Social Media Detox - without the smugness
The negative impact of social media (and addiction to our devices) is well documented, with detrimental effects to the emotional, decision making and attention centres of the brain being some of the main concerns. Couple that with the negative effects that social media itself can have in terms of self-esteem, comparing yourself to others and social expectations and it’s no wonder that ‘Digital Deto'x’ has become a term we hear on pretty much a weekly (if not daily) basis. And to be honest, it’s a damn good idea. There really isn’t anything for me to say about it that hasn’t been said better - particularly by the incredible Matt D’Avela and my friend Jason Zook, in this video.
However, the most important part of the ‘Digital Detox’ process is the part that is often least talked about - choosing whether to reintroduce social media into your life. And if you DO re-introduce it, how do you ensure that you maintain a balance? You see for me the all-or-nothing mindset - ESPECIALLY about technology in our lives, is a bit of a problem. Articles about how ‘no one looks up’ and ‘phones are killing our kids’ brains’ make me want to slap someone. It doesn’t mean they don’t have truth to them mind you - but I genuinely don’t believe hyperbole and click-baiting is gonna help. Technology is 100% an integral part of our lives now. And blaming the woes of the world on it is a futile and misguided approach. Technology (and even social media) has created the most incredibly good things for so many people. It has brought people together across continents, helped people suffering in silence find a voice and many other great achievements. Oh and those kinds everyone moans about who are always attached to their phones? Many of them are far more socially aware, politically engaged and entrepreneurial because of it.
Technology (and social media) is a tool, and like all tools, can be used to hurt as much as to help. It is the awareness and intention of those wielding the tool, that makes a difference.
There is a way to manage your use of social media (and your devices) without it feeling like a major life event and causing you stress because it suddenly feels like something you have to be ashamed of! It is possible to make healthy changes without going from 100 to 1 in one step. Here are few ways that you can start to become more mindful and intentional with your social media usage - and limit it’s detrimental effects:
Just turn them off for a little while, when you need to focus. That’s it. You don’t have to go cold turkey. Say… maybe when you’ve got deep work to do that requires your attention, or for a certain few hours that you know would be better spent focusing on work, or your friends/loved ones. I suggest pausing notifications on your computer and on your mobile device - turn notifications of all kinds off for the next hour or two. By setting yourself a time limit, it helps you feel in controol of the process, and you do’t feel deprived - which means instead of wondering what you’re missing out on, you can focus on the task at hand, knowing you’ll be able to check in a little while. My phone settings allow me to disable all notifications when I turn the phone face down, or with two swipes of my finger. I don’t even have to make an effort.
Use technology against itself <insert maniacal laugh here>. Set a reminder on your phone to ask you once or twice a day whether you are enjoying social media that day. Take a second and really consider - Is it inspiring you today? Entertaining you? Or is it all just annoying and frustrating and depressing you because it sounds like the entire world is a disaster and evil is triumphing over good AND WE SHOULD TAKE OFF AND JUST NUKE IT ALL FROM MARS… (cough…just me then?) Anyway, IF that’s how you feel, then take that as a cue to close the apps and step away from social media for the day. Just for that day. Tomorrow is a new day, with new feelings. If you really want to, you can try again tomorrow. But why allow it get you down today?
3. Know the numbers
Most devices now allow you to check how much time you’ve spent on various apps during that past 24hours. Be brave and check your numbers. If you look at the amount of time you spend on social media and it shocks you - that’s a sign that you could do with cutting it down. You don’t have to stop forever, but maybe just try cut down by 1 hour a day (depending on your actual usage). Feeling in control is the best way to remove anxiety from any process. A good way to make this easier is to choose how you would rather spend that time. You could treat yourself to a nice bath, a cup of tea (I am British after all) or spend the time playing with your pets. Or kids. But preferably pets…they’re less demanding.
4. Be intentional about when to stop
I personally find so much inspiration on apps like Instagram, but a while ago I realised that I would sometimes scroll through my feed, look at the new posts, and then just start again…often scrolling past the same posts a couple of times. THAT was a red flag for me. That way of engaging with a platform genuinely brings NOTHING of benefit, and isn’t even entertaining. On a purely practical note, if you find yourself doing the same thing, and you spot the same posts again - use that as a signal to stop for a while. Again a good way to do it is to set a time limit. Put the divce down for 30 minutes. Besides, that way you’ll have more exciting new posts to look at next time you check the app, right?
5. Get emotional….ly aware
Try and be aware of what social media does to you on an emotional level. This is another thing you can do with a check in, but it’s something to just think about as you scroll or read posts. Does it make you laugh and smile? Do you feel motivated and uplifted? Or does it make you feel like you’re not good enough? Like you’re not achieved nearly as much as everyone else?
Does it make you happy, or does it make you feel despondent? Seriously, and honestly just take 10 seconds to think about how it makes you feel. what emotions it triggers in you - and whether that’s how you want to feel. For me personally, social media can really trigger my depression and anxiety, and so I HAVE to be aware of it because I want to be in control of how I feel - not at the whim of IG or FB posts.
6. Choose your poison
Unfollow people/accounts that make you feel crap. That’s it - it really is that simple. I think there are some accounts on social media that everyone should follow - things that are beautiful…things that expand the mind…and things that are just really lovely to look at. But if you are following accounts or people that wind you up or make you feel bad - UNFRIKKINFOLLOW. You would not keep eating something that made you sick or left you in pain. So why do that to your mental well being. And guess what - you can try unfollowing for a couple of weeks and see if you feel better for it. If you really find you want to re-follow them…then great, you do that WITH the knowledge that it’s not good for you. But at least you are making a definite choice (and can’t blame anyone else after that mwahahahahaha!). But seriously, take control.
Oh - and the same goes for choosing which social media platforms to use. You really don’t have to be on them all, so experiemtn with choosing the one that makes you feel the best, and just try that for a few days. Personally I really just do not enjoy Facebook. I find it swamped with negativity and find myself just getting depressed and angry when I peruse it (and gods forbid I should read the comments!) So I don’t use it much, and instead if I am going to browse social media, I choose Instagram - because…well… basically because I like pretty things and it’s got lots of beautiful pictures. :D.
So that’s my ten-cents worth on controlling your social media usage without feeling like someone has cut off your arm. I mean, lets be honest, if that’s how it feels you probably SHOULD consider some more drastic action - but I really feel that it’s better to make small steps forward than not move forward at all because it seems to extreme or too difficult.
So maybe try some of these…your brain will love you for it.
You got this.
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THE KINTSUGI JOURNAL
Kintsugi: The Japanese art of repairing what is broken or damaged with pure gold resin. A philosophical approach that teaches us to treat our flaws and experience as precious parts of us which make us more beautiful and unique, rather than striving for some perceived perfection.
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