Social media is as good for you as it is bad. Humans are social animals, so it’s natural for us to want to stay connected and provide / ask for emotional support. And social media allows us to do that in creative ways.
Whether you’re posting photos with your friends on Facebook, sharing ways to stay positive on Instagram or dancing to the latest song on TikTok, these are all great ways to connect with each other, especially when there’s lots of distance between us.
In 2020, social media really proved its worth as the world came together and connected over the exact same issue: Coronavirus. From reusable face mask designs to charity fundraisers for homelessness and food banks, social media gave the whole world a chance to connect and support each other.
But my experience of social media in 2020 ran in cycles. If I was feeling lonely, depressed or anxious (as everyone was while in a national lockdown), I found myself spending increasing amounts of time on TikTok in particular. This created feelings of dissatisfaction and isolation which eventually just worsened my mood. And I know I’m not the only one who experienced that!
Multiple studies have found a strong link between overuse of social media and feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts. Social media apps are actually designed to be as addictive as possible. When you get lots of ‘likes’ or ‘shares’, dopamine is released which is the reward hormone, also released when you eat chocolate, win when gambling or light a cigarette. And the more that you’re ‘rewarded’ for getting lots of likes, the more you’ll pin your self worth and happiness to the number of likes you get.
There’s also an element of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) to address. If, when your phone dings, you immediately pick it up because you’re worried you’ll be the last to hear some gossip or you’ll miss out on an event where others will be having more fun, then you have some serious FOMO! With the constant 24/7 stream of information, coming from news sources and friends, it’s almost impossible to have not felt this at some point.
Signs that social media are affecting your mental health and wellbeing include:
- Suffering from sleep problems
- Experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression
- Having no time for self-reflection because you’re engaging on social apps
- Feeling distracted because you need to post
- Engaging in risky behaviour purely to gain likes
This is not a definitive list, and signs that social media are negatively impacting you will change from person-to-person, so take the time to self-reflect and think of what you could possibly be missing out on because of your time on social media.
If you are experiencing any negative effects of social media, it’s probably time for you to detox! Below are some top tips on how to quit cold turkey, or simply reduce your use of TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Want to save this article for later? Pin these detox quotes!
How To Reduce Your Social Media Use To Stay Healthy
- Disable push notifications
- Redesign your lock screen and your app organisation
- Get someone else involved who can help motivate you
- Don’t bring your phone to bed
- Download an app which tracks the time you spend on your phone each day
- Remove some apps from your phone
- Do something creative, offline
- Plan a weekly detox-day
1. Disable push notifications
By disabling push notifications, you will regain control over your time and attention. Instead of your phone alerting you to the latest news, post or story, you’ll be able to check them on your terms.
I have turned off push notifications across all social media and news apps, but still have them on for my period and money management apps.
2. Redesign your home screen and your app organisation
By changing your phone set up and not putting social media at the forefront, you can reduce your use across the apps. These days, my phone screen simply consists of the weather, a Google search bar and WhatsApp! That way, when I access my phone, I’m not distracted by social media and forget what I was originally doing!
Instead of being on the home screen, all of my social media apps are safely stored in folders in the apps area. As someone who works in UX, I know that more clicks means that a user is less likely to use a piece of functionality. So to access Instagram or Twitter, I have to unlock my phone, open my apps, open the folder they are stored in and only then can I begin the endless scroll!
3. Get someone else involved who can help motivate you
If you’re struggling with the amount of time you’re spending on social media, chances are, you’re not the only one. Reach out to your friends and family to find out if someone else wants to do the detox with you.
You can check in on each other daily and chat about how you’re doing!
4. Don’t bring your phone to bed
It’s time to buy an alarm clock! Having your phone in bed does not help with a restful night of sleep, especially if you’re using it to fall asleep or right before you go to sleep.
In fact, you should consider putting your phone away at least an hour before you go to bed, as the blue light from the screen affects melatonin production which is a hormone which tells your body to get sleepy.
5. Download an app which tracks the time you spend on your phone each day
It’s time to start holding yourself accountable by finding out how much of the day you’re actually spending on your phone. Some tracking apps will even tell you how long you’re spending on specific apps and enable you to block them after a certain amount of time.
You’ll be shocked that you’re looking at your phone for 4+ hours each day – imagine what you could be doing instead!
6. Remove some apps from your phone
If you’re a true social media junkie, you might have lots of types of social apps on your phone. It might be that now is the time to choose: Facebook or Snapchat, Insta or TikTok? By simply reducing the number of social apps on your phone, you’re reducing the amount of head space they take up.
7. Do something creative, offline
It’s time to find a hobby! Whether it’s painting, sewing masks (it is 2021!) or taking up a musical instrument, keeping your hands and mind busy in a creative pursuit can be just as rewarding as social media use.
Getting started can be difficult, but you’ll gain lots of self-worth from it and you’ll actually have something interesting to talk about.
8. Plan a weekly detox-day
A weekly social media detox day, where you delete all your social apps and stay away from your phone is a great way to at least start a cold-turkey detox. I usually have a social media cleanse on a Sunday as it helps me clear my mind and feel ready for the week ahead.