“Don’t forget to like. Subscribe. Share. Hit – no! – smash that bell icon. Of course, follow me on all of my social media accounts so I can tell you how my life is better than yours.” These days, no one wants you – your physical company. People are aiming towards your attention and your credit card.
If you are here reading, you probably acknowledge the huge amount of time you spend each day inside the soul-sucking algorithmic online playground that now represents a large part of our overall existence.
And though you realize your dependence on social media, you still can’t quit.
I get it.
Letting go of something that consumes a good part of your life is a tough nut to crack.
In this post. I’m combining my personal experience with scientific research and adding a flavor of fictional characters from a famous book to help you break from your social media addiction.
Carve out “me time” and find something worthy to do. An activity, that will help you reconnect with the curious, adventurous, creative, and brave side of your identity. A task that will serve as a source of sanity and an escape from the fractured anxiety caused by mindless scrolling.
And before you say it, let me interrupt you… I know!
There are quite a few articles explaining the benefits of staying off social media or such that talk about digital detox.
I’m, personally, contributing to this topic for plenty of reasons – the ones just mentioned: help you regain your sanity, find more time, stop obsessing over others. But most of all, because, I believe that these days you should focus more on doing, not on consuming.
Apart from what everyone else is sharing, though. I believe that most publications miss an important point.
Yes, quitting social media or doing a social media detox will calm your senses and increase your well-being. Plus, you keep your personal data for a little longer. But there is something else. Something I don’t see others acknowledging.
The main benefit of taking a break from social media is that you stop living in a fictional world and finally start dealing with your own reality.
With the recent rebranding of the main player in the field – Facebook rebranding to Meta.1 I think that in the future, visiting social media will look more and more like the world described by Ernest Cline in his masterpiece Ready Player One.2
A futuristic dystopia. A place where the real world sucks. Where people consider talking to someone a chore. Connection, closeness, ambition are replaced by detachment and dogmatic slumber. Society is satisfied with shallow thoughts and the pursuit of artificially created stimuli in an imaginary world.
If you still think that life is impossible without impulsive scrolling. That social connection only happens through a plastic screen – soon a VR set. Hopefully, in this post, I’ll convince you otherwise…
That social media is to be avoided and that it’s about time to consider doing something other than doomscrolling.
Is Disconnecting From Social Media Healthy?
We need to get this out of the way, first.
Before you realize that living inside your phone is not healthy. You need to hear about the initial angst that will emerge from disconnecting from the virtual world.
A recent study about social media detoxication proves that taking a brief hiatus from social media won’t contribute much to your well-being. The researchers didn’t find compelling evidence to support the argument that abstaining from social media has a substantive and measurable positive impact on the ways people feel.
The keyword here is brief.
As you read through the study, you find that the practice of digital detoxication was done only for a day from the participants. I mean, they only stayed away from Facebook for around 24 hours. Insufficient time to understand the positives from social media abstention.
They also found a direct correlation between negative effects and satisfaction for the given day. It seems that the more we use social media, both our satisfaction increases along with our dissatisfaction.
Exactly like cigarettes and alcohol.
If you smoke, you can feel both good and bad.
Good because of the chemical released from the black tar (nicotine) you smoke. Bad because of the negative consequences – bad breath, cough, difficulty breathing, impatience provoked from when you’re not smoking.
Therefore, if I know that I’m only going to quit for a day, I can’t get all the positives. Internally, I’m going to think about the next day. The day where I can smoke again.
I’m saying this from experience. I’ve quit cigarettes several times in the past until one day I decided that I’ll no longer smoke. And only after around 2 to 3 months of not smoking – 3 months of internal dialogues where I almost convinced myself to start again – I was able to find joy in not holding a cigarette.
The same happened when I decided to quit social media a couple of years ago.3
Initially, I got this itchy feeling. The desire to plug my brain back into the infinite feed and get my dose of memes and pictures that makes us feel strangely good. Only after a couple of weeks, I was able to spot the real benefits.
