When the screen time ends, the tech cleanse begins. Here are six ways to know if a social media detox is in order.
#1. You see more screenlight than the light of day
Zoom Gloom is inevitable, especially since COVID-19 and social distancing have kept most people plugged in 24-7. According to one study, we are spending 500 per cent more time behind phones and computer screens than before the pandemic. It is therefore important to create the space to turn off, tune out, and drop out when there is no pressing need to be online. Instead, use your newfound free time to read a book or go for a walk.
#2. You can't focus
Many people spend an average of 1 minute and 15 seconds on their devices every time they pick it up—and on average, we pick up our phones up to 96 times a day! That’s two hours of mindless flicking around apps. "Social media became my virtual fidget spinner,” admitted SMU student Elyza Carbajal, who said she would be checking Instagram whenever she felt restless. For University of Pennsylvania student Michelle Cao, she could only focus on her studying when she switched off her phone. "I would unconsciously be checking social media otherwise," she shared.
If Elyza and Michelle's stories are familiar to your own, it may be time to put aside your phone and direct your focus to other activities.
#3. You don't read anymore
There is almost nothing better for your brain than reading, and when you get your time back from the Twitter scroll, you can get back to Twain. “I was in the middle of reading a book at the beginning of the semester, but schoolwork and other distractions (social media) got in the way," said Michelle.
To scale back on screen activity, opt for paperbacks over e-books.
#4. You're stressed
Push notifications and constant multitasking increases cortisol levels and heightens anxiety. If you’re constantly waiting for that DM, comment or Like, it could be a sign that you are overly preoccupied with social media and it's better to take a step back.
#5. You're buying more stuff than you need
“It's so easy to over-consume when most things can be bought at the tap of our finger,” said Elyza, who is wary of going overboard with online shopping. From new clothes and shoes, to movie tickets and cold brew, the allure of flash deals and the convenience of online payment can encourage us to make spending decisions based on wants rather than needs.
So for the sake of your bank balance and the planet, consider going cold turkey on your favourite e-commerce apps for a period.
#6. You're obsessed with image but aren't building yourself
"The like button was made to generate positivity but over time instead became a metric we use to measure our self-worth," shared Elyza. She believed it is easy for social media users to view themselves through the lens of likes, shares, followers, snaps, stories and messages, and to use it as a gauge for popularity or acceptance.
However, every minute that we spend perfecting our selfie angles or crafting our Instagram captions, is one less minute we could use to enjoy the moment and work on ourselves. Remember: Likes are nothing more than digital brownie points, and you are worth much more than your follower count.
A bonus note of caution
A social media cleanse should give your eyes as well as your mind some screen-free serenity. Although Netflix, Hulu and other streaming platforms aren’t technically social media, they can still steal massive chunks of your day. To make the most of your tech detox, shift your attention from as many monitors as you can.