Take a moment and ask yourself: When was the last time I went a full day without checking social media?
Has your use of social media sites:
- caused you to seek validation based on other people’s interest or approval?
- produced feelings of insecurity?
- distracted you from what’s happening in the moment?
- reduced your in-person interaction with friends and family?
- distorted your version of reality?
- prevented you from participating in relationships or activities?
- revealed too much of your private life?
- triggered you to behave in a mean or hurtful way?
- kept you from living up to your full potential?
Do any of these apply to you? If so, it may be time to consider taking a break from social media.
Social media isn’t a bad thing. It can be a valuable tool for creating and maintaining connections, disseminating information quickly, mobilizing movements, and creating meaningful change. But too much of a good thing can prove detrimental.
High rates of social media use have shown links to mental health and addiction-related issues, especially among young people.
According to a recent survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 86% of students in Ontario visit social media sites daily and about 16% spend five hours a day or more on social media.
While social media, or internet addiction, is not officially recognized as a psychological disorder, many
There are a wide range of biological, psychological and social factors that can impact an individual’s risk for addiction.
What makes social media addictive?
- Social Validation is part of being human. When people react to what we post, it validates us and makes us feel good. Having more “friends” or more “likes” makes us feel more important and special.
- Fear Of Missing Out is one of the largest drivers of social media addiction, particularly for those under 30. Our brains are hardwired to create alliances and to seek collaboration. If we notice others doing something that excludes us, it can trigger survival responses of anger, jealousy, or submission that can cause low self-esteem.
- Ego. Social networking sites are the perfect platform to showcase our favourite subject, ourselves. It’s our obsession with self that has filled our social media feeds with countless selfies and meaningless status updates.
- Social Comparison and Self-Esteem. People compare themselves to others to assess and validate their feelings and opinions, strengths and weaknesses, and behaviours and abilities. Our positive or negative assessment of these comparisons directly correlates to our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.
- Chemical Response. Each positive response, each “like”, each validation we receive creates a quick hit of dopamine, the happy hormone. As our brain’s dopamine system strengthens, it requires more and more stimulation for less and less reward, and an addiction is born.
Social Media Detox
If you’re finding it hard to get through your day without compulsively checking your news feed, it’s time for a detox. Taking a 30-day social-media-free vacation can help you escape the mental prison social media creates, and help you regain your focus and attention to what really matters.
Starting a detox is easy, the hard part is sticking to it. Here is our step-by-step guide to a successful social media detox.
- Determine why you’re using social media so much. What are your triggers for checking your social media account? Loneliness? Boredom? Stress? Insecurity? Once you identify the motive, you can replace this unproductive habit with something more positive.
- Deactivate your social media accounts. Deactivating your accounts will prevent you from checking in out of habit and it will also signal to your friends that you’re taking a time out. Deactivating your accounts is not deleting. Your profile information and content are safe and will reappear when you choose to reactivate your accounts.
- Remove the social media apps from your phone. Our impulse to check our phones regularly is the same impulse we have to check social media. Keeping social media icons on your phone during a detox will just remind you of what you’re missing, creating the potential for relapse. Keep social media out of sight, and it will be out of mind.
- Find alternative ways to preoccupy your time. It’s not enough to just remove social media from your day, you need to fill that void with something else. Take on a new project at home or work, explore a new hobby, schedule regular meet-ups with your friends, join a gym or fitness class, or read a book. Look for positive and productive ways to use your time that will enhance your life.
Start with a 30-day detox. If you like the results, you may decide that a permanent leave from social media is the best thing for you. Or, you may determine that the time you spent detoxing has prepared you to make better choices when engaging with social media, and that you want to reactivate some or even all of your profiles.
The key is that you be in control, don’t let social media control you.
For more information about social media addiction, contact the Canadian Mental Health Association at 1-800-875-2813.