So, to answer the question, is disconnecting from social media healthy?
Yes, but it will feel quite strange at first.
It’s quite normal to feel stressed and “worried” when you attempt to quit social media. Every withdrawal from something you’ve done for years will trigger physical and emotional responses. You’d want to get back but persisting and staying away for good reportedly – as mentioned in another study – leads to increased life satisfaction and more positive emotions.
Does Staying Off Social Media Make You Happier?
This is another common question from people who are considering leaving social media.
The answer here is like pretty much everything important in life: It depends.
In yet another study I’ve read about quitting social media I found that responders faced many problems during a brief hiatus from the said networks.
They felt bad about not being able to connect with their loved ones, difficulty dealing with boredom, and also dull because their usual entertainment channel was missing.
Why is that?
Shouldn’t it be the other way around? We are here talking about staying away from social media after all?
But I fully get why the participants in the study didn’t find any positive effects when abstaining from the evil platforms.
If you’re using social media with the sole purpose to have fun, and this is no longer an option. I’m sure you’ll be pissed. It’s like throwing away your TV if you’re hooked to a particular show.
Plainly, you can’t find joy in not using social media if you don’t internally believe that you don’t need it.
After all, if you ask a smoker who doesn’t think that smoking is bad to quit for a day he won’t find any joy in this. He will resent you.
People are mostly using social media to escape their current reality. A place they turn to when the real world is simply making them feel “blah”.
When you use social media for these reasons, you will never see the benefits.
Leaving social media will only make you happier when you stop idolizing it. When you find other activities that bring you joy and realize that it’s destroying your real life.
For this to happen, as you can imagine, you need to be aware of all the problems caused by intensive social media use.
Leaving Social Media: Benefits Of Staying Off Social Media
Here’s what will happen if you decide to take the uncommon path. A life without social media. A life where you proudly confront the dullness. The dissatisfaction emerging from having nothing to do.
You Finally Face Your Problems
In the book Ready Player One. The OASIS – the virtual world described by Ernest Cline – serves as an escape from reality.
In the book, real life is hard. Ugly. Almost destroyed. That’s why, The OASIS is such a visited place. More popular than the real world.
Inside this meta-universe, there are no rules. You can be whoever you want to be. It’s literally an oasis. A place that relieves you from the harsh and monotonous desert called life.
Does this remind you of something?
Aren’t we all entering the current popular social media channels to do the same – i.e., escape our current problems?
I think so.
We never log out of Facebook and Instagram because we follow the mantra, “The best way to solve my problems is to avoid them.”
The truth is, that this leads to a compounding effect – but on the one leading to net positives. The more you avoid your problems, the bigger they become.
You Stop Consuming And Start Doing
It’s always much easier to do some more research on a particular topic and stall taking action.
The bad thing is that when you have unlimited access – the world’s information at your fingertips – it feels like there is always something more you can find. Something else that will help you make the best decision.
Twitter, the platform that’s now famous for infinite-like threads, is the best example here.
Since it’s trendy to leave your job and start your own thing. The demand for more posts by famous avatars is at its peak.
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People are crazily obsessed with adding more and more tweets to their collection – unrolling Twitter threads.
Is this helpful, though?
Spending every waking moment browsing for more insightful information about doing something actually prevents you from doing the thing you want.
You are spinning your wheels. Thinking and talking about doing something but never actually doing it.
There are no amount of Twitter threads – or Instagram carousels – that will make you a better coder, manager, writer, or startup founder. You can only improve if you put the online tips you so passionately save into practice.
Focusing on the saving part will delay your progress – if you ever start at all.
You Break Free From Your Self-Imposed Prison Cell
To enter The OASIS, Wade, and every other player in the book Ready Player One use rigs, gloves, and something like spacesuits. Hardware that’s making the virtual world feel more real to the body and mind.
