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Social Media – Servant or Master?

social-media-addictionDetoxing Social Media Out of Your Life can Improve Your Mental Health

Social media has allowed us to be more connected than ever before yet many of us are lonely, depressed and anxious as a result of its all pervasive influence.

How many times have we logged into Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see one of our ‘friends’ on the holiday of a lifetime, having a dream wedding or even the finest meal of their lives.

On the face of it everyone else bar you is having the best life and somehow you and your life are lacking.

Keeping up with our social media ‘friends’ will never be a winning proposition.

Posting on social media is a modern phenomenon – we have learnt to express our identity online and many of us have become addicts for instant validation, sometimes from people we don’t even know.

The mindset seems to be that the moment is less real if we don’t  share it with others and get their approval. This approval enhances our identity in the eyes of people that we are minimally connected or vested.

No longer is it enough to experience pleasure or happiness of the moment, we have to weave, construct and enhance our stories for public viewing and validation.

Australian  figures suggest on average we spend almost one day every week online (23 hours and 18 minutes). Our average social media use is higher than that of any other country with an average of six hours and 52 minutes a month.

The question has to be asked – Do you rule social media or does it rule you?

At Emed we have a great range of detoxes that allow our bodies to flush out the toxins and to achieve better health. However, what about our minds? With social media is it as simple as logging off?

A Social Media detox could be the answer to save our mental health from the infiltration of social media.

The social-media detox is probably the easiest and most effective way of restoring your mental health back to its peak, and I recommend doing it at least 3-4 times per year in varying degrees.


Social Media as a Servant

As a servant, social media lets you connect with loved ones, share important moments or  jokes and most importantly, allows people to know what you, your children, your car  – or your cat – look like at any given moment of the day.


Social Media as a Master

  • Social media spreads ’emotional contagion’ and occurs when peoples negativity can spread and infect others through social media. This results when people air their dirty laundry or overly share periods of intense sadness, anxiety or depression. Many use Facebook as a journal or as a voice box venting issues as if they are talking to a therapist. Avoiding this emotional contagion is extremely difficult and hard to remove yourself from the mosquito- breeding -swamplands -of -negativity.
  • On social media many people put only their best face out into the digital ether. Everyone just seems so happy and blissed out! Your life may be perfectly fine with little to complain about but social media has the dubious ability to make you think you’re not doing as well as you think. Your ‘friends’ happiness (I’m not talking about family or close friends here) sometimes has the adverse effect of making you feel miserable for missing out on what “could be.” This effect has been coined as “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO). Being bombarded by the wonderful life of virtual friends is not good for you, particularly when you’re in a low ebb; it’s best to filter out all the excess for your own sanity.
  • Have you ever found yourself more concerned about getting a picture of that great meal, videoing a great band or updating your holiday on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter than enjoying the actual moment? Have we lost the ability to enjoy experiences but instead are more concerned about letting everyone else know how wonderful our life is through apps that allow us to choose filters for our photos? It may get to the point where your most memorable moments exist only in pictures as you can’t remember the taste or the sensation of the moment. We need to get back to the point where we are able to enjoy the experience and the people we are with  – social media can and should wait.
  • Social media is relentless in its demands. When we let social media take over it can run rampant. Eyes down and focused on the smart phone as we walk down the street (or even more alarmingly driving) rather than where we are are actually going. Other than possibly crashing into a post or the car in front of us, it creates another obstacle for passersby to negotiate.
  • We ignore those in the room with us, avoiding interaction with them while connecting with virtual friends – logically it makes no sense.
  • Your time was no longer your own and  you can end up feeling weighed down by obligation to check in.


Internet Addiction

Internet addiction is possible and is more likely to occur if you suffer from depression, anxiety, going through hard times, struggle in social situations; consequently you may feel more competent being online than in the real world.

Internet addiction can stem from where an individual may feel like they are succeeding in the digital world more than the real world (think of a brave/ successful/ attractive character in online gaming ).

People who are lonely or lack social skills can use the internet and social media as a safe replacement for face to face human connections that may be missing from their lives. These people often use digital technology to avoid dealing with this disconnect which causes more problems such as isolation as internet use grows.

Regularly these individuals lie about the amount of time they spend on the internet, lose contact with family and close friends as well as neglecting responsibilities such as work.


Physical Effects

Too much time on the internet can leave you  feeling irritable, short tempered, constantly tired and unable to cope with changes in plans or routine.

Some small studies have found that too much time can disrupt the brains wiring in a similar way to drug and alcohol addiction by negatively affecting dopamine, which relates to the reward system in our brain.

