We hear about social media detoxes a lot these days. There are even social media retreats that you can go on now where Instagram and Facebook are replaced with yoga and meditation. But are they really necessary? And if so, why?
This week I’ve had a social media detox. Well – not a full week of it. It’s only been 3 days so far, but already I feel like I’ve had a 2 week holiday. After 3 days of relentless trolling by organized group accounts over a stupid (but very innocent) joke, my anxiety levels skyrocketed. I wasn’t sleeping at night, I completely lost my appetite, I was irritable and restless and suddenly, I felt very uncertain about my Instagram and whether or not it was in my best interests to continue with it.
This might seem like an overreaction, but after hundreds of messages and comments telling me to kill myself, wishing cancer on me and saying that I shouldn’t be allowed to be a parent – well, that shit gets to you.
Thankfully I decided on Thursday morning to take a break for a few days and already I feel like a weight has been lifted. But it’s got me thinking about whether or not I should make this mini detox a regular thing. Should I take one weekend every month off social media? Or should I just play it by ear and take breaks based on how I’m feeling?
I think detoxing from social media is really good for your mental health. Being online so much (my average time on Instagram everyday is 2 hours) definitely messes with your sense of reality, your perspective and your priorities. Taking a break from it gives you space and breath to reassess, which we all need from time to time.
For example, I’ve meditated more in the last two days than I have done in the last 3 months. I used to be a great mediator, having learned the skill during my eating disorder recovery and held on to it for about 2 years after. But in the last year I’ve stopped, not for any particular reason other than I forgot. It stopped being important to me, because Instagram took over.
I’m not coming down hard on myself because of this though – life gets in the way. We can’t all be Deepak Chopra and meditate every single day of our lives. And I don’t want to give the impression that Instagram is the source of all evil either. I’m a big believer in the power of social media platforms to do good, and in the ability of the right Instagram accounts to have an immeasurably positive impact on your mental health.
But when you’re using Instagram to create content, as opposed to just consume it, it can become toxic. As a creator, you open yourself up to criticism and judgement. You invite people into your life and give them a way to attack you. And of course you would think that nobody would want to do that, but the sad truth is that a small minority will and do.
Having a few days away has really helped me to recenter and reconnect with the whole reason I’m on Instagram in the first place – the empowerment of women and the promotion of self love. Yes, it can be tough, but I love what I do. I won’t be stopping any time soon. But I also don’t want to continue using social media in a way that is giving me so much anxiety that I can’t eat. So what can I do?
I could just take time off whenever I feel I need it, but I’d rather use a regular social media detox as a preventative measure to ensure that I can continue to use Instagram the way I have been doing without it having this cumulative anxiety affect. I think I’m going to try taking one day off social media every week – probably Sundays because they make sense to me as self care days.
Will it work? Who knows. But I think if nothing else it’ll be an interesting experiment that will help me to understand how I can strike the illusive balance between social media and mental health.
Plus I’ll get some content out of it, which we all know is the most important thing of all!