A little social media detox can lower feelings of depression and anxiety. This is according to a recent study published in the journal, Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking.
All it took was challenging participants aged 18 – 72 to stop scrolling on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok for nine hours in a day, say researchers from University of Bath in the United Kingdom.
Lead researcher from Bath’s Department for Health, Dr Jeff Lambert, explains that, “Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night.”
“We know that social media usage is huge and that there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects, so with this study, we wanted to see whether simply asking people to take a week’s break could yield mental health benefits … even just a small break can have an impact,” he says.
Social media now a lifeline
Social media has revolutionised how we communicate, says Mamello Mosase from Johannesburg. Mosase is an entrepreneur and the founder of Mobu by Melo, an online clothing brand. Her business is reliant on social media.
“I have thought about quitting social media many times,” Mosase says. “I’m sure we all have. It’s draining and sometimes you feel so dependant and attracted to it. It’s not a healthy feeling.. unfortunately we can’t stay off it forever. We depend on it for so many things, information, news and to run our businesses.”
Neo Molefi from Johannesburg tells Health For Mzansi that thoughts of a social media cleanse have run through his mind a few times. “Sometimes it becomes too much.”
When he feels overwhelmed by social media, Molefi will take a brief sabbatical from the “TL’s” to protect his mental health. “I will just switch it off and delete the app, so I don’t constantly have to go into it,” he says.
Kamo Mogale, also from Joburg, believes that breaks are necessary to clear your mind.
Don’t buy into the hype
While many people experience temporary waves of sadness and times of worry and nervousness, it becomes concerning if those feeling simply won’t go away, says Centurion clinical psychologist, Lumka Mabo.
Feeling ‘low’ and losing pleasure are core characteristics of depression, whereas anxiety is characterised by excessive and out of control worry.
“If you are not okay psychologically, if you are not okay emotionally or mentally and you don’t attend to such, it then trickles over to your physiological being,” she says. “Prioritise your health because if you don’t, it grows into something else.”
Protect your peace at all costs, says Lambert. Wellbeing refers to an individual’s level of positive affect, life satisfaction and sense of purpose.
“Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people, it’s an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others. But if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps.”
Here’s how you can break the habit
While 30 minutes a day may not be a realistic target for many of us, we can still benefit from reducing the amount of time we spend on social media. The following tips from The Help Guide could be the launching pad you need:
- There are many apps in the sea: And no we do not mean the social media kind. You can use an app to track how much time you spend on social media each day and set goals for how much you want to reduce your time.
- Switch off: Driving, meetings, and dinners with friends with family are surely no phone time zones. Also try not to scroll on TikTok in the loo maybe?
- Disable notifications: We sure love a good beep and buzz, exciting stuff. But turning off your notifications can help to regain some control of your time.
- Limit checks: Try weaning yourself off of checking your phone. Set small targets.
- Try deleting apps: Try removing just one app at a time to see how much you really miss it?