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Is it Time For a Social Media Detox?


Social media has become an integral part of life. From the moment we wake up until the time we go to bed, there are countless social media outlets endlessly updating us. It is where we get our news and receive advertisements, and how we learn about the newest music and movies, and even keep in touch with the ones we love. Apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, and on and on are constantly enticing us. And when we aren’t viewing them, they can still demand our attention sending alerts, and serotonin-boosting “likes” to our phones.


All of this access to social media raises some important questions. Does spending so much time looking at a screen and scrolling affect our health? Can our time be better spent throughout the day? What are the short-term and long-term effects of this phenomenon that is social media addiction? Read more to see if you could benefit from a “social media detox."


How much time is being spent on social media?

The average time spent on social media in 2020 is 2 hours and 24 minutes per day. Most of this time is being spent on Facebook at around 50%. The time people spend on social media has been growing since 2012 and does not appear to be slowing down. There are many reasons why these numbers are so large. Smartphones and social media have become ubiquitous, we have an unlimited and instant source of information, entertainment and connection.


How is social media affecting our health?

Social media use and the physical act of looking at a screen for extended amounts of time have been linked to obesity, irregular sleep, behavioral problems and impaired social skills. Additionally, using computers or phones during meal times can lead to mindless eating, causing us to miss hunger and satiety cues and possibly gain weight. Another physical issue caused by too much time looking at a screen is eye strain. Digital eye strain can result in dry and tired eyes, and this can be reduced by taking frequent breaks and reducing screen glare.


It has been noted that it may be the way one uses social media, rather than for how long, that causes a negative impact on mental health. Anyone can post anything on the internet, and it is not always positive. Some may use social media when feeling lonely, anxious, angry, or in an awkward social situation as ways of disconnecting. This can form an unhealthy cycle that may impact mental health. It may be beneficial to take a so-called “social media detox” and step away for a certain amount of time.


What is a social media detox?

A social media detox is a new idea where users will consciously delete their apps from their phone or computer for a certain period of time in order to give themselves a break. This can free up time to work on one's own self-care routines, reflect on how and why we are using social media, and as a reset for our attention span. 64% of "Gen ZERS" (those born between 1995 and 2015) had taken a break from one or more social networks, stepping back because they felt they wasted too much time using it, as well as negativity in the content, privacy concerns and commercialization of the content they were seeing. If you choose to take part in a social media detox, it may help reduce the compulsive nature of checking your apps and reduce unnecessary digital clutter from your life.


Bottom line: as with all things in life, finding a balance is key. Especially in the current state of a pandemic where face-to-face interactions are limited. Using apps to video chat with friends, family and work may be the safest way to have that much-needed socialization. There is little research about the long-term consequences of social media because it is so new, but it appears that using it with intent and mindfulness can help to reduce the negative effects on mood and behavior. A message to end with is that social media can not replace real-life human connections and interactions. Taking a break and using social media with purpose can give you back control of your phone and digital habits.


Learn more about ways to reduce stress and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.


Written by: Steve Oram, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


Sources:

  1. Minnesota Department of Health

  2. UAB Medicine

  3. Help Guide


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