At some point in the story, Wade, the main character in the book describes his equipment as follows: “I’d come to see my rig for what it was: an elaborate contraption for deceiving my senses, to allow me to live in a world that didn’t exist. Each component of my rig was a bar in the cell where I had willingly imprisoned myself.”
Similarly, as proud as you might be for the beautiful Instagram collection you’ve created. Realistically, these look more like bars added to your prison cell.
The more you obsess with buying things – clothes, gear, etc. – that helps you make more perfect photos. The more dependent you become on the platform. At some point, it becomes your prison and you grow more and more disconnected from reality.
Happiness is associated with getting likes, not having meaningful conversations with real people.
Sure, some people succeed at the online game by reaching the status of an influencer but that, too, comes at a cost. You no longer experience real life. Your actions and thoughts are solely directed towards making your virtual life look better. It’s a rat-race lifestyle that feels inescapable.
You Stop Obsessing Over Others
As I wrote in one of my recent posts, you become what you consume.
When you see someone purchasing something online, your mind immediately starts to want this product. Even if you don’t need it, you consider this as an option.
The more posts you see, the more products you don’t have will line up for consideration from your brain. You visualize yourself owning this and you also imagine that the item will solve all of your problems – we shift the burden.
Not only that.
Online, you are constantly presented with a life that is absurdly impossible to sustain.
The resorts. The vacations. The perfect homes.
But that’s just decor. A set to sell you something. A lifestyle. A way of thinking. And, of course, some sort of products.
A study exploring the relationship between frequency of Instagram use and psychological well-being revealed some scary details. The results showed that obsessive use of Instagram leads to lowered self-esteem and physical anxiety.
The more you see perfect bodies, the more flaws you find in your body. Quite normally, you feel worse about yourself and your self-perceived attractiveness goes down to zero.
Social media becomes a dangerous loop where you’re constantly reminded of what you don’t have and of the person you’re not.
Since people post only their best images online. And since perfect is everything you see when “connected” with others. Perfect becomes the expected norm. You desperately want the same level of perfection in your life but when not achieved, you feel inferior.
Only when you detach yourself from this perfection, you can find calmness and joy in the imperfection that’s a big part of everyone’s life.
You Realize That You Will Never Get Everything You Want But That’s OK
Imagine having everything you ever wanted.
Would you be finally relieved or you will go crazy because you won’t have enough space to store all of the crap?
Happiness is quite subjective. For different people, it means different things.
What I found out though is that happiness doesn’t come from pursuing more things to buy. It comes from practicing a set of activities that bring you joy. For me, it’s writing. For you, it’s probably something different.
Sure, we all feel good when we buy things. But this quickly fades. A new feeling always emerges and replaces the satisfaction that came from the previous purchase. A new object will enter your view and destroy all the previous positive sensations and replace them with negative ones that say, “your life is still not perfect, you are still not in the possession of X.”
What really counts is having a life where you practice a set of routines that make your life meaningful.
The author Erich Fromm describes this as having versus being mentality.4
When we use social media, we are obsessed with having things. We see what others have, and we think that we’ll reach their level of happiness only when possessing the same objects. This never comes.
Being, the contrasting venue is what should be on our aim. We understand that we can’t feel lasting happiness by accumulating things. It comes from doing meaningful things.
The reason you feel good about realizing that you will never get everything you want is because wants emerge all the time in your mind. There is always something you want. But that doesn’t mean that you actually need it. That’s the mentality of being.
When you focus on being. You feel good about practicing activities that bring you joy and meaning – painting, drawing, writing, building something. Thus, you move away from wanting to have more to wanting to do and experience more.
You Uncover What’s Terrifying In Your Real Life
“As painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real. Do you understand?”
These lines are from the movie Ready Player One.
They explain why James Halliday created The OASIS.5 He did it because he wasn’t sure how to connect with others. He was looking for an alternative way, a safer way, to build relationships with others.
