Social media, smartphones and technology, in general, have a lot of benefits, but they’re also potentially affecting many of our lives in negative and very real ways.
There are the most obvious ways our smartphone and social media addiction can impact us. For example, phones are a common distraction for drivers and are estimated to lead to more than a million car crashes each year.
Then, there are perhaps the less visible but sometimes no less destructive effects of social media.
For example, social media has been shown to affect our stress levels and mood negatively.
We can become addicted to social media and compulsively check it even when we don’t want to or don’t realize we’re doing it.
Our dopamine system plays a role in our use of social media. Dopamine puts you in a reward-seeking state of mind that makes you think you want something. That then compels your behavior. In the case of social media, there are elements of anticipation and motivation that come with checking your accounts. Then, once you act on the compulsion, your brain releases endorphins, which create feelings of pleasure and reward.
Social media can affect communication, and when we’re looking at things that are negative on social media, it can cause us to feel negative. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people on social media, that can diminish your self-esteem.
Social media can affect our physical health too. For example, the more you use it, the more likely you are to develop sleep problems.
Just as you would with substance addiction and dependence, you may need to do a social media detox. It can be tough, particularly if you do meet the criteria for social media addiction. Once you make it past the detox, however, you may find that your physical and mental health improve, as well as your overall quality of life.
The following are tips to get started with a social media detox.
Write Down Why You Want to Do It
Anytime you write something down, it’s going to help you be more accountable.
- If you can define why you want to stop using social media or at least reduce your use, it will help you feel motivated along the way.
- Consider how it’s affecting your job, your relationships, and your happiness.
- Get specific as you outline why you want to detox.
- As you plan your detox, think about how long you’re ideally going to do it.
Typically it can take around 100 days for your dopamine levels to return to normal following any kind of detox, so you could use this as a guide. You might aim to quit using social medial completely for 100 days, or you could gradually reduce your usage over time with the eventual goal of not using it anymore.
Find a Replacement
As you prepare yourself to do a social media detox come up with an activity or a few activities you’ll do instead when you feel the urge the check your accounts.
For example, you might get adult coloring books, read a book, take a walk, or practice meditation.
Anytime you feel an urge or a craving for social media, you’ll have those activities to turn to instead.
Have Someone Hold You Accountable
Whether it’s a friend, family member, or partner, if you have someone you’ve told about your plan to detox, they can help you stay accountable. Every time they see you accessing social media, that person can remind you of your commitment to yourself.
Maybe there’s even someone who also wants to do a detox with you at the same time.
Turn Off Notifications
If you’re doing a detox, you have a few specific options. If you’re going to leave your accounts active and the apps on your phone, you should, at a minimum turn off your notifications.
This may work if you’re not completely going cold turkey on social media, but instead are just planning to limit your time and be more mindful about your use of the platforms.
Get Rid of the Apps Altogether
Another option for a social media detox is to go cold turkey.
You can deactivate your accounts, which will help you if you’re feeling an urge to check them.
You could also keep your accounts active if you want to return eventually, but uninstall the apps from your devices.
Another option is to block your access to social media using a web filtering tool.
Journal Your Experience
If you want to remain motivated even when it feels challenging, journal your detox experience. Write down your mindset and how avoiding social media is leading to improvements in your life.
You can also focus on the challenges you’re facing, but over time you can use your journal to see your progress.
Other Detox Tips
Whether you’re doing a hard and fast social media detox, or gradually working to reduce your reliance, the following are some other general tips that may be useful:
- Don’t use your smartphone as a crutch. For example, if you’re waiting in line, rather than immediately pulling your smartphone out, be mindful and present at the moment.
- Be aware of your addictive patterns, like checking your phone first thing in the morning.
- Leave your phone behind when you head out for the day.
- Use a traditional alarm clock instead of your phone.
- Put a rubber band around your phone if you’re struggling, and then each time you pick it up to use it, there’s a physical cue to remind you to put it back down.
- Set time limits on the apps you use most often on your phone.
Social media isn’t inherently bad, but our use of it can be. By taking steps to eliminate your addiction, you can build a more fulfilling and happier life. Technology is great, but only when used with control and not as a replacement for other parts of our lives, such as social interaction.
Interesting related article: “What is Addiction?“