I was about to start writing this blog, but then I got writer’s block. So, I went on Instagram for a few minutes, came back, then my phone ‘dinged’, so I checked it, decided to reply later, and I went back to writing. But before I wrote this sentence, I made the decision to reply to the message right away. Now, I’m back here for the third time, ironically writing about social media detoxes and the toxic relationship most of us have with our phones.
Hi, I’m Kate, and I’m a social-media-a-holic. I take regular social media detoxes. They’re crucial for anyone living in 2020.
You’d never think I’d be the type of person to be joined at the hip to a cellular device. Until this blog, I actually never admitted it out loud. Heck, I wear overalls, I tinker in the garden most days, I’m fairly ‘in touch’ with nature, and I deleted Snapchat a year ago. But that all means nothing. I check Instagram at least 10 times a day, I scroll, I reply to messages often instantly, and I’m currently restraining myself from checking Instagram for the fourth time since I began writing. I’m sure you too have interrupted reading this blog for some sort of social media activity. Be honest.
How the heck did we get here, friends?
A decade ago, it was a privilege to have a cell phone, let alone set up a social media account. I remember when my high school friend got one before me and I thought they were the bees knees. Around the age of 13, my mum and dad gave me a flip phone to contact them. My mind was blown with the level of ‘coolness’ that came with this rad flipping device. From then on, I’ve carried a phone with me wherever I go. That’s 10 years of consistently carrying a tiny computer with me. No wonder I’m addicted.
But WHY are we addicted?
Chances are, you’ve experienced FOMO before. FOMO is the driver of social media. The very definition of social media is a network of websites and applications that allow people to share, communicate, and connect instantly and efficiently. The fear-of-missing-out on this rapid real-time communication means we’re reactive to every notification and have a deep need to see every post that our cousin’s friend’s dog’s mum has posted online. To top it off, we love comparison. We love stories. We love judging. We are human and we thrive off this extra source of community; regardless of if it’s all an online facade.
It’s also not just the pretty filtered pictures and inspiring quotes from celebs that glue our thumbs to our screens and make us loopy when we lose our phones for a mill-second. According to a Harvard University study you’ve probably already heard about, dopamine is released along a reward pathway when you receive a social media notification. This drug is the same one we link to sex, drugs, exercise, food, and gambling. In a nutshell, dopamine is the chemical in our brain that rewards us for positive behaviours, and encourages us to repeat them. That’s why 100 likes on a photo feels better than 50, and a post that gets no likes will make you feel depressed: no dopamine for you.
Although social media has incredible benefits, it’s clear that the imbalance of time we spend online and off, and the constant affirmation we seek, is a major societal problem. We’re forgetting that a real-life network exists too, and missing out on all the other important chemical releases in our brains that come from things like human interaction, eye contact, and touch.
What do we do about this socially accepted and global addiction? We detox.
I’ve been on three deliberate social media detoxes in the past year, and I intend to go on many more. Even though it embarrasses me to openly admit I need a structured detox time to get offline, I cannot recommend social media detoxes enough.
Here’s how to detox from social media:
Schedule a time to turn off your phone completely, delete social media applications, or turn off all notifications. This may be for 24 hours, or a month. Whatever time period you choose, this is what you MAY benefit from:
- more time outdoors in nature
- dopamine released from reality
- less depression
- less comparison and competition
- better sleep
- prioritisation of friends who are close by
- reduced anxiety
- more motivation to exercise
- extra free time
- creativity that comes from being bored
Once you’ve completed your social media detox, don’t hop back online the same way you did before. The purpose of a detox is to refresh your relationship with social media, and hopefully reduce your need for a detox in the future.
Hi, I’m Kate, and I’m a social-media-a-holic who’s choosing to use it responsibly, taking regular and long breaks, and learning to live in reality while utilising social media for good
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Cover image by Vlada Karpovich.