The above is the equivalent of using modern dating apps. It’s emotionally painful to get rejected in real life. That’s why apps like Tinder are so popular. A drink in your face hurts but you can live with a swipe.
How this habit affects your life though?
You never learn vital skills.
A person who is only using social media to talk to others never learns how to actually talk to others. Besides, he breaks when there’s even the slightest obstacle in the way.
We secretly avoid real interactions because we’re afraid. Afraid of rejections.
If this is the case – and it commonly is – my question to you is to observe why you’re so addicted to the platform. What are you avoiding?
As stated, as terrifying reality is, it’s still the only place that’s real.
Online, things are safer. You can’t get injured.
But if we do this all day, how to we mature?
We need to expose ourselves to more obstacles.
The more we fall, the more we learn to pick ourselves up. Thus, we get stronger.
You Will Be Amazed How Nuanced Life Is
I still remember life without social media.
I’m a kid of the ’90s. Born in 1988, my childhood was spent mostly outdoors. We didn’t have phones. Our parents had to roam the neighborhood, find us, and physically drag us home so we can eat together.
Nowadays, I think that our whole physical life is a constant effort to create this flawless online persona.
We’re always refreshing our feed to find more things that we can later acquire. Once we have them, we’re eager to share our newest possessions to evoke envy in others.
It’s like the more others envy us, the better we feel.
We don’t ever stop to look around us.
Media have convinced us that what’s around us is unimportant. Only what’s online has value. And only if it’s with the right amount of followers.
People look at you and then they quickly gaze back to their phones. Searching for a higher status. You don’t count. You’re not on the screen. You’re not famous enough.
Only when you disengage from this madness you can finally feel and appreciate what’s right here, next to you. It might not be shiny enough. But it’s surely more real than what’s out there.
Some Closing Thoughts
People will do anything than consider their dreadful reality.
The greatest source of suffering for the modern man is the most banal: Boredom.
We can’t survive even a minute without doing something.
That’s why social media websites are so popular and so hard to quit.
They offer endless streams of positive sensations with almost no effort – you just have to move your finger.
Even if life throws a curveball and we need to fight in order to survive. Resting after a wrestle proves intolerable because of the boredom it produces.
That’s why I personally think that the best way to leave social media. The most adequate antidote is finding something else to do when you have nothing to do.
Something that’s aligned with your long-term goals.
Doing. Not consuming.
Practicing something that can help you learn something new. Or, as strange as it might sound, even consider talking to the person sitting right next to you.
- The Verge. Mark Zuckerberg on why Facebook is rebranding to Meta. Heath, Alex
- A science fiction book turned after that into a movie.
- I unfollowed everyone online 3 years ago. The best decision in my life.
- You can read about this comparison in more detail here and here.
- James Donovan Halliday is the side character and tech industry businessman in the backstory of Ready Player One.
— Update: 11-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Will Quitting Social Media Benefit You? A Therapist’s Thoughts from the website paigerechtman.com for the keyword benefits of quitting social media.
Will quitting social media benefit you? From my experience, the answer is both yes and no.
In mid-October of 2018, I quit social media, cold turkey. I had been thinking about it for a while. Then finally, on a random Thursday, mustered the strength to quit social media. I deactivated Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat. I deactivated EVERYTHING. Why would I do such a thing?
Well, even though I don’t post too frequently, I was downright addicted to the mindless scroll. And I knew it.
I often found myself logged into Facebook without knowing how I got there. Somehow, my fingers automatically typed in my name and password. And I was scrolling through my newsfeed before my brain caught up to what I was doing. I felt that I had absolutely no control, and I needed to make a change. All social media platforms had to go.
I’m not going to lie – having no access to social media for the past 6 weeks has been AMAZING. My mind has been on a beautiful, hashtag-free vacation ever since. I was not ready for it to end.
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Below I’ve listed some of the benefits and consequences I experienced from being off of social media. And believe it or not, I discovered that at times, social media can actually be good for us. Although I could ride this wave of glorious freedom from Facebook for much longer, I do feel that I have experienced a solid social media reset. And I have developed stronger awareness to help me manage my usage in the future.
