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For some people, social media is a lifeline. They're on it constantly and post several aspects of their day. For others, social media can feel like a chore. Your friends are frequently posting and asking if you've seen their stories or latest post. Staying caught up can feel exhausting. If you're desperate for a break, a social media cleanse may be for you!
People these days often feel the need to project the perfect life social media. If you go on vacation and don’t share pictures, are you even on vacation? If you don’t take a photo of that food before you eat, was it even delicious?
To be clear, social media isn’t all bad. It lets you reconnect with people you were actual friends with in school but lost touch with as the years passed. You can stay up to date with coworkers, meet new people, and find exciting interests. However, some people feel it's a constant stream of competition or just way too much information.
From a constant barrage of food porn, to receiving unsolicited pictures to arguing with trolls, social media can be an unhealthy level of stress. If you find yourself spending hours arguing with strangers in the comment sections or if social media is taking over your life, it might be time for a social media cleanse.
What is a Social Media Cleanse?
The name is pretty self-explanatory – a social media cleanse is not using any social media platforms for a certain amount of time. It can be for a short as 24-hour break or a break that lasts for the rest of your life (or until that particular social media platform is obsolete. MySpace, anyone?) You can deactivate your accounts completely, delete the apps from your phone or use your own willpower to keep yourself from using the platforms.
The various social media platforms are a great way to stay connected to friends and family, but new types of platforms pop up and fizzle out so quickly, it can also be overwhelming to keep track of them all, let alone have active accounts.
Here are 5 benefits to a social media cleanse:
1. Better Sleep
Looking at a computer or phone screen before bed can increase insomnia thanks to the blue light that emits from electronic devices, including TVs. Scrolling through social media keeps your brain active when it should be preparing for sleep.
Sleeping with your phone next to you for easy access, as the majority of us are guilty of, can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Unfortunately, that means reaching for your phone when you can’t sleep, which only prolongs the insomnia.
Taking a break from social media can do wonders for your sleep habits.
2. Improve Your Mental Health
Social media is meant to be a fun time – looking at funny cat memes or your friend's vacay in Bali. But if you spend too much time on social media, it can start to be stressful and deteriorate your mental health, especially if you already suffer from types of anxiety.
Part of the toll on mental health can come from constantly comparing your life to the perfect lives you see on social media. The rise of “influencers” have some people chasing the attainable. Most people only want the world to see the good things in their lives and rarely post anything negative. That can cause jealousy or even feelings of worthlessness.
Social media invented the selfie and then the mirror selfie. It is a place where people go for validation and compliments. There are so many filters to alter your appearance and allow you to look beyond perfect. A disturbing trend in plastic surgery has seen patients bringing in altered selfies. These pic are severely edited and people want to go under the knife, thinking they can look like that in real life. This type of body dysmorphia is causing us to lose touch with reality. The hottest influencers around often don't admit to using filters or Photoshop; they preach their stunning physic is achievable through hard work. This is simply not true and the impossible to obtain standard is having serious negative effects on mental health, especially on teens and young adults.
Followers on social media often share immediate praise and that can create a type of addiction where you feel empty without that daily validation. So, one day no one likes your mirror selfie — or even worse, Facebook was down all day and you couldn’t post it — your self-esteem takes a huge hit that can lead to depression and anxiety.
Facebook was down for an entire day last week and there were millions of users going through a withdrawal of sorts.
3. Reduce Eyestrain
Everyone knows that prolonged exposure to computer screens (or phone) is bad for your eyes. Eye strain is a serious side effect that can lead to migraines, poor eyesight, insomnia and other problems.
Many people use computers for their eight-hour a day jobs, then come home and spend the rest of the night on social media. If you start having headaches after using your computer or phone, it might be time for a social media break. Also, check if your computer or phone has a blue light filter option; this can lessen the strain on your eyes.
4. Better Socialization Skills
Despite the word “social” being in their monikers, social media platforms encourage isolation to the point where many people don’t know how to socialize. The invention of text messages negates the need for personal phone calls. Socializing on social media is impersonal and dry – there’s no way to tell tone of voice or differentiate between serious and sarcasm.
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with family that reside out of state, but if you’re messaging your boyfriend on social media while you’re sitting on the same couch, you might have a problem socializing.
5. Improved Posture
Constantly having your head down while using social media applications on your phone is hard on your neck and spine. It can result in headaches, severe neck pain and poor posture.
Taking a break from social media can reduce all of those problems and give your posture a boost.
Why Would You Want to Take a Break?
