and it was weird at first. I would grab my phone and my muscle memory would automatically try to click on an app that wasn’t there anymore. When I woke up there were no new posts to check and at night I didn’t have the piercing blue light to lull me to sleep. Overall, it was a lot of boredom at the beginning, but I tried to push through it, determined to see where it would take me. Sure enough, a week or so into it I started to understand the appeal. I started being more productive in other areas in my life: I was reading more, working out on a regular basis, diving into projects that I never had the energy to start. My head was a lot clearer and in general I was less stressed than usual. I wasn’t worried about what the rest of the world was doing and I wasn’t concerned about sharing my life with anyone else.
After a month or so I felt ready to rejoin social media. I had proved to myself that I could live without it and actually found myself mentally healing from it as well. So, ultimately you should ask yourself if you should also try to take a break from social media. Based on my personal experience, I think most people would benefit from participating in a short social media detox. Take as much time as you need, whether it be two weeks or six months, and really use the time to engage in some much needed self-care and relaxation.
I also want to acknowledge that while I do seem to be portraying social media to be the cause of all evil, it is also very important to recognize all the good aspects of it as well. Social media can be a valuable tool for communication, self-expression and discovery of worthy causes. It can be a platform to share what you are most passionate about and connect with like-minded people, sometimes creating lifelong friendships. Although like most things in life, it has the ability to be a positive and negative force, depending on how it’s used. I sort of look at it like dessert; it’s nice for a little while but if you indulge in too much of it you’ll get sick.