Benefits of Quitting Social Media
1. You won’t be mindlessly scrolling.
Before Cancelling (B.C.), every night before bed, I would spend a solid hour, minimum, mindlessly scrolling on facebook or instagram. The automatic movement of my thumb sliding up and down my phone screen started to provide the same kind of comfort as a bedtime story.
I tried to make promises to myself, that I would “read for 30 minutes before bed.” But my phone would always win over the book on my nightstand. After Deactivation (A.D.), I actually did read before bed, and I finished an entire book! This is something that has become more challenging for me over the past couple of years, due to my increase in technology usage. If you also miss reading, check out this post on how I got my reading mojo back.
2. You will stop thinking in hashtags and captions.
Am I the only one who does this? It’s embarrassing to admit, but sometimes I would think about hashtags for posts that haven’t even happened yet. Or I would spend way too much time trying to come up with a witty caption for a picture.
Maybe it’s just me, but regardless, I have found that I don’t think in posts anymore. I think in… just… thoughts. And I would like for my brain to stay that way.
3. You’ll waste less time.
When I deactivated my accounts, I started playing the banjo more consistently, and have taught myself two songs! I also began to exercise at least 4 times each week. And, I found an office space, built my own web site, and officially opened up my own private practice.
When I quit social media, I was able to stop procrastinating, because I got bored.
My intention here is not to brag about all of my accomplishments from the past few months. It is to acknowledge that there has been a definite shift in my productivity. And I have more time to dedicate to my hobbies, which bring much more joy and presence into my life.
(If you tend to procrastinate A LOT, this habit tracker will help you better understand what habits impact your mood and motivation levels).
4. You’ll have no one to compare yourself to.
Thanks to social media, we are connected to almost anyone and everyone we have met in our lives. This means that we are also comparing ourselves to almost anyone and everyone we have met in our lives.
In reality, we are comparing our own carefully curated content to other people’s carefully curated content.
And even though most people are aware of this, knowing it logically does not change the fact that we are still impacted emotionally when we see how much fun other people are having on vacation. Or how successful they are. Or how happy their relationship looks. Etc., etc.
I would be lying if I said that getting off of social media has magically resolved all of my insecurities and doubts. It definitely hasn’t! But it has helped me to control the subtle messages that enter my brain that cause me to question my life decisions. It has given me more time and space to focus on myself and my own life, instead of wasting time focusing on what other people are doing with theirs.
5. I live in the present moment.
When out with friends and loved ones, I’m checking my phone less and I’m paying closer attention to conversations that are happening in real time. It’s easier for me to immerse myself in experiences as they occur.
And I now enjoy moments without trying to capture them through snapchat! I’m not saying I never check my phone when I’m out anymore (I’m not perfect, let’s be real). But there is less reason to look at it, which means less reason to reach for it.
Consequences of Quitting Social Media
1. You’ll miss your friends in some capacity (and seeing pictures of their kids).
I have friends and family members that live in other states, that I talk to less frequently. Since quitting social media, I have had less contact with these people, and I don’t know what is going on in their lives.
Yes, I could very easily pick up the phone and call these friends, which is something that I have done and that I do feel is more valuable than getting updates from their instagram feed.
Nonetheless, I’ve realized that seeing pictures of loved ones that don’t live nearby gives me a small glimpse into their lives and actually helps me feel like there is less distance between us.
And, seeing images of my friends’ kids truly makes me happy. I’ve missed getting updates on a regular basis. This is something that is so easily accomplished through social media.
2. You’ll experience general feelings of disconnection.
When the shooting happened a couple of months ago in Downtown Manhattan, I got quite a few texts asking if I was okay because I did not have a Facebook account to check into. I also no longer get my news from social media, so need to seek it out through other venues.
