Social media detoxes have become a bit of a trend in recent years, especially as we’re diving deeper into understanding how it can impact our mental wellbeing. Ok, maybe “trend” isn’t the right word, it’s not something we’re all jumping at the opportunity of doing, is it? Social media really has a completely different place in our lives compared to ten, even five years ago! So should we be taking more breaks from our social feeds? Or cutting it out altogether? Alongside the increased use of social media comes more jobs that involve using these platforms… So how can we take breaks if it’s part of our career?
Cara, our Social and Media Manager here at Beingwell shares her top tips on how to get the right balance.
We’re part of a culture now that pretty much revolves around our devices and their apps. From posting our holiday photos on Facebook, participating in TikTok trends and updating our Instagram stories with aesthetic Prosecco brunches and avocado toasts, there’s very few parts of modern life where we couldn’t open up or post on social media. Doesn’t sound the most healthy, does it? As much as it has its advantages - connecting with others from all over the globe, chatting with friends and family, activism, helping small businesses, and much much more, we all know it has its downsides.
Social media also promotes many negative feelings and experiences, like feeling inadequate, isolation, anxiety, depression, cyberbullying and trolling, amongst others.
Should we get rid of our social media altogether?
Hold up, let’s not flush our devices down the loo just yet. We don’t need to completely jump to the other end of the scale. Social media is great for so many things. We can learn a lot by using social media, and there are many ways to use it for good - ways that can actually help our wellbeing.
Like what? I hear you asking…
First things first, we control what we see on social media. So if following that fitness account is making you feel negatively towards your reflection or obsessing over calories, maybe it’s time to click the unfollow button. It’s there for a reason! Everything we do and see on social media is down to us. We can start to change how it impacts our mental health by choosing what content we dedicate our time and attention to. Following pages and accounts that inspire us, uplift us and just make us feel good, is bound to change how we feel when we open up our phones and start to scroll.
It can teach us a lot about things we might not usually have access to. We can educate ourselves on different cultures, ways of life, current affairs, and other important things happening in the world. Again, if we choose to see content that means something to us or aligns with our passions, it’s likely going to positively impact our wellbeing as oppose to making us feel down about ourselves.
What about if we work in social media?
Ok, I can definitely take this one. As the Social and Media Manager here at Beingwell and a ‘Zoomer’ (member of Gen Z, and who had no idea that there was such a great name for it!), I understand first-hand how social media can impact our mental health. I deleted a number of my social media accounts because I felt like I wasn’t using social platforms in a way that benefitted me, and I was getting enough of the content I enjoyed from work accounts. I learn a lot about wellbeing, connect with accounts I like and only look at content that inspires me, or at least doesn’t leave me feeling inadequate.
That being said, I don’t particularly encourage anyone to take this leap, only if it feels right for you. I did this gradually over time after realising I wasn’t using social media in a way that was right for me, and this choice I considered over a long period of time before really putting myself first. I considered my own values and what was important to me, and I encourage you to do the same before coming to any elaborate decisions. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t stop myself from using social media if I wanted to one day, it’s all about making choices that work for me and considering my wellbeing, and specifically my mental health, before anything else.
Remember, using social media isn’t all bad - but we should definitely learn how to take breaks regularly… we might even need to learn what taking a break from social media looks like! So let’s talk about that.
Taking breaks from our social media doesn’t necessarily mean switching off our devices or living without wifi. Come on, it is the 21st century after all! It might look like…
Limiting our screen time. There’s options on many devices (the iPhone for sure) that allows us to set time limits on each of our apps. For example, we could stick to an hour a day for our social media apps to avoid scrolling into the night, or getting distracted whilst working from home.
Scrolling mindfully. Ask if you’re in a good headspace to scroll right now. If you’re ok with being on social media, be mindful about how the content you’re seeing makes you feel. Happy? Inspired? Negative? Anxious? Take note of how your body and mind is feeling and consider unfollowing any pages or accounts that cause you to experience any challenging feelings.
Find a replacement. If you’re really trying to separate yourself from your social media, think about replacing the act of picking up your device with something that serves you better. Maybe it’s stepping outside for some fresh air, a warm bubble bath, watching your favourite TV show, making your favourite hot beverage, cooking a meal with the kids or playing with your pet. Associating the feelings that make us want to scroll with something that makes us feel more positive will help us to consider what is good for us and practice more acts of self care.
Be curious. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through your social feeds, stop and ask yourself some questions. Why am I scrolling right now? What was the reason I picked up my device? Is how I’m feeling right now anything to do with why I’m scrolling? Maybe if you were just bored, think about finding that replacement! Being curious can help us reconsider and make decisions that serve us in the moment.
Final thoughts: Taking a break isn’t something we should do once we reach a point of burnout - whether that’s mental, physical or emotional. Breaks are necessary for keeping our wellbeing intact in all areas of our lives, and it applies to our devices and social feeds. They interfere with a huge amount of our everyday lives, so it’s important to come away and consider not only how much we’re using them, but what we’re using them for. This doesn’t mean we need to completely delete all of our profiles, or go old school and get rid of our phones, it’s more about being mindful about our usage and prioritising our wellbeing too.