We cannot deny that social media plays a huge role in our lives more so during this pandemic. In the absence of face-to-face interaction, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter provide safe and convenient ways for us to connect with family, friends and even work colleagues. Social media updates us on the events in each other’s lives without having to initiate contact and ask “How are you?” Such information is freely shared and available through a mere tap of a finger.
But too much of a good thing may lead to problems. Though virtual interaction may be beneficial to our mental health during the pandemic, mindless scrolling of social media feeds can lead to sadness, loneliness and even exhaustion. Because mobility and activities are currently limited, such emotions may push us to simply pick up the smartphone and indulge in another round of scrolling. To better care for our mental health, we need to break this cycle.
What is social media detoxification?
According to Itin Lachica-Umali, a Psychology professor at the Colegio De San Lorenzo, social media detox is a component of digital media detox. This involves refraining from or minimizing the use of television, and other “technology vices” in favor of face-to-face connection.
Though social media is convenient, the constant distraction it offers may keep us from processing our own experiences. Because the pandemic is unforeseen, Psychologist Roselle Teodosio, owner of IntegraVita Wellness Center, believes that we must be allowed to grieve. “There is an added pressure, most especially from social media, to make the most out of the situation, kind of like making lemonade out of lemons. This can make people more frustrated with themselves, when they can’t seem to find their own “niche.” Also, people are afraid to show their fear, lest they be labeled as negative or a pessimist. But it is actually okay to feel not okay, to admit that one feels fear, that one is afraid, that one cannot function well since there is really an uncertainty during this time. It is also very natural to grieve. Grief would mean an end to something, not just death of a person. It is an end to a friendship, an end to a relationship, an end to a dream and most of all, an end to a lifestyle, a life one had known.”
Umali agrees that social media may push you to compare yourself with others. “This is the root of unhappiness,” she says. “We need to detoxify from social media so we can pause and process things in our own time.”
When do you need a social media detox?
If you experience any of the of the following, you may need to take a break from your computer or phone:
- Spending most of your waking hours on the internet. Experts recommend a maximum of 30 minutes spent on social media daily. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, this can lead to better health outcomes.
- Not being able to connect face-to-face. The internet should enhance our lives, and not take the place of our reality. If you text or chat in the virtual realm more often than communicating with the family members you live with, then it’s time to disconnect for a while. Real-life interaction boosts your social skills and mental health.
- Not being able to function without social media. Umali shares, “When the person acts as if the phone is an extension of his hands, and he brings it wherever he goes—that is already too much of usage. We are all at risk for social media addiction. Social media should bring out the better versions of ourselves, not our lesser versions.”
Here are some steps for social media detox:
- Have a detox buddy.
- Delete social media apps on your phone.
- Plan new morning and bedtime routines that do not involve your phone.
- Use technology only for reasons other than scrolling through social media.
- Spend more time observing the world around you.
- Converse more with the people in your household.
When you do a social media detox, you may observe these benefits:
- Self-esteem improvement. With more time in your hands, you will be able to process your emotions and experiences more effectively. As a result, you can better gauge the steps you need to take to improve your life. “There’s clarity because you got rid of the stimuli. You are able to think properly, and instead of being just reactionary, you can be proactive,” says Umali.
- Reduced anxiety. “Because of the many things you hear in social media, especially about the pandemic, you tend to get more anxious,” warns Umali. “Should you get vaccinated or not? Even the video of the ladies who took all the eggs from the community pantry became viral, and were bashed. This produced anxiety on their part, so we also need to control our actions so they won’t affect the mental health of others.”
- Increased interaction with the people around you. Though real-life interaction with people outside our household is not recommended during this time, Umali advises to communicate regularly with those around you. “Face-to-face interaction is still better than virtual interaction.”
- Being grateful for what you have. Disconnecting from social media keeps you from comparing yourself with others. It also abates the fear of missing out. Appreciate your blessings and cultivate a positive mindset.
According to Umali, the responsible use of social media begins with thinking before clicking. Carefully think about your comment before posting it. Will it harm other people? What does it say about you as a person? Whatever you put on social media reflects your values and beliefs. Be a responsible user—and this includes limiting your time on social media in order to be healthier.