My grandmother is 92-years-old and uses facebook. She told me that she spends hours on it every day so she can see what her loved ones have been up to. Facebook provides pure joy to her life because it connects her to the outside world. I do see the value in that.
3. You’ll forget about some important birthdays.
I forgot that my stepsister’s birthday was on November 13. And that my stepdad’s birthday was on November 16. But those dates will now be implanted in my memory forever!
4. You’ll miss events and opportunities to build connections.
I was invited to a friend’s birthday party, but was not on social media, so didn’t receive the details. And someone sent me a job opportunity that she thought would be a good fit for me, but I didn’t see it because I no longer have facebook messenger. I attended a coaching course, and decided to reactivate my LinkedIn there on the spot so that I could connect with a person I met and could possibly collaborate with in the future.
When you aren’t on social media, connecting with others feels a bit clunkier and requires everyone to work a bit harder.
5. You’ll miss opportunities to give.
While doing research on ways to use social media intentionally, I came across some very wise words from Business Coach, Whitney English.
She asks “What do you hope to get out of social media? And more importantly, what do you hope to give through it?”
There are ways to give to others through social media, and help make the world a better place. I’ve seen friends post about hardships or difficult experiences, and when others chime in to offer comfort or encouragement, it can help a person feel supported, heard, and validated. And even though these connections are happening through a computer, they can still be powerful, and they can still be effective.
What Did I Learn?
Although being on social media can sometimes make us feel left out, it can also be used to remind us that we are not alone in this world. For many people, social media can make the process of reaching out to others less scary, and more accessible.
It could take a lifetime of research to understand the benefits and consequences that social media is having on our wellbeing and on society. And I haven’t even touched on the damage that filters are doing to our self-esteem (that’s another post for another time!).
At the end of the day, social media is not going anywhere. The impact that social media has on our lives depends on our own individual thoughts, behaviors, and intentions that surround our usage.
What may feel like hours of mindless scrolling to one person (me) may feel like hours of catching up with old friends to another (my grandma).
So I’m getting back on. Wish me luck! And I will continue to be mindful of the consequences that routine social media usage can have on my sense of self.
So take a moment now. What is your intention for having social media? How can you engage more mindfully when using it? You don’t have to quit cold turkey. But if it’s something you’ve been thinking about, I highly recommend you give it a try!
And if you’re planning to do a social media detox to improve your mental health, download my free self-reflection guides to help you gain a deeper sense of self-awareness during the process.
If you enjoyed this article, check out What I Learned From Eckhart Tolle About Anxiety, Presence, and Putting Down Your Phone.
— Update: 13-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article I Quit Social Media for 65 Weeks. This Is What I Learned from the website www.healthline.com for the keyword benefits of quitting social media.
So what made David return to the world of social media after a relatively blissful 65 weeks?
“It was very much about my friends,” he says. “I want to be involved in my friends’ lives.”
“I know this is a new era, and that this is how people are sharing stuff about their lives. I had quite a few friends that had babies, and I wanted to see pictures of their kids. Friends that had moved or are moving and living different places. I wanted to keep in touch with them.”
Now with active Facebook and Instagram accounts, he says that having those tools available is also helpful for his career: “Being in the fashion industry, I need to be aware of what’s going on. For example, right now is New York Fashion Week. It’s important for me to be in the know of what’s going on in my industry, and Instagram is one of the best ways to do that. To discover amazing new designers and artists.”
When it comes to what he posts, David says he’s more interested in keeping up with his friends, and is now more discerning when it comes to sharing something himself. But it’s not a rigid process. Rather, it’s a natural understanding that the digital detox has helped him come to realize.
“I try not to overthink it. If it’s something that happens, great. And even if my friends are like, ‘Hey, let’s get together and take a picture,’ I’ll take a picture,” he says.
“I think I’ve posted maybe four pictures since I got back on Instagram. I was in Paris, and I was there with my best friend and it was a really special moment for her. But it’s not something that I do all the time.”
