Are social media detoxes a good idea?

Do you feel like you need a break from social media or need to think about posts differently?

Written by Criodán Ó Murchú


By now, I’m sure you have heard of a “social media detox.” Essentially, it involves restricting your social media usage to only a few hours or no time at all, for an undefined amount of time. Some people may do Monday to Friday, others 9am-6pm and check in during the evening for an hour. Social media detoxes are becoming more and more popular.

The impact of social media

In May 2019, Instagram began trialling the removal of a visible like count on posts made on the platform in Canada. This was carried over to the platform in Ireland in July. The aim of the trial was to reduce the competitiveness of people seeking likes, hopefully reducing the anxiety many people feel trying to get as many likes as possible.Social media use can have negative effects people, especially teenagers, mental health, sleep schedules and body image. The fear of missing out (commonly abbreviated to FOMO) is often experienced by people scrolling through their social media feeds too.

Highlight reel

It is important to remember what social media is and how it is used. At its barebones, it is a highlight reel for people to showcase the parts of their lives that they want people to see. It’s like a trailer for a film – the best bits in a short timeframe that makes every moment look great. You may assume then that the whole thing must be like that, but we know that isn’t true. So why do people believe it is?

I think part of the solution to rethinking how we look at social media, is for us to take a step back and think about what we would and wouldn’t post on social media. You would post about the good in your life, your great success, your fantastic day out, etc. You wouldn’t post that you’d gotten a flat tyre or failed an exam. When you apply this logic to the posts you see, you realise that not everyone’s life is a stream of perfection. Yes, a person may be on holidays somewhere sunny, but you missed the part where they had to run to make their plane and lost their luggage when they arrived. It may seem trivial to imagine this kind of scenario but to me it seems equally trivial to imagine someone’s life as being perfect all the time.

Appreciating the good things in life

Another part of the solution may be to learn to appreciate the good in your life and going further, learning how to be happy for other people, rather than jealous or upset at someone’s success. I think this is easier to do as you get older. It’s an important thing to realise that it feels good to be happy for someone, to support your friends and colleagues. Social media is here to fuel interaction, yet so many people just unconsciously like a post and move on. The weight of a comment or a kind word in person (yes, you can bring up stuff from online in person) can go a long way and much more so than just a passive “like.”

Do detoxes work?

Whether a social media detox is of any benefit is still up for debate. Some people do find it helpful but recently, a new study challenges the supposed benefits of a detox, showing no strong links between those who remained using and those who stopped using social media for a short time period.

To me the detox seems like an artificial fix to a problem when, more than likely, many of us will be back on social media in a few days to repeat the cycle all over again. That’s not a solution, that’s a short-term fix and I feel these don’t help in any aspects of life. Any issues or problem with social media will then need to be addressed in the future and the problem could be a lot worse. Imagine taking out a loan to cover another loan. You’re only increasing the problems down the line.

Finding what works for you

Personally, I have found more benefit in turning off notifications on certain apps and checking in when I want to. I’ve seen my app usage fall dramatically and, in my opinion much more naturally than going cold turkey a couple of days a week.

Take a step back and ask yourself why you use a certain social media platform and why you follow certain people. Do they add anything positive to your life? Are they supportive of you? Do you trust them? If you answer yes to these, they may be worth keeping around. However, if you only follow people because they’re “popular” or you rely on them to make you happy, perhaps you should reevaluate things. Social media should add to your life, not be a crutch. A detox may help you but learning to be happy with yourself, your life and for others around you could help you a lot more.

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