It is a well known fact that social media can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health. Research has previously shown that increased social media use is associated with decreased self-esteem and loneliness and that increased time on social media is associated with the increased likelihood of developing depression. Young adults who frequently use social media have been found to have greater sleep disturbances.
Therefore, when I decided to delete all the social media apps off my phone for a week, I was hopeful that it would be beneficial for my mental health. I was anticipating a decrease in symptoms of poor mental health including anxious thoughts, fatigue and irritability, however, this was not the case.
During my week off social media, I was able to recognise exactly when I used social media and I realised that for me, social media was a way of occupying my mind between tasks. I would check Instagram whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, I would check Twitter whilst waiting for my bread to be toasted and I would check TikTok whilst drinking my cup of coffee. I was not purposefully using social media, I was mindlessly scrolling to occupy my mind whilst waiting to complete the next task. Therefore, even though I had deleted all the social media apps, I would still find myself picking up my phone to scroll through social media as it had become a habit. Consequently, all I had to do was find another way to occupy my mind between tasks in order to fill the gap that social media once had and after that, I barely noticed that I was no longer using social media.
During my week off social media, I was also able to recognise exactly why I used social media and I realised that for me, social media was a way of connecting with family, friends and acquaintances that I do not necessarily talk to on a daily basis. Although social media is often criticised for it, it is a way to celebrate with others achievements in your life and I missed being up-to-date with other’s achievements and being able to congratulate them on their hard work. Feeling lonely and depressed, two supposed benefits of decreasing time spent on social media, were two feelings that were increased during my week off social media, although this may have just been because due to the current circumstances, I could not replace time spent off social media with time spent with friends in real life.
As a result of my week off social media, I want to change the way I use social media. I want to stop using social media as a way of occupying my mind between tasks as I have found that reading an article or chapter of a book is a much more productive use of this time, especially as it has previously been found that the average person spends at least an hour and forty minutes per day on their favourite social media sites and apps. Instead I want to set aside time during my day to purposefully use social media to stay updated on my family, friends and acquaintances.
In conclusion, I believe that the benefits you will experience from decreasing your social media use depend on how and why you use social media. As someone who uses social media to connect with family, friends and acquaintances and only follows and connects with others who are of similar mind-set to myself, my experience of social media is mostly positive and therefore my experience of decreasing my social media use was mostly negative, however, this may not be the case for someone who uses social media differently. I am someone who is a strong believer of the ‘unfollow’ and ‘block’ button in order to maintain the positive experience of social media and believe that you should only follow and connect with others of a similar mind-set to yourself and this is advice that I would give to anyone who is struggling to use social media in a positive way.
Would you ever delete social media for a week?