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The same thing goes for how much time he spends on those platforms. To negate the impulse to constantly check his feed, he’s turned off his Instagram notifications, and hasn’t downloaded the Facebook app to his phone, only perusing it on his computer.
But even with the technology in front of him, he no longer feels the urge to be constantly tapped in.
“I think I’m more aware of that, now, because of the detox,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll be on Instagram or on my phone for a while, and I’ll realize: You’ve been on for way too long for someone who hasn’t been on for 65 weeks.”
“Here I am, sitting at a desk in front of a computer, an iPad, and two phones, and I hardly look at them compared to how I did before. I’m very much the type of person that, if I set my mind to something, then I’m doing that.”
But what happens when he finds himself falling back into old traps, like feeling hurt when a friend never likes your photos? “It’s just funny. You have to laugh at it,” says David.
“If you don’t, then your digital detox needs to be way longer than 65 weeks!”
Kareem Yasin is a writer and editor. Outside of health and wellness, he’s active in conversations about inclusivity in mainstream media, his homeland of Cyprus, and the Spice Girls. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram.
— Update: 13-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article The Pros and Cons of Quitting Social Media from the website www.sclhealth.org for the keyword benefits of quitting social media.
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“I’m quitting social media,” you declare. Suddenly a feeling of freedom washes over you as you’re no longer concerned with likes, views and who’s doing what. You stop hunching over your phone and your posture straightens, elongating your spine and immediately you’re an inch taller than just before. You weightlessly drift away from the endless scroll to a trailhead in the mountains. Your free time is filled by strolling through meadows, journaling, meditation, long conversations and lots and lots of “being present.”
Or at least that’s what some of the “I quit social media and it changed my life” blog posts would have you believe. Unfortunately, dropping social media alone will not lead you to full self-actualization. But that doesn’t mean the idea is entirely without merit, either.
In improving your health and wellness, no one change is going to drastically alter your entire life (We know. We’re sorry. We were really hoping it would be green smoothies.). A series of small behavioral changes that lead to positive habits make a lasting impact. Can quitting social media be one of those changes? Absolutely. Some research suggests that social media is harming us in several ways. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad and cutting it off entirely could have both positive and negative effects on your life.
We weigh the pros and cons.
To Quit Social Media …
Quitting social media is not just a trend or something to make you seem ultra-enlightened. Research has revealed some valid reasons why you might want to toss aside your virtual networks.
Happiness and Mood
Our happiness is one of the most important aspects of our lives. Still, we check on the very thing that might be chipping away at our happiness dozens – or hundreds! – of times a day.. Studies have shown that social media can have a negative effect on your life satisfaction and subjective well-being. Evidence also suggests that social media is linked to depressive symptoms.
We know more about the end result, that those who use social media more tend to be less satisfied, than we do about what causes this result. Social comparison is often cited, because your friends are likely posting about the new job they got and not the 14 jobs they applied for and didn’t get before that. Looking at others’ perpetual highlight reel, versus your own behind-the-scenes life, can make you feel inadequate if you don’t feel like you have anything “post-worthy” at the moment. The Happiness Research Institute also found that people on Facebook had trouble concentrating, felt less present and thought they were wasting their time at a higher rate than peers not using Facebook.
If you’re on social media a lot, enough research suggests that you might want to run your own little experiment to see if a social media break or decrease can boost your mood.
What if you can’t hit those selfie angles quite like a Kardashian? (P.s. They hired a photographer for that “selfie.”) Or your entire Facebook community seems to be getting promotions while you can’t seem to impress your boss or get ahead at work?
Social media makes you a lot more aware of what is happening in your world and if you feel like you don’t stack up to those around you it can have a negative effect on your self-esteem. The era of filters, Instagram models and influencers, online fitness celebrities and readily available photo-editing tools can be particularly burdensome on our self-esteem. Two studies looked particularly at the effect of selfies and determined that looking at others’ selfies harmed self-esteem and caused women to compare themselves negatively to others. Another study found that social media use correlated with feeling unattractive.
