These days many of us have a sort of love hate relationship with social media. We love what it does for us, connecting us to people from all over the globe, entertainment whether in the form of beautiful travel inspiration or adorable cat videos, and above all the accessibility. Social media has become our go to source because it is so easy. As a university student, it’s the major way to create events, join societies, upkeep a social life and even organize for group projects. It helps newcomers to cities find their place in all the hustle and bustle.
But then you have the headlines: why you should take a social media detox, 10 benefits to logging out of social media, I quit (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) etc. and now I’m radiantly happy and reached nirvana. Such articles list the amount of time spent with friends and family in person, better sleep, exercising more, eating better, being more productive, and less screen induced headaches as benefits to their sabbatical from social media.
If you are not willing or able to channel your inner hermit and move up to a WiFi-less cabin to escape temptation, then you may find that social media detox’s are easier said than done! The fact that social media has integrated itself into so many strands of our lives means that daily function without it can be that much more difficult. (Fellow Social Media Managers, it’s a hard knock life for us). That doesn’t mean most of us can’t do with a break from it all. The essential thing to remember is just because you haven’t jetted off to a tech free resort in the desert, doesn’t mean you can’t take a step back. A successful social media detox is the one catered to what you hope to get out of it, and the rhythms of your lifestyle. So here are some types of detoxes you can take, and tips to do them right!
Daily Detox This is for those of us with major FOMO. We just can’t give it up, social media is our precioussss etc. etc. Or for my bloggers, instagrammers, PR people and influencers whose livings and passions are so very tied to being active on a variety of platforms. Finding set times of the day where you disconnect 100 percent are the best way to stay sane and enjoy your time on social media. At meal times I try to leave social media behind as much as I can. I’ll take a quick snap of the food if it’s especially pretty. But otherwise if I’m in a restaurant I will leave my phone in my bag, or facedown off to the side on the table. At home I will leave it on the kitchen counter or elsewhere entirely. Exercising, going for a run or the hour-long Pilates class or gym lifting session can be a really effective way of taking a pause from social media as I don’t know about you but my ability to multitask is kaput as soon as I start to sweat. Granted I’m no mega athlete so maybe it’s just because I’m concentrating on not dying. See my post Why Running A Marathon Didn’t Turn Me Into A Fitness Goddess for proof. Giving yourself a start/cutoff time in the morning and evening can be really helpful too, especially if you start to get the Skynet sense that social media is secretly taking over your life. If you have Apple products their downtime function on the iPhone can hold you accountable. Focus instead on some other form of entertainment, be a film or TV show (one that you actually want to see lest you be tempted to scroll through Twitter) or reading a book if you want to do something totally non-digital. Alternatively, take the opportunity to run yourself a relaxing bath. I’m slightly terrified of electrocuting myself like a Bugs Bunny character and prefer to mostly keep the tech away from the bubbles.
The Digital Out of Office Sign
This is the digital equivalent of taking a personal day. Being on break, but unlike Ross and Rachel everyone is on the same page. You log out of every kind of social media for 24 hours. Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, Tumblr, whatever your poison. If you run a business through social media you create an update post, or make sure someone else can cover for you. Nearly anything can wait for 24hrs, so this time can be used for enjoyment and an actual day off. This can also be the focus you need to crack down on some really exciting project at work or upcoming deadline. When the itch for social media strikes it will be because you’re bored. Listen to some music on the commute home instead of scrolling endlessly. Savor your food instead of accidentally spilling your coffee down your front because you were too busy reading up on the latest Kardashian exploit on Twitter. Actually make use of the tower of unread magazines or that booklist you’ve been meaning to make a dent in rather than disappearing in the loo for an hour with your phone. If you want to do a full-on digital holiday, as you travel or spend time with family, just extend this method for the number of days. When you get back, you may have more notifications that you’re used to, but unless your absence has caused a flux in the time space continuum, it will be fine.
Rethinking How You Use Social Media
Say the issue isn’t using social media but rather the way you’re using social media that has you ready to join a life of silent contemplation. Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling, not particularly interested in what you’re seeing but continuing passively on? This is the digital zombie effect. In order to actually enjoy social media, maybe take a more active approach. Engage with creators. Ask questions. Comment on your friend’s posts instead of just liking them. Click through links. Share something exciting that you’re doing in a post. We are each personally responsible for both the level of privacy we maintain when navigating social media and what we view, so be mindful. If you don’t like a particular user or topic you are completely capable of avoiding said issue to your heart’s content. That said, taking a more proactive mindset when using social media can help avoid ennui and apathy. It means you no longer are going on social media as a sort of default mechanism, but because you’re curious and looking forward to content and forming connections. The key to this approach is finding a balance between passive consumption and active engagement. Rethinking how you use social media is like a slow roll detox, one without the proverbial withdrawal symptoms.
The aim of a social media detox is that you can come back to your favorite platforms, feeling refreshed and take actual pleasure out of using them again. I myself took the evening off last night, and finished China Rich Girlfriend, the second book in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. I will have another mini detox when I fly back to the United Kingdom on Sunday. Consciously take advantage of these moments to get a little breathing space, I promise you don’t ever need to buy a Himalayan salt lamp or rub crystals on your body or do barefoot yoga on a cliff in order to feel digital balance. Then again if you’re into that, rock on (pun intended).