If you have thought of taking a break from social media, you are certainly not alone. What was originally intended to be a digital meeting place for friends and family members to share pictures and to easily communicate has evolved to include attention-grabbing news items, advertisements that bombard, political rants, the ability to scream at or be screamed at by strangers or perhaps even relations with opposing world-views, and so much more. Especially during turbulent times, it can be good for one’s mental and even physical health to take a break from social media.
Many people may have a social media addiction and be tempted compulsively to “dive back in”, soon after they decided or even announced that “I’m taking a break”, as interacting on social media has become so ingrained as a part of their daily lives. But the wellness benefits from taking a break and getting past that initial want to “just check in” can be worth it in many ways.
Some benefits from taking a social media “time out” include:
- More time for personal reflection and re-establishing inner calm.
Instead of focusing attention on the bombardments of social media, it may be better to simply go outside and enjoy being in the moment. There are world-issues and endless debates that we alone can’t resolve, and social media arguments that escalate where we know we will never convince the person we are arguing with to ever change their minds. We often fight these fights and they stay with us in our own minds, and the resultant anger and adrenaline can be physically and mentally detrimental.
By simply taking a break, “turning it off” and appreciating the natural environment right in front of us, which we very often miss with our heads buried in a screen, we can reconnect with ourselves, be in the here and now, and get further in touch with nature to re-establish our inner calm and sense of well-being.
- More time to reconnect with family and friends in person.
While social media provides an easy way to “stay in touch”, it lacks the real-world connection of friendship, love, and spending quality time together enjoying “real” life.
- More time for physical activity.
Hanging out on social media is a sedentary activity that can eat up a lot of time during the day in short bursts. Why not use this time to go for a walk, or engage in exercise to enhance your health instead?
- More time for learning and reading.
Why not use the time you would spend on social media to work on self-improvement instead, learning a new skill, or reading a chapter of that book that you’ve been meaning to get to?
- More time for sleep and getting better sleep.
If you are spending too much screen time before bed, and especially if social media has you feeling negative, angry, anxious, or agitated, this can affect your ability to fall asleep. And if you are scrolling through social media in bed, this takes away from the time where you could be falling asleep or sleeping. If you are not sleeping well or long enough, it can have a bad effect on your energy level the next day and even affect your health over time if this becomes a long-standing habit.
- It can decrease negative self-appraisal.
Especially for young people, the impact of social media messaging and imagery from advertisers and other people portraying their lives as “ideal” or “perfect” can impact feelings of self-worth, when comparing themselves to others they may see as “more beautiful, more powerful, more popular, or more wealthy”. The emotional maturity to understand these fully and clearly for the idealized imagery a poster is trying to present can increase one’s own negative self-talk. Stepping away from this influence can be mentally healthy.
- Taking a break will allow you the time to access your social media behavior moving forward.
“Getting off the wheel” of a social media habit gives you the time to assess your feelings about why you decided it was time to take a break and think about what you want your social media experience to be when you choose to return, if you choose to return!
For some casual social media users, the break will seem like not a big lifestyle switch. For regular users, determining what you want social media to be to you moving forward, perhaps unfollowing some pages, perhaps even “unfriending” a few people (especially those who are only “social media friends” that set you off) can help you get back to what social media was originally intended to be- a meeting and sharing place for friends and family.