Additional effects include dry eyes or strained vision, back and neck pain,  headaches, sleep problems and weight gain (or weight loss) from being in front of the screen for too long.

Additionally there is a strong likelihood that individuals aren’t doing enough exercise which can lead to long-term health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.


keep-calm-im-just-offline-2Benefits of a Social Media detox

  • Able to focus on the here and now with family, friends and moments.
  • More clarity and focus with fewer distractions.
  • Able to complete daily tasks and projects in half the time it would typically take.
  • Screen out many distractions and focus on the here and now.

I recommend telling people you are beginning a social media detox. This will avoid the inevitable “Are you OK?” enquiries and will defeat the purpose of the detox.


How Long?

How long to do your social media detox? That depends on the individual. I recommend starting small and achievable and build on that.

Whatever you try remember that it’s time to put away the phones, turn off the computers and try the social-media detox, because your mental health is just as important as your physical and emotional health.

Start by not taking the smart phone to the dinner table.

Try giving up checking social media on the weekends.

A  30-day detox can teach you that you don’t have to be connected to everything and everyone all the time. The world will not stop rotating if you don’t see updates of a friends holiday or a photo of the latest stage of home renovation .

A six month social detox will allow you to remember what complete silence actually feels like, who is actually an important person in your life and who is just an extra in the background. Reconnect with yourself and appreciate what you have without all the extra noise of other peoples lives constantly in your face.


Hints to Achieve Success in Social Media Detoxing

  • Don’t take your smart phone to the dinner table at home or at a restaurant.
  • Don’t check Facebook or Twitter from bed—even if you are alone, social media can wait until your feet have at least touched the floor!
  • If you habitually check your emails and social media every few minutes, I suggest having periods where you keep your phone, tablet or computer in another room to avoid temptation. If that makes you anxious, it’s probably a sign you need to monitor yourself a bit more closely. What are your motivations? Is it just habit?
  • Remove the social media apps from your phone or tablet. Confine them to your computer and you will lose interest. Status updates are no longer so magnetic when they’re no longer immediate and actually require you to go out of your way to find them. (Now your smart phone has been reduced to device that takes photos and videos and dare I say it  – sometimes even make phone calls.)
  • Ask a friend to change your password on your favourite social media account. Agree to a designated time (perhaps one week in the future) in which that person will email you the new password and break your social media-free streak.
  • Unfollow your “guilty pleasure” feeds.
  • Temporarily block sites with outside help for a period of time. Apps like SelfControl for Macs and LeechBlock for Firefox will blacklist nominated sites while the RescueTime program will track your online time and stop you – or guilt you – from spending too much of it on social media. Freedom will block wifi on a Mac completely, but you could always just manually turn off the internet or switch your device to airplane mode.
  • Make up a rule – and stick to it such as no Facebook after 6 PM, Instagram on the weekends only, or no Twitter at work and stick to it.
  • Organise your Facebook and Twitter lists so you can only see your favourite people (family and friends) in the streams.
  • Replace one urge with another. If you are always reaching for your smartphone when you are bored train yourself to do something different.  If you carry your phone from room to room, consider docking your phone in a certain place and not touching it until necessary. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Delete your accounts if you’re ready to go cold turkey.


Are You A Servant  or Master to Social Media? Do this quick checklist to see how Social Media impacts on your life

  • Can I easily log off without feeling stressed or anxious?
  • Do I feel irritable or stressed when I can’t log on; do I feel that logging on will relieve this?
  • Do I have at least one internet-free evening per week?
  • Do I spend a lot of time thinking about being online when I’m not logged on?
  • Do I avoid family or social commitments to spend time online?
  • Do family, friends, or co-workers nag me about being online; do I lie to them about it?
  • Do I stay up late or wake up early to log on?
  • Do I frequently skip meals because I’m online?
  • Have I been late for work or missed deadlines because of my internet use?
  • Have I tried to cut back on my internet use and failed?
  • Do I get depressed if I don’t get enough retweets or other type of recognition?
  • Do I have an offline complex: do I become anxious when I accidentally leave one of my devices at home?


While it’s normal to do these things every so often, if you regularly do four or five of them, it could be an early warning sign of problems with internet social media use and you should consider trying to cut back.

Scoring high on this quiz doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem, but if technology is causing you distress or leading you to neglect work and family, you might want to seek help from your  health-care professional.


Final Word

If you think social media is getting in the way of your mental wellbeing, why not consider a social media detox.

Whether it’s at the dinner table, for a weekend, month or half a year, give a social media detox a go. The people and the experiences will still be real without the immediate validation – I guarantee it!


 Further Reading 


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