Why it is crucial to detox from social media habits and how to do it

Why it is crucial to detox from social media habits and how to do it

Although social media was built for the harmless intention to expand our social networks and stay in touch with those physically remote from us, our social media use has spiraled into a dopamine addiction, a place of total lack of control of our digital habits.

We check your feeds first thing in the morning; every time we get a notification, or we are glued to our screens when there is real people around to spend quality time with – this is madness!

Let us to talk about social media detox. This is when one deliberately eliminates social media use and consumption for a certain period. It can be a week, a month, or years.

The music superstar Selena Gomez said she stayed off social media for more than four years and in her words, it was “the best decision that I’ve ever made for my mental health”.

With mental wellbeing becoming a concern across the world and increasing research associating poor mental health with social media use, more and more people are boarding the wagon of social media detox.

If music superstars, people whose careers rely on high social media presence have boarded this wagon, it should jog our brains to wonder what’s in it.

The problem though is that social media has become synonymous to ‘shamba la bibi’ – a place where anyone can do anything.

As a result, what bombards us in social media can nourish or utterly suck dear life out of our souls.

Good news is that it seems many people now see the deleterious effects of social media and are consciously reducing use.

But some have carried it to extremes, going full cold turkey and deleting their social media accounts. This seems to me like an overreaction.

Or may be a lack of better ways to limit social media use. In my view, social media use is an all-or-nothing affair. If you are interested in less dramatic ways to detox social media habits, here are some.

Social media platforms are designed to get you addicted to feedback loops: the dopamine hit from notifications, likes, and instant gratification gets you feeling good. But it doesn’t end there. Unless you are mindful, you can get caught up in a spiral where your social media use becomes an addiction.

As a result, you are constantly overstimulated and distracted by notifications. To regain control of your social media habits, eliminate distractions. Silence notifications from all social media apps on your phone. Trust me, it is never an emergency!

Sometimes we post on social media because we crave some good feelings, which we can get from the Likes, the Comments and the Claps on our posts. But alas! Our very own posts then become the bait that keeps us logged in to check for reactions. So, you can detox by gradually reducing content sharing.

If you post every week, reduce it to once every two weeks and so on, until you are happy with your social media habits. But if you don’t post and your social media habits are still haywire, you may need more invasive interventions J. I mean the key is to address the thing that keeps you going back.

Our brains work by responding to inputs. The habit you are accustomed to do given a certain input is the habit your brain will trigger when that input is present.

It works like a computer program: ‘hand holds phone; eye sees Instagram icon; finger clicks on icon; finger scrolls; eye sees friends and family with a ‘perfect’ life; body releases bad chemicals of envy, jealous, unhealthy competition, etc; finger closes Instagram 30 minutes later; body and mind march unceremoniously to a lousy day; repeat; mental health takes a dip’. But here is the good news – it is easier to avoid than to resist the triggers of our habits.

Instead of resisting the urge to click on the icons, make it easier by not seeing them in the first place – uninstall the apps that have your most attention.

Especially for young people, if a day comes that you hold your phone and other than checking for important messages or missed calls you have nothing else to do, that is winning. Now brainstorm meaningful ways to use that time.

Next week we will cover more ways to strike a good balance between all-or-nothing social media habits.

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