Updated: Feb 20
When was the last time you went an entire day without logging into social media? Whilst social media is a great platform for staying connected with friends and family, sharing uplifting moments and memories, it is also an addictive vortex of stolen imagination and distraction. The hours that are spent scrolling through posts and tweets, watching videos and commenting on pictures soon mounts up and our productivity in the ‘real world’ starts to dwindle.
Social media offers instant gratification
You want pleasure and amusement and you want it now and platforms like Facebook and Instagram give you exactly what you want when you want it. Although the brain is quite complex, some of the methods it uses to function are actually quite simple. Once you have fulfilled your need, it sends signals back up to your brain and your brain ‘logs’ it as a reward. At this point the brain is super pleased with itself, it now has a trigger and an action that makes you feel good and so it stores this data, ready to use for the next time.
The brain does this for every action, it sets up neural pathways so that things can happen, almost naturally. The brain has the ability to change itself constantly by creating new neural pathways and losing ones which are no longer used. These pathways are strengthened through our behaviours and habits. Have you noticed how sometimes when you wake up in the morning, grabbing your phone to scroll through Twitter has become a habit? Something you do, without really thinking about it? Well, that’s the brain flipping on its auto-pilot and giving you what it thinks you want without you having to actually think about it.
I guess you could think of your brain like a computer, it has built-in programs and places to store data. You cant see what it is doing but it is always working, creating its own coding, storing information, sending emails to other parts of your body, instructing it what do next. It is very impressive! The brain is the physical and separate to this, but working closely alongside is the mind.
The mind is the conscious, the metaphysical elements of you. It is the part of you that is reading this right now, becoming aware and deciding how you want to process this information. The mind is the one that has the power to create new neural pathways. It does, if allowed, have the authority to stand up and say to your brain. I don’t like this anymore. The mind is the conscious one who says, I want to detox from social media and create new habits. It then instructs the brain to choose new behaviours and actions, however, it can sometimes meet with some confliction with the brain. As previously mentioned, the brain likes to run on auto-pilot as much as possible, therefore it will likely resist the diversion, which is where you have to consciously take over and push back until the new pathway has been formed and the brain can step back again.
What is a Social Media Detox?
We are not advising you to completely do away with all social media accounts forever because let’s face it, it has its perks! There is a lot of good that comes from them and so it would be a shame to never get to experience them. After all, technology was created to better our lives and in some ways, it really does. I mean, it is likely that you found this post through a social media platform!
The purpose of a detox is to give yourself a break, allow yourself time to change your relationship with social media and hopefully, increase your productivity and reconnect with the real world around you. The physical world.
Social media is like a drug.
It wants you to stay connected to it because that’s how it is able to grow and all the time you are connected to it, you are becoming disconnected from you and reality. The fantasy world starts to take on its own version of reality and we all get sucked into believing it to be real. Then when we look around at our ‘real’ lives and wonder why it isn’t the same as the virtual one!
People only select the parts they want others to see.
They choose an avatar and design the version they want to project and away they go. This is sometimes the glamourous life, the fun life or the rich life. Others may choose the victim life, the bully life or the asshole life. It is very rarely a true representation of who they are and what their life actually looks like.
Comparison is a downward spiral.
People tend to look at the lives of others and compare it against their own. If for some reason what they see doesn’t match their own expectations, they fall into a depressive state. Some turn their hands into weapons and find ways to belittle and spread hate onto complete strangers, a trait that they don’t possess in real life, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s not real right? It’s just a game, a game that another user has taken in a particularly bad way, so bad that it has affected their mental health in the real world quite severely.
It becomes a breeding ground for viruses.
Social media is a huge beast, so big it is too difficult for the creators to control, which has led to hate and rumours being spread like wildfire. You could literally write something without any evidence or even knowledge and it would be passed around from person to person and the truth remains unknown. Violence and arrogance are flooding in through peoples lives and it has become so normal, that we barely notice it is happening.
What do I have to do to detox?
It is simple. Deactivate your accounts, delete your apps and stay clean for a period of time. The length of time needed to ‘recover’ from social media addiction can vary depending on the individual. Some experts say three months, some say six months, it all comes down to the severity of the addiction.
To keep things simple to start with, you could try a six-week detox, this is a good amount of time to be away, but not so daunting that it stops you from ever starting! You will likely be surprised at how quickly six weeks fly by.
Before you start your detox, have a healthy replacement ready to go. This could be studying, reading, a new hobby, the gym or you could replace the time by journaling. That would sure to make a really interesting read at the end of the detox!
Leave the game for a while, reconnect with your friends and family in person, go out and meet new people, talk to them face to face over a coffee, laugh with them. I promise you won’t regret it, no one does.