The digital age makes it easier than ever to stay connected and keep in touch with one another–but that’s not always a good thing. Even before the pandemic turned the world upside down, America has been in what health professionals have deemed a mental health crisis. In 2019, nearly one-fifth of American adults experienced mental illness (approximately 50 million) with a growing number of American youth. One of the leading causes is social media. Heavy social media use has been shown to cause a number of adverse psychological and cognitive effects. While it may be tempting to see what friends are up to, the benefits of staying off social media will make you want to stop scrolling immediately.
5 Reasons to Quit Social Media (or at least take a break from it)
Your Instagram feed may be pretty, but the relationship between social media and our mental health has been found to be rather ugly. Numerous studies have found that social media can be more addictive than alcohol and cigarettes in young people, is extremely harmful to our self-image, and decreases our social skills. Here are just some of the immediate benefits you will experience when you go on a social media cleanse.
Improved mental health
FOMO, the fear of missing out, is a very real phenomenon amongst social media users. Constantly being inundated with fabulous dinners, vacations, and activities of others can make you scrutinize your own life and feel inadequate. As such, social media is strongly linked to causing feelings of loneliness and isolation which in turn can heighten the risk of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Fortunately, it’s very possible to undo those feelings. Limiting social media usage by even just 30 minutes a day can reduce these feelings and improve overall well-being.
Global research has found that our attention span is shrinking fast, from 12 to 8 seconds in just two decades, and is now shorter than a goldfish’s (which is reported to be 9 seconds). Our shortened attention span has taken a toll on both the entertainment we consume as well our professional and academic pursuits. The mindless scrolling and compulsion to constantly check one’s phone has shot our collective concentration with both adults and teens admitting to losing focus over school or work due to their cell phones. Fortunately, the brain can be retrained to hone its fous. Putting down the phone is a great start when paired with mindfulness activities such as yoga, meditation, or exercise.
Being more distractible can also lead to an impaired ability to retain new information and prevent us from fully engaging with what we’re reading or seeing. Further, using social media for 2.5 hours a day (the average for most Americans) can physically change our brains, shrinking the part of the brain associated with memory and resulting in lower gray-matter volume, a key component in memory, emotion regulation, and movement. According to Stanford University, reducing media multitasking, which includes social media, can boost memory. This in addition to the hours gained from not scrolling on your phone will enable you to be more productive as well.
Whether we know it or not, social media constantly has us comparing ourselves to others and is notorious for contributing to low self-esteem. In addition to FOMO, the impact of filters on social media have a significant impact on how we see ourselves. Many of these filters cause drastic and unrealistic changes such as artificially altering faces to resemble Euro-centric features (such as thinner noses or lighter eyes), making skin poreless and smooth, making lips and eyes larger, as well as changing the eye shape. Cyberbullying is an alarming phenomenon that’s increasingly prevalent among younger generations. It can place teens in immediate physical and mental harm and is a direct result of social media.
Reduced eye strain
While many of the harmful consequences of social media that are decried by research and experts are mental, the physical impacts cannot be ignored. Staring at a tiny screen for hours on end is very hard on the eyes (especially in the dark). Digital eye strain can lead to a number of uncomfortable side effects including:
- Blurred and worsening vision
- Dry eyes (which often causes headaches)
- Eye twitching
Putting down the phone, and reducing screen time in general, is one of the easiest ways to reduce the strain on your eyes.
Take a Break From Social–You Won’t Regret It
You don’t have to swear off-screen time forever to reap the benefits of staying off social media. Even just taking a temporary break, a social media detox as it’s sometimes called, can be immensely beneficial to one’s mental health. If your mental health has taken a turn for the worse–because of social media or otherwise–find a mental health professional today who can help you to mentally feel your best.