It’s irresistible, isn’t it?
That urge to check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email or whatever.
You know you shouldn’t so often but you just can’t help it!
Seems pretty harmless, but the truth is that social media may be hurting you in more ways than you think.
It can be one of the reasons why you are so overwhelmed.
Before we get into the 10 signs, I want to share my personal social media/digital detox with you...
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My Three-Month Digital Detox
I lived in a cabin in the woods for about three months.
Which is a pretty big deal for someone who had never even gone camping before!
Here’s how it happened:
After months of painstakingly applying for over 1,000 jobs to no avail, I decided to try something different -
Outdoor seasonal work.
If you’ve never heard of seasonal work, it typically involves traveling to a remote location and doing some form of manual labor to earn your keep. The job only lasts for a season (hence, the name).
It’s enticing for those who love to travel because the jobs are usually at national parks, lodges, resorts and other beautiful places to stay.
So, I went to work at a conference center nestled in the scenic outdoors of Lake Tahoe.
And I mean, this place is absolutely breathtaking – California redwoods, mountain lakes, starry skies … nature in all its glory.
Only thing was, if you wanted to use your cell phone you had to drive about two miles up the road.
That is, if your cell phone worked at all.
I also didn’t have a laptop or an iPad or a car.
Surprisingly, after just a few days, those things didn’t bother me at all.
In fact, I loved the experience so much that I decided to follow it up with another seasonal work stint in Cody, Wyoming.
*No cell phone reception there either with the added bonus of no internet!
Those three months changed my life in many ways, one of which was my relationship with social media and technology in general.
Do You Need A Social Media Detox?
According to the 2017 and 2018 American Psychological Association (APA) Stress in America surveys:
- 65% of Americans agree that periodically unplugging is important for their mental health
- 42% of “constant checkers” say they worry about the negative effects of social media on their physical and mental health
- 44% of constant checkers report feeling disconnected from their families
- More than a third of constant checkers say they are less likely to meet with friends and family in person because of social media
... AND YET
- 86% of Americans are checking their phones constantly, or at least often, throughout the day
- Half of adults say they can’t live without their smartphones
- Facebook and Instagram have more than 2 billion combined users (Wow…the entire WORLD population is only estimated to be a little over 7 ½ billion)
- 45% of Gen Z adults say social media makes them feel judged and 38% report feeling bad about themselves as a result of social media
Here Are the Top Ten Signs You Need a Social Media Detox:
1. You’re stressed out/anxious
According to the Stress in America survey, nearly one-fifth of Americans say that technology is a significant source of stress.
Constant checkers have the highest levels of technology-related stress.
This type of stress usually stems from fear of missing out (FOMO), making unhealthy comparisons, and the desire to “keep up with the Joneses”.
According to the APA, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.
Other health issues that may arise from stress include:
Also, stress actually shrinks part of your brain (the hippocampus) over time, which can impair your ability to think, adapt and process emotions.
That explains why sometimes when you’re really stressed out, you can’t think straight!
So, if you’ve been feeling stressed or having anxiety lately, then (aside from these natural remedies or maintaining an anxiety-reducing diet) a social media detox may be just what the doctor ordered.
2. You’re unproductive/not making headway on your goals
Nothing is more frustrating than setting a goal and then not making any progress on it.
If your productivity has declined and you just can’t seem to get anything done, you may need a social media detox (and/or a brain dump!).
You may also want to check out this article for some practical tips to increase your productivity.
You might not realize exactly how much time you are actually spending on social media.
Studies show that the average person spends nearly two hours a day, every day, on social media.
That’s a lot of time that could be going towards accomplishing your big goals in life.
And it’s not just the time wasted while you’re on social media.
According to Mashable, if you stop what you’re doing to look at social media, it can take up to 23 minutes for you to regain your focus and get back on track.
No wonder you can’t get anything done!
3. Your self-confidence has taken a nosedive
If you’ve been feeling down on yourself lately, it might be due to “the thief of all joy”- comparison.
Social media is the perfect breeding ground for insecurity.
It may seem like everyone else is out there living these perfect lives, but the truth is, you're just seeing the stuff they chose to share with the world.
