Recently there has been a lot of talk about social media and whether or not we are positively or negatively affected by it. With lockdown meaning most of us are spending more time on social media than ever, I started thinking about whether or not my mental health has anything to do with the social content I consume on a daily basis. To be honest, I don’t really use multiple platforms, so my daily dose only comes from Instagram and occasionally Pinterest.
I think I’ll address this fully in a different post as the topic of body image and body comparison deserves more attention and a deeper explanation than a fleeting paragraph here, but I can 100% say that Instagram doesn’t affect me personally in this way. I don’t suffer with body issues as a result of what I see on Instagram, mostly because I’m really careful about who and what I follow on here, but also because I use it as a way to feel positive about my body and those who have bodies like mine. I suffer more with criticism, judgement and negativity towards my body in real life far more than I do online. This is not the case at all for everyone and it does seem to be the opposite for most people I see discussing this topic.
I spend most of my time on Instagram and social media for work, which is pretty unavoidable and I do enjoy keeping up with what everyones up to and it’s a great way to communicate with family, friends and even making new friends and connections. I see so many benefits in social platforms and am a huge advocate for the growth and development of platforms like these for these reasons, however I wanted to take part in Digital Detox Day to help support the charities associated with the day and test myself to see if having a day away would impact my life at all and even if it would go as far as to make me see social media and the way I use it differently.
Obviously the first thing I did was head to Lush and got myself a few IRL bath bombs and prepped myself for the 5th September. Around mid morning I opened Instagram and my boyfriend caught me and asked me what I was doing. I Shocked myself! I didn’t even realise I’d opened it and I certainly hadn’t intended to. What’s worse is it wasn’t even for work, it was genuinely just to mindlessly scroll. At this point I realised my thumb was hovering over the Instagram app without me even meaning to, so I moved the app up above where it usually sits and to be honest, that was all it took to stop me accidentally opening it. I didn’t use Instagram for the rest of the day, and since I’ve moved this away from my other apps and I haven’t been on Instagram at all without intending to.
Because I’m more mindful about the time I’m spending on social media, I feel less inclined to sit scrolling through endlessly as I have to make the conscious decision to open the app, I feel far more conscious about the time I spend doing it. Digital Detox Day has helped me to narrow down the top 5 accounts I want to follow as when I have about 2 mins to check Instagram I have a little run down in my head of who I want to catch up on. I always thought it would be really hard to narrow this down and unfollow a lot of the accounts I was following, but by having limited time, I’ve found it surprisingly easy to shortlist.
I’m actually making the most of social media and getting far more out of the time I spend on here by limiting myself because I use this time to look at what I actually want to look at and who I genuinely get joy from. When I’m sitting for half an hour or more just scrolling through, I end up past anyone I’m bothered about and in an abyss of people I don’t know or don’t even like. This is when the negative effects of social media unfold and can introduce comparison, judgement and just negativity that I don’t get at all when only absorbing what brings me joy and that I’m interested in.
It has become more of a treat which is really nice because it kind of is a treat. 10 years ago I would have bought a magazine and really looked forward to reading it and looking at the photos, perusing the adverts and getting my fashion, beauty and lifestyle fill. But now I can just scroll mindlessly through all of these things and that buzz and excitement has been lost along the way, however now I am treating it more like something which is rationed and allocated time, that thrill has definitely come back.
One thing I really hate is when I see friends and they open up Instagram or social media and have a quick scroll. I try my hardest not to even have my phone out when I’m socialising so I’m not impressed if someone finds Instagram more important than our real life conversation, however having a digital detox has made me so aware of this behaviour in myself. I might not be aimlessly scrolling in the presence of others, but i’ve done it when my boyfriend’s trying to speak to me, or when I should be giving my attention to someone or something else. It’s made me realise that the people who do this to me probably aren’t more interested in Instagram, but just simply have muscle memory to click on that app when they’re done messaging their boyfriend or ordering an Uber.
It’s MAD. It really is mad. My thumb quite literally has a mind of its own and I’m overjoyed about the fact that I’ve recognised this is now and can have fun and a better perspective on social media so I can get the most from something which, let’s be honest, is a huge part of our lives and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Even if social media is a part of your work, or 100% of what you do, you can use amazing apps to schedule content so you can dedicate your time allocation to certain apps and platforms and then choose to step away for other hobbies or more important things that you need to do with your day.
If you didn’t take part in Digital Detox Day, why not try for a day or weekend and see whether you even miss social media – you’ll probably be surprised by what you learn about yourself and your behaviours online.
I am by no means telling you it’s bad for you, as mentioned before, I love social media and being online in general, it’s just good to remind yourself there is more to life that you might be missing out on and that you’ll probably enjoy your time online much more if it’s intentional rather than mindlessly.