Feeling unproductive, unmotivated, and notice that you are wasting countless hours scrolling through social media? A social media cleanse may be a great decision to improve your well-being. In this week’s GKIS article, we will provide a step-by-step guide to putting down your phone and getting that much-needed break your mental health deserves.
According to pewresearch.org, 70% of Americans use social media. For adults, the most popular social media platforms include YouTube (73%) and Facebook (68%). In contrast, 63% of teens use Instagram, making it the most popular social media platform amongst young users ages 15-25.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 90% of teens have used social media and teens spend an average of nine hours a day on social media. Participants of a research study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 74% of Facebook users visit Facebook daily. People of varying ages spend a lot of time on social media.
We use social media to view funny memes, stay connected to friends and family, meet new people, share opinions and information, show off passions and creative pursuits, advertise businesses, and even get news. Most of us find it extremely rewarding and feel we’ve got it under control. But for others, social media can negatively impact mental health.
I’m a millennial who’s been using social media for 10 years. I’ve experienced a wide range of negative effects due to my social media use, including feelings of insecurity and not being good enough, anxiety, and the big one, fear of missing out (FOMO).
For years, I followed my friends’ and Instagram influencer’s profiles and wonder why I wasn’t as happy as them or why I couldn’t travel the world and have a life of fun and excitement. I often compared myself to others on social media and it hurt my mental health. In her book, Screen Time in the Mean Time, Dr. Bennett calls that “compare and despair” and believes it is a common contributor to teen anxiety and depression.
Social media can be a toxic place, especially during these unprecedented times. It’s too easy to spend hours on Google trying to figure out if you have COVID-19 and spend another 45 minutes scrolling through Facebook comments of people arguing over politics. Feelings are high and extreme opinions are rampant. According to helpguide.org, social risks include increased feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and insecurity.
The Benefits of a Social Media Cleanse
To get away from negativity, a social media cleanse may be the answer. The benefits of a social media detox include:
- More free time for other things, like research about a favorite topic
- Improved self-esteem
- Improved mood
- Increased mindfulness and awareness
- Improved sleep quality
- Helping you overcome FOMO
- Reconnecting with others offline
To research this article, I deleted all of my social media apps including my all-time favorite, Instagram, about a month ago. I was concerned that I was averaging too much screen time (6 hours a day) and I wanted to be more productive and connect more with my boyfriend and family.
My first week of being social media free was by far the hardest. But it became much easier after that. I often felt the urge to redownload my Instagram app, but for the most part I have been able to stay away.
The benefits of staying offline have really paid off for me. Almost immediately, I felt it was easier to fall asleep at night (since I was not on Instagram or TikTok late). I’ve also felt a reduction in stress, anxiety, and anger. Now I don’t feel the need to check my friend’s social media just to see what they’re doing all the time. Instead, I reach out directly to friends to reconnect.
I worried that if I deleted my social media accounts, I would feel more disconnected from my friends. But instead, I’ve kept in touch with them more than before my social media cleanse. Relationships and connections are important to me, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to connect in a more meaningful and sincere way. Overall, I’m happy with the results. I feel more mindful and present in my everyday life, my sleep has improved, I’ve experienced less stress and anxiety, and I have more free time to get work done and spend time reconnecting with the people I love.
Here are some red flags that may signal that you are ready for a social media cleanse:
- You spend most of your free time on social media.
- You feel like you need to share or post often.
- You find it hard to focus on schoolwork or other life responsibilities.
- You feel an increase in anxiety and stress after spending time on social media.
- You feel more lonely, unmotivated, and less creative.
- You are experiencing feelings of low self-esteem or low self-confidence.
- You feel anxious without your phone.
- You feel guilty or ashamed about the amount of time spent on social media.
How to Get Started
There are many ways to jump-start your social media cleanse. You can stop your phone use cold turkey, or you can delete one or two apps at a time. You can also cut down your friend list to only those you have a close, personal relationship with to cut out the less meaningful posts. Find whatever works best for you.
Here are some tips for getting started:
- Deactivate or delete your social media accounts.
- Delete social media apps from your phone.
- Connect with family and friends in alternative ways.
- Set a time limit on your phone to cut back on overall phone use.
- Check your daily Screen Use and make adjustments if needed.
- Set a specific “phone bedtime” before your actual bedtime (At least 3o minutes before you go to bed is recommended).
- Make your bedroom a phone-free zone.
- Turn your phone on “Night Mode” to decrease blue light emissions.
Most importantly, remind yourself why you decided to go on a cleanse in the first place. And remember, your cleanse doesn’t have to be a permanent decision, you can always go back.
There are endless possibilities for new enriching activities. You can practice meditation, pick up a new skill, or do that thing you’ve been meaning to do. Here are some fun ideas to reconnect with your loved ones:
- Family game night
- Family movie night
- Cook a family dinner. Make it exciting by trying a new recipe or cooking an old family favorite.
- Have a family yoga or workout session.
- Practice meditation and deep breathing (alone or with family).
Using this extra time to reconnect and spend valuable time with your family is great, but it’s also important to spend time hanging out with yourself. Start by catching up on your sleep, creating a playlist, or reading a favorite book. Don’t feel pressured to constantly look for something to keep you busy unless that’s what you want to do. This is a well-deserved break. Do whatever you want with it and enjoy!
If you’re interested in learning more helpful tips about parenting in the digital age, check out the GKIS Connected Family Course. The GKIS Connected Family Course is family-tested and outcome-based and helps you close screen risk gaps and improve family cooperation and closeness.
I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.
Onward to More Awesome Parenting,
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
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 Demographics of Social Media Users and Adoption in the United States. (2020, June 5). https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/social-media/.
 Clement, J. (2020, September 23). U.S. teens: most popular social media apps 2019. https://www.statista.com/statistics/199242/social-media-and-networking-sites-used-by-us-teenagers/.
 Robinson, L. Social Media and Mental Health. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm.
 Parenta, & *, N. (2017, May 8). 7 amazing benefits of doing a social media detox. Parenta.com. https://www.parenta.com/2017/05/05/7-amazing-benefits-of-doing-a-social-media-detox/.
 Pacheo, D. (2020, November 21). Can Electronics Affect Quality Sleep? Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed