Social Media Detox: How to Take a Break
Avoiding Information Overload
Navigating through multiple apps, I feel overwhelmed by the abundance of information around me. Many people are feeling exhausted by the information overload these days, leading to a rise in the number of individuals among my friends who practice SNS detox. They delete apps for about a week and enjoy offline hobbies and quality time with friends. After the detox period, they often express positive feedback such as “I stopped comparing myself to others” or “I felt like I used my time more meaningfully.” Indeed, research from the University of Bath has revealed that those who took a 7-day break from platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook experienced increased levels of happiness.
The correlation between social media usage and mental well-being has attracted attention as internet users worldwide spend more time online each year. According to Statista, internet users now spend an average of 144 minutes per day on social media and messaging apps, an increase of over 30 minutes since 2015.
But what makes social media so addictive? Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “websites or computer programs that allow people to communicate and share information on the internet.” The interactivity, where users can actively participate and share their own content, is a crucial factor.
While it can be beneficial, such as connecting with like-minded individuals and finding solace in shared problems, there are also negative aspects that arise from the fear of missing out (FOMO) and comparisons with others. We need to consider the best approach to maintain our mental well-being in the face of various aspects of social media.
How can we maintain a healthy distance from media, and how can we make wholesome choices when consuming information? In this edition, let’s explore how digital natives like us can find a healthy balance with social media.
Striking the Right Balance with Social Media
Nonchalantly opening Instagram and inadvertently scrolling through Reels, I find myself spending hours. I lament the emptiness left by the time I’ve lost, but it’s too late.
Many of you might have had similar experiences, where you end up mindlessly consuming information or losing precious time. While we are indeed scrolling through the screen ourselves, the addictive nature of social media is carefully designed.
For instance, TikTok’s “For You” feed shows not only content that matches past viewing patterns but also diverse content to prevent users from getting bored. Regulations like the “Filter Bubble Transparency Act” or penalties for features that might induce addiction in children are being debated.
Though it might be challenging to completely quit SNS, facing ourselves and finding an appropriate distance is crucial. Setting screen time limits (without knowing your passcode might be helpful), using messaging features only, or muting all but close friends (my personal recommendation) can help.
While drastic SNS detox might be challenging, being mindful and maintaining an appropriate distance from media is essential for our mental well-being.
Venturing into the Sea of Information
Opening my phone for a trivial reason and suddenly finding myself spending an hour, all I’m looking at is social media. It feels like I’ve been spirited away. But in reality, there’s no enchantment; I’ve merely fallen into the cunning trap of social media.
The combination of “easy access” and “instant gratification (rewards)” triggers the release of dopamine, our brain’s pleasure neurotransmitter. Smooth visuals, diverse content, incessant notifications, and boundless algorithmically recommended content are all designed to induce dopamine overload through social connections.
TikTok, in particular, constantly spreads the latest trends randomly, leading to a high level of addiction, especially among young people. Personally, I’ve convinced myself that I would lose if I installed TikTok, and this sense of “losing” might be due to its addictive nature.
Another horrifying aspect of TikTok is its overwhelming information dissemination power. The term “infodemic” has recently caught my attention; a blend of “information” and “epidemic.” It refers to a phenomenon where misinformation and rumors spread rapidly on the internet and have a significant impact on society. During major disasters or disease outbreaks, infodemics are more likely to occur.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed misinformation spreading, leading to panic-buying of toilet paper and the dissemination of unverified side effects of drugs and vaccines. Many of these posts gain more traction by promoting an audience’s anxiety with coercive claims like “If you do (or don’t do) this, you will face such consequences,” further amplifying their reach. Continuous scrolling through negative news on social media is termed “doomscrolling.” Particularly during uncertain times, we unconsciously engage in doomscrolling, making us more susceptible to misinformation online. Thus, it is crucial to consciously expose ourselves to positive information and continuously reflect on what kind of information we desire.
In the age of information overflow, losing ourselves and being swept away by the waves is the most significant concern. As we venture into the sea of information, let’s face it with positivity and not forget our proactiveness.
Teenagers and Facebook
In the US, Meta (formerly Facebook) is being sued for allegedly causing mental health problems in a 13-year-old girl due to excessive use of their platform. Constant notifications led to decreased interest in other activities and disrupted sleep, causing detrimental effects.
Not Everything Is Ideal with "Do Not Disturb" Mode
“Do Not Disturb” mode on smartphones could exacerbate the fear of missing out (FOMO) for some individuals. Thus, customizing settings, like enabling notifications only for essential news articles in a news app, can be beneficial.
Gen Z Shaping the New Era of Social Media
Gen Z shows a strong interest in online privacy and is shifting towards more private messaging apps. SNS users, excluding TikTok, are decreasing, while platforms like Discord, Geneva, and Telegram are becoming more popular.