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Getting Clean: Why everybody should try a social media detox

I don’t use the word “detox” lightly. It is often used in money-spinning fad diet adverts, new year’s resolutions and the Kardashians’ Instagram pages. Usually this word refers to avoiding ‘bad’ food, alcohol, or only drinking green juice for four weeks to look ‘healthy’ (or, in other words, very thin). “Detox” implies that the thing you are avoiding is toxic to begin with. This is why I use this word in the context of social media: social media breeds toxicity. That’s why, for three months at the end of 2018, I deleted my Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook apps from my phone. I detoxed.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m back on social now, and I’m enjoying it again. The point is, I was not enjoying it at all last year. I was suffering with anxiety at levels worse than ever before, crying most days, hypothesising everything, and my thoughts were paranoid. I would endlessly scroll Instagram looking for people who looked happier than me, prettier than me and who seemed to be having a much better time than me. The guilt, paranoia and stress would multiply every time I looked. So I quit cold turkey.

If you’re someone who loves social media, like I still do, there’s still great lessons to be learned from switching off for a while. There is literally no harm in doing this (unless you’re using social media for business purposes, of course). Saying to your mates, ‘Don’t worry, nothing major has happened, I’m just trying this out, contact me on my phone’ and switching off will give you a chance to sit back and reflect on the importance you place in these apps in the first place. There’s no pressure to stay off social media forever, and it’s not a failure to switch back on after a time.

I can’t stress enough the improvement on my mental health that happened over those months. No, my problems didn’t go away, and I was still working through a lot, but the space that the absence of these apps gave me was incredible. Instead of automatically picking up my phone and scrolling whenever I found myself without a task at hand, I would read, or watch a documentary, or organise my desk. This sounds soooo boring to some people, I’m sure. But if you’re someone who is finding social media a source of stress at the moment, or even if you don’t, the benefits of refreshing yourself without it are amazing. I got through so many books. In addition, I learned that those who are actually interested in your life will… Like… Talk to you. Instead of giving a cursory “like”, or keeping up with your life via your posts, they’ll ask by other means how your life’s going. You can show them pictures of your life by sending them on Whatsapp! I know, right! Who knew?

Now that I’m back, I’m loving social media again. I’m able to look at the things that used to make me freak out and understand that nobody, yes, NOBODY is as happy as they look on Instagram. Literally nobody. No, not even that person with the really cute dog and fit boyfriend who just popped into your head. No, not even Chrissy Teigen. Nah. Nope. They just aren’t. Life isn’t like that. So go on, go cold turkey. I dare you.

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