Help your brain take a break from social media: Importance of a social media detox

Dubai is ranked among top 10 cities globally for digital detoxes. Here’s how you can improve your mental health by giving yourself a much-needed break from social media.


Rida Jaleel

Published: Thu 4 May 2023, 12:12 PM

Last updated: Thu 4 May 2023, 12:32 PM

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. Not only does it help us become one of the most interconnected generation, but it's also a great outlet for socialisation, talent, and even business. But nothing comes for free. If you’re not paying to use a particular product like a social media app, then chances are that you’re the product – or rather, your attention and time are.

Social media usage has evolved into an addiction. The digital explosion in recent times has ensured that everybody, from toddlers to the elderly, has access to not only smartphones but also a wide range of social media websites. But is this constant interconnectivity and ease of comparison good for us? Research has proved that those who spend more than 3 hours daily on social media are at high risk for anxiety and depression. Taking a social media detox can help alleviate some of these negative effects.

Here are some steps to take a social media detox:

Identify your triggers

The first step in taking a social media detox is to identify what triggers you to use social media excessively. Is it boredom, stress, or anxiety? Knowing what triggers you to pick up your phone and scroll aimlessly can help you develop a master plan to reduce this temptation.

Identify the why

Before engaging with social media, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you share what you share?
  • What kind of people and influencers do you tend to follow?
  • Does social media help in translating into meaningful friendships and relationships with people in real life?
  • Does your love for social media take away from your time doing other useful activities or passions?
  • Do you use social media to fulfil needs of attention, entertainment, validation or information?

Asking the why rather than the what will give you some useful insight into your relationship with social media.

Set physical distance from your phone

Your mornings and nights are supposed to begin with peace to help you orient yourself to the day. Make it a point to invest in an old-school alarm clock and place your phone away from reach an hour before and after waking up. This way, you can ease into the day without being ambushed by information and can improve the quality of your sleep.

Delete the apps

Admittedly one of the biggest reasons we reach for the apps of choice is because of how easy it is. Take the plunge and delete the apps of all your favourite social media from your phone. However, allow yourself to use the web versions of these apps. This way, if you depend on it for news, information, updates or work, you’ll still be connected without the ease of interaction that apps have.

The more difficult it is to access social media, the less you'll use it.
The more difficult it is to access social media, the less you'll use it.

Set a goal

Determine how long you want to take a break from social media. Having a goal will help you stay motivated and focused. However, keep your goals realistic. Instead of going on a tech detox for an entire month, start with a week and then progress accordingly.

Find more fulfilling passions

Ever had that feeling where you had 5 minutes to yourself, decide to pull up Instagram, and suddenly you’re in an internet rabbit hole for 5 hours? Social media tends to do that. While it’s easier said than done, make conscious efforts to devote that time to other activities that do not require tech. Pick up hobbies like crocheting, art, reading, etc., to keep your mind and hands occupied without craving digital distractions. Make plans to meet up “IRL” with friends and participate in strenuous, more fulfilling activities like rowing or a football game.

Record your progress

A social media detox can initially have you feeling listless and disconnected. Many of us would face 'FOMO' – the Fear Of Missing Out. You might even cave and make mistakes. But once you wade through the difficult initial period, you’ll find out that your mind’s a lot more relaxed and at peace without all the noise. You will have your day open up to pursue more rewarding hobbies and satisfying conversations with people. Record your progress and your feelings over the course of the break, so you gain a good picture of the benefits of the detox.

While it may be difficult to take that first step, remember that social media was designed to be a supplementary tool in our life, not a time-sucking vortex. Taking a social media detox can have numerous benefits for your mental health and overall well-being. You don’t need to quit social media forever, but through these simple steps, you can use the tools in a healthy manner and make more meaningful use of your time. As Cal Newport, Professor and author of the famous book on the subject, Digital Minimalism, wrote, “Simply put, humans are not wired to be constantly wired.”

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