Going back to social comparisons, Facebook might also be making you feel less successful in your career and relationships.
In just minutes, you can easily be inundated with images of people who seemingly have it better than you in one way or another. Just remember that social media is not real life and every post is made by a person (Well, except for the bots. Actually, there are a lot of bots posting.) and that person has ups and downs, too.
So many of us are not getting enough sleep. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 35 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep a night. But when it comes time to actually go to sleep so many of us get in our comfortable pajamas and cuddle up cozilly with a … cold chunk of glass, metal and plastic that emits a hue of light and messages that inhibit our sleep.
Yes, the light from our devices, particularly the blue hue that is common, is disruptive to sleep in itself. And one study found that young adults who check social media more frequently and for more time, have greater sleep disturbances.
And given the impact sleep has on the rest of our health, it’s wise to find a way to detach your phone from your bedtime routine.
To Not Quit Social Media …
Frankly, this argument is not as common. And you’re not going to shake up your social networks when you post, “I’ve decided to continue using social media at my current pace!” But particularly in our current reality there are advantages to using social media, provided you do it judiciously.
No Mo’ FOMO
We may not love it, but much of the news about our friends and family is communicated via social media. Particularly as we age, spread out geographically from old friends and family and start families, we have less time to check in via the old-fashioned methods. And the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a well-known feeling to certain generations raised with social media as the norm.
So if you disconnect from social networks you’re simply going to miss pregnancy and engagement announcements, baby pictures, birthday invites, good news and the latest and greatest in memes, goofy kids and cat videos. The thing about quitting social media is all the people you care about don’t magically also quit at the same time and spend their newly-found free time texting and calling you with updates.
Yes, you can make other efforts to stay in touch and up-to-date with what is happening with your friends and family. Certainly, previous generations manage this feat. But sometimes social media simply makes keeping up easier and without it your could feel out of touch and isolated.
The Internet is Good, Actually (Sometimes)
We’ll level with you, a lot of content on social media is probably mean, not particularly useful, unwanted ads, false or somehow otherwise bad. But it also doesn’t take that much digging to find some really positive, uplifting content online.
Body positivity is represented, heard and seen on social media in a way it simply wasn’t in previous generations. Writers with relatively modest Twitter followings can cultivate a loyal community that has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity, including $132,000 to Hurricane Harvey victims. Social media aids in many natural disasters, human rights revolutions and other worthy endeavors. Not to mention crowdsourcing local recommendations for everything from finding a handyman to planning a vacation.
These are just a few ways social media can and has been used for good. You can find your own way. Just remember that you’re in control of your feeds. Bring in the positive and block out the rest. That’s what the mute and block functions are for, or at least that’s how we choose to employ them.
Expand Your Networks
Social media has helped us break down our geographical and ideological barriers and connect with people we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Sure, that means some overly intense political and sports opinions find their way into your feed, but it also allows you to learn about groups and opinions you don’t see in your everyday life.
Particularly if you live in a remote or non-diverse area, social media can expose you to people and viewpoints you simply wouldn’t encounter where you live. Ideas about new books, movies, activities and interests all help to create a more well-rounded view of the world. If you’ve recently moved, social media can help you build a network around common interests or causes.
And while LinkedIn can be kind of a punchline online, if you sift through the spam and use it to your advantage, it can be a worthwhile networking tool and resource for professional development. And depending on your industry, Twitter, Instagram or lesser-known platforms can be just what your business needs to reach that next rung of success.
This is far from a comprehensive list. Do your own research if you’re considering deleting social media.
Yes, social media is bad. It’s also good. Like most things on the internet, it depends on how you use them. Filter out the negativity, limit your social media exposure, use it for the right reasons and bring your own positivity to your online world.
If you feel like social media is making you less happy, then maybe it needs to go. Just make a plan to replace the positive you do find in social media.