It’s not a fair comparison. You might as well be comparing apples to oranges. People tend to represent highly idealized versions of themselves on social media.
Looking at glorified snapshots of other people’s lives can take a toll on your self-esteem. You begin to compare your lifestyle, your job, your house, your body, your wardrobe to everyone else’s.
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” –Steve Furtick
Constantly making these unfair comparisons can also lead to depression.
A study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine reveals that those who use social media very frequently have 2.7 times the likelihood of depression.
Don’t let something like Facebook or Instagram steal your joy. Be proud of who you are and what you stand for.
If you notice that your confidence in yourself has been plummeting, get started on your social media detox!
4. You’re having trouble sleeping
Do you often feel tired during the day? Like there’s a fog clouding your mind?
If so, a social media detox may be in order.
Sleep is SUPER important.
When you sleep, your brain forms new pathways, clears out toxins and consolidates memories.
Your heart and blood vessels repair, your hormones balance out and your immune system recharges itself.
Sleep generally helps you to be a happy, healthy, smart, creative, productive, alert person.
But, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 95% of Americans use an electronic device within one hour of going to sleep.
This can interfere with your body’s ability to produce the sleep hormone, melatonin, making it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
Your body has an internal master clock that synchronizes your sleep-wake cycle with environmental occurrences like the sunrise and sunset (circadian rhythms).
The neurons that compose this master clock receive input through your eyes and are directly affected by light and darkness.
So, when you check social media before bed, the blue light emitted by your smartphone tricks your body into thinking it should be awake.
Basically, shortened/disturbed sleep cycles => increased cortisol => increased stress.
Break the vicious cycle by staying off your phone for at least an hour before bed as part of your social media detox.
5. You can’t seem to lose weight
According to a study by researchers at Northwestern University, social media may be to blame for excess weight.
The blue light emitted from your smartphone interferes with your metabolism and using your phone right before bed leads to higher glucose levels.
Translation: increased risk for Type 2 diabetes and excess body fat.
And if you find yourself on your social media instead of, say, going to the gym, it could be the reason for those few extra stubborn pounds.
A study in the American Journal of Medicine reveals that technology (and the resulting decreased physical activity) is the main cause of American obesity – NOT calorie intake.
But, social media can lead to increased calorie intake as well.
A study published in the Brain and Cognition journal suggests that exposure to digital images of desirable foods increases our desire for food – it’s called visual hunger.
*Like when you’re drooling over all those mouthwatering recipes on Pinterest!
So, if you’ve been eating healthy, working out, and still can’t seem to lose weight, it might be time to try a social media detox.
6. You’re lonely
Wait a minute, this seems counterintuitive.
If you’re on social media, then you’re not isolated. You’re more connected than ever, right?
Not according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Researchers reveal that young adults who spend the most time on social media were twice as likely to perceive themselves as socially isolated.
This is because social media does not provide us with the face-to face interaction we need to feel connected.
According to the Stress in America survey, constant checkers feel disconnected from their family and friends even when they are together.
And more than a third are less likely to meet with family and friends in person thanks to social media.
So, no matter how many “friends” or followers you have, they cannot make up for the value of good old-fashioned face to face interaction.
Technological loneliness is real.
We need to have actual contact and interaction with others. Social isolation (or the perception of it) causes an extreme immune response in our bodies.
In fact, studies have linked the lack of social relationships to mental health and mortality. One study even suggests that the risk of death from being isolated is comparable to the risk of death caused by smoking.
Don’t isolate yourself by constantly being on social media – detox yourself!
Exciting doors of opportunity could be opening all around you, but you don’t see them because you are checking your Instagram feed.
Be present. Allow for serendipitous occurrences. Don’t miss out on the magic of your real life.
7. You’ve been getting sick a lot
Have you been getting sick a lot lately?
If so, consider the extent to which social media may be responsible.
According to several studies, your relationship with social media can literally make you sick.
Facebook notoriously causes people to feel envious, anxious and depressed. These negative emotions can fester and eat away at your happiness, causing you to actually become physically ill.
Also, smartphones have been linked to brain tumors, infertility and even DNA damage.
