I will be the first to admit that I had an unhealthy obsession with social media.
For many years, I was completely unaware of the toxic pattern I had fallen into. My phone was the first thing I reached for in the morning; I’d start scrolling through my social media accounts for hours, not having even gotten out of bed. I started getting migraines from staring at my phone and computer screens for so long. I was always tired, but still found myself up late at night scrolling. I’d be spending time with friends or family and still have my phone in my hand. Every moment of my life needed to be documented or turned into an anecdote for an Instagram post. It technically was part of my job to monitor my social media accounts and interact with people online, but I really struggled with balancing that in my personal life.
It was only once I took a step back from the Instagram influencing industry full-time that I realized how much my online habits had truly impacted my life in a negative way. I decided I needed to spend some time offline; I deactivated all my social media accounts and deleted every app off my phone so I wouldn’t be tempted to log back in.
The first few days were hard. In idle moments, I would reach on autopilot to open apps that were no longer there. After a week, my fingers would still twitch but the desire to log on had eased significantly. Then, I started noticing how many others around me were social media obsessed themselves. Now I was the one getting ignored while trying to talk to someone who wouldn’t put down their phone.
It got me to thinking; we could probably all use a social media break every now and then. If you’re still not convinced you need a break, consider the following list of benefits taking a social media detox offers.
Your mental health will improve
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of comparing your own life to the lives of others when you spend most of your free time online. A really interesting study a few years ago illustrated that the link between social media and depression was largely mediated by this “social comparison” factor. At one point in my life, I felt like I was somehow failing in life because of what I was seeing on my social media feeds. People younger than me seemed to be thriving in their careers, traveling the world, getting engaged, and I felt like I should have been achieving more. It’s taken me a long time to learn that there is no outline for how one’s life should unfold. We shouldn’t base our life expectations on those we see on social media. You may not be in the same place in life as someone else, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or that you’re under-achieving. Comparison is the thief of joy, especially when you’re comparing your behind the scenes life to someone else’s highlight reel online. Taking a break from social media can help you stop the comparison cycle. It allows you a chance to reconnect with all the awesome things in your own life and appreciate what you have.
You’ll be more present
How many times has something happened in your life and your first instinct is to document it on social media? I used to consider life events as a chance to post content to my social pages, but it started to become really stressful. Everything from spontaneous outings to planned holidays suddenly became a burden to try and photograph or post about. I used to be so focused on capturing that moment perfectly on social media that I wasn’t fully experiencing it with the people around me. When you take a photo of something, the quality is never quite the same as the experience in real life. Your real-life experiences start to become lower in quality and less memorable when you’re worrying about putting them online. Once I started incorporating the practice of mindfulness (fully focusing your mind on the present moment and experience), I also noticed a big shift in the quality of my relationships. I was much more able to enjoy the company of the people I was with and live in the moment. Mindfulness has been linked to a whole bunch of health benefits, including improved concentration, reduced anxiety, and lower stress levels. You’ll learn to live in the moment far more and really appreciate the life you’re living when you stop trying to capture it for other people to experience.
You will cultivate more meaningful relationships
At the height of my social media addiction, I convinced myself that I had a lot of friends because I would always be swapping memes or responding to messages. I’ve realized now that the number of friends or followers you have online isn’t a reflection of your relationships or popularity in the real world. When I experienced struggles with my mental health, it wasn’t my online “friends” who noticed or were there for me. Instead, people who truly cared about me noticed that I was struggling. My family, co-workers, friends, and my partner were my safe place to share my thoughts and emotions with. When you let go of social media, it allows you to make space for people in real life, which is a far healthier way to maintain meaningful friendships and relationships.
You’ll have more free time
Do you ever feel like there’s not enough hours in the day to get things done, yet somehow still find time to scroll through Facebook? Or do you spend large amounts of time on social media instead of doing something more productive? You’re not alone – with the average person spending over 2 hours on social media every day, staying up to date on several forms of social media can be time consuming. By taking a break, you’ll regain power over your time that was otherwise wasted. All too often when we’re living online, we neglect our lives offline. Things like housework, fun hobbies, and schoolwork are usually the first to get put on the back burner. Taking the time to work on a project, revisiting a hobby you enjoy, or tackling some overdue chores around the house will leave you feeling more accomplished and less stressed.
You’ll fall asleep faster and sleep deeper
Taking your phone to bed can have a negative impact on your sleep. The blue light that smartphones emit can interfere with the hormone responsible for helping us fall asleep. If you’re someone that scrolls before bed, you may find yourself tossing and turning seemingly for hours before falling asleep. When you have a broken sleep pattern, many of us reach for our phones to help us go back to sleep – but this has the opposite effect . By taking a social media break, you will likely feel less of a desire to use your phone right before bed, which will allow you to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper – meaning you won’t feel as exhausted in the morning. Consider things like reading a book to help relax your mind or charging your phone in another room if you’re still feeling tempted to start scrolling at night.
When it comes to social media, less is more
While I don’t think I’ll swear off social media forever, I’m certainly much more aware of my habits now after taking a break. I’ve realized how important it is to take a few unplugged hours everyday. I’ll put my phone on “do not disturb” or leave it in another room if I have work to get done. I do my best to keep my phone out of sight when I’m spending time with others; it’s one thing to quickly Instagram a picture of your latte art, but it’s quite another to post pictures of every bite of your brunch with friends. I’ve realized that when spending time with people in real life, social media can wait until later. It is far more important to be fully in the moment than to be tethered to my phone. Life is too short to spend it staring at a screen.
Would you ever consider deleting all your social media accounts – permanently or temporarily? Do you think you could last longer than a week without them? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.
Facebook: Are you addicted to social media? Here are 5 reasons why you should cut back on your screen time
Twitter: 5 things that will happen when you delete social media