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How a social media detox could help your mental health – and 5 tips to do your own


Tips & tricks by Hannah Pooley


The unfortunate truth about social media is that it plays host to plenty of information that can negatively affect our mental health. After taking time away from social media, Hannah Pooley gives her insights into how you can take part in your own digital detox.


If you were to check your phone statistics right at this moment, your daily screen time could truly shock you. Even more so if you check how much time you spend on social media.


According to Statista, the average screen time of UK phone users in 2021 was 4 hours a day, and a study conducted by the University of Leeds earlier this year found that, during the UK’s three lockdowns, over half of those surveyed spent 11 hours on their devices, with some users reaching up to an astonishing 14 hours per day.


For many of us, it’s clear that scrolling on social media apps has become an absolute centre piece of our everyday lives – but at what point are consumers becoming the consumed?


In the wake of this, I decided to do a social media detox for a month (so that you don’t have to) and reflect on the benefits and downfalls of disconnecting with the online social world. At first, the idea of uninstalling apps such as of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can seem daunting, even impossible. However, if you can successfully cut down your use, it could be a rewarding change that you didn’t even know you needed.


My decision for trying this stemmed from the need to not only take a breather from social media for my own wellbeing, but to also allow myself to connect more with other areas in my life. And maybe even read a book or two.



The beginning


One week into the detox and the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) had truly kicked in, which at first felt like an unbeatable uphill struggle for me. Even though deep down I knew that I would not be missing out on anything major from social media (plus my friends would most definitely tell me anything earth shattering), I felt that I was addicted to this non-physical realm of endless and frivolous information.


I grew up in the Myspace era, so my whole adult life has been engrossed in social updates online – and therefore, taking myself away from that was pretty challenging. But I continued, based on the knowledge that I knew I relied on it too much, and with the goal that taking a step back would be rewarding in the long run.


A few weeks down the line…


After a couple of weeks of my social media detox, my willpower was still very much being tested, however, I began to genuinely not miss the constant need for updates and the urge from constant scrolling.


I found that time spent on my phone was now mostly used to meticulously choose music to listen to on Spotify (and find new artists in the process), or my daily ritual of Googling who that actor is in that film that I couldn’t remember.


The key thing to remember is that we all know our own biggest vices – if you are more prone to overly use one app over another, that should be the one to cut down on or avoid altogether if necessary.


 

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The final week


By the final week of my detox, I found that my reliance on my phone had reduced a large amount and that social media had slowly begun to fade into the background, rather than feeling like an absolute necessity to my existence. Smartphones are a huge part of modern life and opening socials is something that we do on autopilot – but after a month, that urge had dulled somewhat, if not completely.


I began to feel more connected with my own life, and not as much with a virtual world that at times can feel like a bragging arena. I can safely say that my wellbeing took a huge boost as well, with some of the most positive outcomes being that I did not compare my own life to others as much, I engaged in other hobbies (including scrapbooking), and I felt more rested, both mentally and physically.


Lessons


Even by cutting down the time that you spend on social media or trying a week-long detox at a time, you could not only improve your mental health, but it could give you more energy and a more positive attitude. Less time glued to our screens, including using Candy Crush(!), can promote our minds to flourish more organically, and can provide us with a much-needed mood boost.


Another suggestion that has an instant gratification is to assess the accounts that you follow online and remember that you do not have any moral obligation to follow them. If their content does not bring you joy or constantly causes you stress, remove and unfollow them! The dreaded feelings of disconnect and detachment are daunting elements for anyone trying to step away from social media and at first it can be very tempting to take a sneak peek back on socials. But after a surprisingly short amount of time, it does get easier, particularly if you ask yourself “do I really need to know?”



5 tips for refreshing your social media intake


So, with my own social media detox completed, what practical advice can I provide for anyone looking to do the same? Here are five top tips:

  1. Start by jotting down the positive and negative effects that social media has to your mental health – what changes could you make to improve to your experiences?

  2. Do a ‘spring clean’ by assessing the accounts that you follow and remove/unfollow anything that is no longer relevant or helpful to you

  3. Decide your own pace for a detox – some people can go completely cold turkey from apps, whereas others would need to cut down gradually or find a balance in-between

  4. Test out different methods of reducing your reliance on social media, such as only using socials for 1– 2 hours a day or only in the evenings, or even just replace time on your phone with another hobby such as reading, baking or exercise

  5. Finally, remember to be kind to yourself – most people use social media in their daily lives to some extent, but we all have the capability to gain more of a balanced relationship with it


It’s time for a detox!


A big change to the way you interact with social media could see you find more time for taking up a new hobby or revisiting one you had drifted away from. As technology becomes ever more prominent, it cannot be completely avoided – but giving yourself a break could be very valuable to your mental health. Try starting to treat social media more like a light snack, rather than a main course.

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