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How To Go on a Social Media Detox

Posted by Jamie on May 15, 2017

If you’re feeling the urge to step back from social networks or are just tired of being constantly weighed and measured by people you have never met, here are some of the many benefits of a social media detox. I will also show you some practical tricks to help achieve it.

There is an increasing movement towards unplugging and reducing the influence of social media and the internet in our lives. The average person spends 1 hour 40 minutes per day checking their social networks. That is likely more than we spend talking to our significant others or families.

The original intent of technology was to make our lives easier. Whether that is by solving problems, automation, productivity benefits or instant communication. Somewhere along the way that purpose has been suborned and now technology hinders as much as it helps. Social media is a prime example of this.

The downsides of social media

Designed to help us stay in contact with friends, share our lives and be more sociable, users are now more lonely and more unhappy than ever. Along with social proof came social comparison, the annoying habit of comparing ourselves to other people or other people comparing us to themselves or their own ideas. That’s fine if you come out on top but is not so good if you don’t.

I live in a city. I am around people all the time yet they don’t get in my personal space. Yet I can spend an hour on Facebook and several people will be in my face. Some of them I will know and be connected to. Some of them I won’t.

Looking to be cheered up by friends? Need to throw off that mood? Don’t go on social media. A recent study has shown that the more time you spend on social media, the unhappier you become. The University of Pittsburgh asked 1,787 American adults about their social media habits. They found that the more people used social media, the more unhappy they were.

The benefits of a social media detox and how to do it2

The benefits of a social media detox

Aside from depression, the feeling of inferiority, negative comparisons and having wasted almost two hours per day on nothing, what are the other benefits of a social media detox?

More free time

That time you spend on social media could be better spent doing other things. You could remain sociable by actually calling people on the phone. You could even go out into the real world and have a coffee with them. You could also be more productive by learning a new skill, getting fit, working more, working smarter or spending more time with the family.

Contentment

Our journey to contentment is almost as unending as our quest for enlightenment, but no less meaningful. The path towards contentment begins when you stop comparing yourself to others and seeking validation from outside. We all know we have a tendency to compare our lives or achievements to others and will usually come off worst. By removing as much of that as possible from our lives, we begin to value our lives for what they really are.

More privacy

Social networks are incredibly invasive. You only realize just how much they know and want to know about you when you begin closing down accounts. They want to know everything about you, your life, your friends, habits and more. They don’t exactly protect that data either and will often share it between networks. For example, did you know WhatsApp shares your data with Facebook?

Reconnection with the real world

It is all too easy to plug yourself into the internet and never go out except to work. Withdrawing from social media and looking out the window will show you the world outside. It’s a small thing but incredibly valuable. Even a short walk in the sunshine can improve how you feel.

Drop the narcissism

Social media is all about approval. People liking and sharing what we say and do, people agreeing with our opinion or perspectives and gratifying us. If you’re not usually narcissistic, you will depend less and less on you being the center of your world, to the benefit of you and everyone around you.

The benefits of a social media detox and how to do it3

How to successfully detox from social media

Beginning any new venture is the easy part. Maintaining momentum and seeing it through is where difficulty lies. Here are some sure-fire strategies to ensure your social media detox is successful. Use some or all of these tips to withdraw from social media and regain control over your own life.

Not all tips are going to work for everyone so build a strategy that will work for you. Good luck with it!

Know what you’re up against

Social media has been likened to an addiction. Scientists believe that the same dopamine receptors that are aroused by other addictions are also aroused by social networks. So a social media detox really is a detox.

The popular belief right now is that it takes around 100 days to break the dopamine dependency cycle. Therefore, you need to plan for at least that long in order to truly kick the habit. You should also not underestimate just how difficult it will be at times.

Tell people what you’re doing and why

Numerous studies have shown that people who share their goals are more likely to meet them. It is also useful to tell your real friends that you’re taking a sabbatical from social media so they don’t wonder why you disappeared.

Tell all those people you are ‘real’ friends with that you won’t be on social media for a while but they are more than welcome to text or call you and you would be happy to chat. Withdrawing from social media should not mean withdrawing from friendships.

Now people know about your desire to do a social media detox, you are more likely to success as you don’t want to look foolish.

Delete the apps and bookmarks

You need to start as you mean to go on. Remove social media apps from your phone, tablet, laptop, computer and wherever else you access them from. Remove their bookmarks from your browser and make sure there are no easy ways to access the networks.

You don’t yet have to delete your accounts, that comes later. By removing the apps, you have now made it difficult to access social media and it will now take a conscious effort to log on, which gives you the opportunity to exercise willpower.

Get a little help if you need it

If you find willpower fading or keep being tempted to log onto social media, use software tools to help. Browser extensions or web filters can help block social media access if you find it difficult. Web apps such as Self Control or Focus can help you remain productive without being tempted to check your social networks.

Replace social media with something

One of the most difficult things about addiction is the feeling of missing the activity you are withdrawing from. To help avoid this as much as possible, fill the same amount of time you spent on social media with something more enjoyable. For example, allow yourself two extra hours gaming, socializing, walking, running, cycling or whatever.

Replace the time with something more positive and you make it easier to cope. Rather than feeling as though you are missing out and nothing else, you may still feel as though you are missing out but the feeling of being able to do something positive instead will help take the edge off.

Track your progress

There is good reason why support groups give coins or medals to celebrate time. They help show us how far we have come and make it clear that you can do it. Marking time is about moving forward and celebrating achievements. Tracking progress on a calendar or other display shows you progress. It helps you focus on moving forward while also celebrating what you have achieved.

Reward yourself

Rewarding yourself for staying the course is a very effective way to overcome addiction. Break it down into manageable chunks. A small reward for a day, a slightly larger reward for a week, something nice for making a month and so on. Exactly what form that reward takes is entirely up to your likes and dislikes.

Overcome FOMO

One key aspect of social media detoxing is the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). This is a powerful psychological motivator that tricks us into valuing things that are really not that important purely because other people seem to be enjoying them. One way to overcome FOMO is to take stock of what is really important to you and whether many aspects of social media matter at all in the great scheme of life.

Chances are you will have asked yourself these questions already to reach this point so taking it further shouldn’t be an issue. If you find yourself suffering from FOMO, this article from Psychology Today has some useful coping mechanisms you can use.

Social media detox

I’m not going to pretend that a social media detox is going to be easy. I know from first-hand how difficult it can be at first to stop checking your phone every five minutes or refreshing your browser to see if you have any notifications. However, I am going to tell you that it is possible, that many people have done it and that it is almost universally regarded as a positive thing by those who have successfully detoxed. I count myself as one of them.

Nothing worthwhile is easy but sometimes that harder road really is the one worth taking.

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