They emit radiofrequency radiation, a form of electromagnetic field radiation (EMF) that causes the production of peroxynitrites in your body.
Peroxynitrites can create oxidative stress and release free radicals which cause cellular damage and lead to various chronic diseases or disorders including:
Many of these diseases and disorders have seen over a 200% increase since 1990 (before smartphones were “a thing”).
There is still controversy surrounding whether smartphones cause cancer. Partially because cancer symptoms can take years to surface (sometimes decades) and smartphones just haven’t been around that long.
However, the World Health Organization has labeled cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen. It's in the "2B" category with other dangerous substances like DDT pesticide, lead, gasoline engine exhaust, burning coal and dry cleaning chemicals.
Approximately 35 percent of people will experience mild electrohypersensitivity symptoms from technology.
So, if you’ve been having headaches, fatigue, concentration problems, insomnia or muscle aches, try doing a social media detox.
8. Your eyes are bothering you
Is your vision blurry? Are your eyes dry and tired? Have you been having unexplained headaches?
If so, you’re probably experiencing digital eye strain/computer vision syndrome and you could seriously benefit from a social media detox.
People who spend more than two or more continuous hours a day in front of a digital screen are at greatest risk of developing digital eye strain.
Since the average American worker spends seven hours a day viewing digital screens, many of us are at risk.
If you have even a minor preexisting vision problem like farsightedness or astigmatism you are more likely to experience digital eye strain symptoms.
And looking at social media on your smartphone only makes things worse.
The blue light emitted from your smartphone also increases your risk of developing macular degeneration, a condition that may lead to blindness.
Our eyes are not made to look at a computer/phone screen all the time. Looking at a digital screen makes our eyes work harder and can cause long-term damage.
So, give your poor eyes a break! They prefer to look at the natural (not digital) world.
9. You’ve been making bad decisions
It seemed like a good idea at the time to post that picture.
You know, the where you and your friends had "one too many" drinks.
Yeah, not a good look.
Especially when you’re trying to get a job.
A survey conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder reveals that 43 percent of hiring managers chose not to hire candidates because of information they found on social media.
The damning information consisted of:
And if you already have a job, don’t get too comfortable. Plenty of people have gotten fired for posting inappropriate pictures or comments.
You should only be posting things that you are comfortable with everyone seeing.
So, take a look at your social media accounts. Do you see anything embarrassing? Anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see? If so, take it down.
When you’re on social media all the time, you can become desensitized to sharing personal information.
If you find yourself posting impulsively, it may be time to take a step back and decide what image you want to portray while you do a social media detox.
10. You’re addicted to social media
Finally, if you’re addicted to social media and you know it, then you probably also know that you should do a social media detox.
Some signs of social media addiction are that you:
One study found that when students between the ages of 17 and 23 were asked to give up social media for 24 hours, most failed.
They also reported feeling panicked, restless, jittery, paranoid and insecure. One participant even said, “Media is my drug; without it I was lost”.
Another study even found that resisting the urge to check social networking sites can be more difficult than resisting the urge to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes.
So, if social media is interfering with your happiness, sleep, health, work or relationships, it is time to do a social media detox. Don't put it off any longer!
How to Do a Social Media Detox
Similar to a body detox, a social media detox will help to remove built up negative, harmful elements from your life.
At first, you may experience some discomfort but ultimately you feel much better than before you started. You just have to get all the bad stuff out of your system.
Of course, you don’t have to do a three-month-long detox like I did to experience the benefits!
Participants in a study (published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking) reported greater life satisfaction and well-being after taking a break from Facebook for just a week.
If that seems like too much for you, simply find ways to slowly cut back here and there.
For example, you could set certain times that you won’t be on social media, like:
It may help you to keep a log of your social media usage over the course of a day or a week to see where your vulnerabilities lie.
Track yourself from when you log on until you log off. Every single time.
You’ll be able to see exactly how much time you are spending on social media. From there, you can plan your social media detox.
Download this free Social Media Detox: Usage Tracker to help you get started.
Know someone else who would benefit from a social media detox?
Share this article (and then start your detox!
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