Social media can cause loneliness and depression. Taking a break from social media allows you to restore your mental health and repair any relationships that were negatively affected by your social media use.
It is estimated that many people spend between 1 to 3 hours on social media every day. That’s over 1,000 hours annually that people have their noses in their phones instead of spending time face-to-face with their friends and family. At the end of your life, you’re not going to wish you’d spent MORE time on social media.
The access to 24-hour news cycles are a blessing and a curse of social media. Yes, you want to stay informed, but instead you’re bombarded with sad news stories or scammers. You can’t believe everything you read on the internet, but that can make you overly cynical and disconnected.
You know what else comes with every one of those news stories?
People who post outrageous things in the comment sections to get a rise out of people, or worse – they’re actually racists and/or misogynists. Trolls thrive on the anonymity of social media. They might have to give names to start an account, but there are no rules that they have to be their real names. With society developing a no tolerance policy on bullying, the bullies have moved online.
All of these examples can cause stress, anxiety and even depression. Even people who post relentlessly positive messages on social media can cause you to feel bad about yourself.
How To Stay Off Social Media
We’ve covered the “why’s,” but what about the how? Social media can be a hard habit to break. The first step in taking a social media cleanse is deciding on how long it will be and then sticking with it.
Here are some tips on how to stay off social media during your cleanse:
If you’re not ready for a full commitment break, you can take short breaks. Simply give yourself a time limit to browse your social media platforms and then turn the device off when the time is up.
This method is a slippery slope, but if you can do it, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to face the trolls.
Read Newspapers for News
One of the biggest draws to social media is the perceived need to know what's happening in the world at all times.
If you really want to keep up with current events while on your social media cleanse, buy the newspaper. Or, check your favorite news source once a day and limit yourself to not obsessively checking.
Mute Your Notifications
When you download a new app on your phone, you have to toggle the notifications – the visual and aural ways your phone (or the computer notifications) lets you know you have a message, an email, a new ‘like’ on your post, etc. You can turn them all off at once by putting your phone in airplane mode, although this won't let any calls or texts through.
You can set your notifications to have only certain types of notifications appear or none at all. If you’re on a social media cleanse, you should turn off your notifications for all social media platforms.
Delete Apps From Phone
If you want to take a hard stance on your social media cleanse, you can get rid of the platforms completely by deleting the applications from your phone or removing the website addresses from your computer browser’s bookmarks.
When your social media cleanse is complete, you can reinstall the apps.
Don’t Feed the Trolls
If your social media cleanse is about to end, there is one big thing you can do to avoid needing another one. That is – don’t feed the trolls. That’s internet speak for do not engage in arguments or debates with someone who is clearly trying to upset you.
No Phone, No Problem
A great way to break your social media habit is by leaving your phone at home or in your car unless you are expecting an important call. That seems like a crazy idea in these super-connected times, but we all managed for hundreds of years without cellphones in our back pockets.
If leaving your phone behind is impossible, you can make a rule that no one at the dinner table can check their phone or setting up “phone-free” times. Make it interesting; if you're out to eat, first one to check gets the check!
Live Your Best Life
The best way to stay off social media is by staying busy in real life. Seek out new hobbies or spend time on ones you've been wanting to do. We have more tips below on how to live your best life off social media.
How to Enjoy Life Without Social Media
You can enjoy your life without social media by living your life. Here’s a FAQ to get you started:
How Will I Keep In Touch with Family and Friends?
In the words of the esteemed Reba McEntire, “Back in 1876 an ol’ boy named Bell invented a contraption that we know so well. By the 1950’s they were in everybody’s home. There’s a crazy little thing they call the telephone.”
And you can always email. That’s technically not a social media platform.
How Will I Keep Up with Current Events?
Newspapers. Word of Mouth. The radio. You won’t miss anything, but if you do, it must not have been that important.
What am I Supposed to Do When I’m Eating?
Many people use their phones to scroll through social media while they eat or to take photos of their food before (and after) they’ve eaten it.
You could just enjoy the food with all of your senses. Talk to people, read a book or catch up on your favorite shows if you're dying for some screen time.
What Will I Do with Myself?
Glad you asked. Here is a list of things to do when you’re not on social media.
What Can You Do Instead of Social Media?
- Get in shape
- Be social
- Pick up an old hobby
- Travel (You don't have to go far; check out free, local sights you may not have seen before!)
One last important tip – Don't feel pressured to get sucked back in! Don't even feel pressured to take a break, if that's not your thing. Only pursue social media if you're legitimately interested. Take a break when you need one and enjoy using it when you like.