We all know that feeling- mindlessly refreshing our Instagram Feeds for the fifth time that hour. And then you’re hit with the ‘You’re All Caught Up‘ message.
Social media has changed our lives- for better and for worse. It has connected us- yet disconnected us. It has given us a space to share our stories- yet also set the stage for comparison. Take inventory of how much time you spend on social media. Introspect whether a social media break may be necessary for your mental health.
I’ve done it a couple of times myself. Now, the way I look at and consume social media is SO different. I would highly recommend taking a social media break once in a while. Especially when it is taking a toll on your mental health.
How Social Media Affects Our Lives
Without a doubt, there are many positive ways that social media could impact us. Here, we discuss a few ways that social media could negatively hamper one’s life:
- Low Self-Esteem: An acquaintance’s luxury holiday to the Maldives has the tendency to set some (including me) into a spiral, on a bad day. It starts off as a comparison of their seemingly perfect life against our own- becoming low self-esteem, in no time.
- Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): With social media and its popularity, we’re in the loop with what’s happening all around the world. This highlights everything that’s happening around us and makes us hyperaware of everything we are missing out on. Friends heading out and we’re not invited. Someone’s getting married and we weren’t on the guest list. This may even lead to higher social media consumption, just to catch up with everything we may have missed.
- Anxiety: Social media has a tendency to fuel anxiety in those who may feel like every action of their is constantly being judged by the entire world. There is a tendency to be unable to dissociate communication online from real-life, which may result in extreme social anxiety. One may feel like they’re suddenly easily replaceable, too, further pushing these feelings.
- Distraction: The world of social media has a way to distract us from what we actually have going on in our real world. This could be potentially problematic when it affects how we work and/or study.
- Addiction: Without a doubt, social media is addictive. Opening your favourite app is said to release the same dopamine signals associated with pleasure. Once that good feeling dies out, just the addiction remains.
- Sleep Disturbance: It’s so natural to reach out for your phone first thing in the morning and look at it while in bed, scrolling mindlessly through social media. The blue light from the screens that we consume social media on has the proven effect of blocking melatonin- the hormone that makes you sleepy.
- Possibility of Cyber Bullying: Living a life online through social media opens up the doorway to cyber bullying from people hiding behind keyboards. While some comments can be taken in one’s stride, other nasty things said may push people towards depression or even suicide.
- Body Image Issues: Social media has the tendency to send one’s own insecurities into hyperdrive, while in constant comparison with unrealistic, filtered standards. Eating disorders and body dysphoria have become increasingly prevalent in the social media age.
Red Flags: Signs that Social Media is Taking a Toll on your Mental Health
There is an urgent need to identify exactly when social media is beginning to get toxic for you, sending you into the mental health trenches. Here are a few red flags to keep an eye out for:
- Spending too much time on social media- especially when you’re surrounded by people whose company you usually enjoy
- Comparing yourself and your life to the ones you see online- to the extent that you get feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness
- Intense urge to share everything happening in your life- without giving yourself the opportunity to fully live the moment
- No time for health and self-reflection
- Inability to concentrate- affecting school or work
If you feel overwhelmed by any of the above feelings, it’s time to take a social media break.
How to Take a Social Media Break?
There are few things you need to do to effectively take a social media break.
- Set your boundaries– Clearly define what is alright and what is not over the course of your social media break. Are you going to refrain from using social media completely or will you restrict phone usage and be allowed to access your favourite apps once a day from your laptop? Will you be uninstalling the apps from your device or just turning off notifications? Will you be online on Facebook but off Instagram? Setting boundaries is key to the success of a social media break.
- Fix a timeline– Are you preparing for an examination and want to take a social media break to minimise distractions until it’s done? Do you want to just recharge yourself with a day long social media break? Decide the timeline that works for you- and stick to it. For me, I began with a week-long break. After the week was up, I realised that I didn’t feel the need to engage with social media as much anymore. This one week hiatus eventually became a few months long, just because I felt so much better about it.
- Keep yourself busy– During your social media break, you may feel like you suddenly have so much more time on hand. It is important to keep busy with other activities so you don’t feel the need to slip back into the ‘familiar, comforting arms’ of social media. Read a book, begin to write, paint, listen to a podcast, start a hobby- the options are endless.
Have you ever taken a social media break? How did it go?
Tell us in the comments below!