An increasing number of studies investigate the link between social media usage and mental health. These point to one clear conclusion: Low levels of social media usage are associated with better mental health.
For example, a large-scale study indicated that occasional social media users are almost three times less likely to be depressed than heavy users. Another study showed that young people who use social media more than two hours per day are much more likely to rate their mental health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ than occasional users. All these studies suggest that over-usage of social media can be bad for mental health.
Steps to Taking a Digital Detox
The evidence is clear. Heavy usage of social media is harmful to mental health. As such, a digital detox should be considered an important self-care strategy. Importantly, a digital detox does not always mean complete abstinence. Such advice may be impractical, as many people use digital devices for essential business, educational, and familial purposes. Instead, some simple steps can moderate usage with beneficial effects, three of which are outlined below.
- Time: Some individuals are deciding to abstain from digital devices and social media during certain times of the day or even certain days of the week. This might involve a digital curfew, for example, no usage after 9 PM, or no use on Sundays. Such a strategy can be helpful for sleep and rest and can be tailored to individual specificities.
- Space: Some British pubs have set a ‘no phones, no laptops, no tablets’ policy to encourage social conversation. Similarly, some people are specifying digital-free spaces in their own homes. This commonly includes areas such as the bedroom or the dinner table.
- Alternative: Many people are using social media to fill a social vacuum. A successful digital detox will create free time for alternative activities, which may better fill this vacuum. Individuals can create an action plan in this regard, including rekindling old interests, pursuing new hobbies, or volunteering.
A social media detox can give time for introspection and renewal. It can positively affect mental and physical health and create a new space for alternative health-promoting activities.
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