How quitting social media for one week affected my mental health

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Jess Nichols considers how quitting all social media for a week affected her mental health and wellbeing.

Pretty much everyone uses some form of social media. Whether it's Snapchat or Twitter, Pinterest or Youtube, Whatsapp or LinkedIn, etc etc etc. Even your Nan probably has Facebook by now, let's be honest.

It's such a convenient way to stay connected with a huge amount of people, and more importantly, a great way to share hilarious memes. However, it is often easy to overlook the negative effect it can have on your mental health and wellbeing.

it was like muscle memory; I knew exactly where the bookmarks were

So, I decided to go social media dark (being left with just calls, texts, and emails) for a week to see how it affected my mental wellbeing and perspective on it.

Compared to some other people, I initially thought I wasn't too caught up with social media. However, I soon discovered that I was very wrong about this. By the end of the first day I had discovered just how much I rely on it, and the amount I use it in a day.

Painfully often I'd find myself on my way to opening the apps on my phone or laptop without even realising I was doing it. It was like muscle memory; I knew exactly where the bookmarks were. I had to stop myself from subconsciously opening them an infuriating amount on the first day.

It even got to the extreme that I had anxiety dreams that I had caved and was scrolling through Facebook, or that I'd forgotten to turn off notifications and they kept uncontrollably popping up on my phone. Clearly, I had not realised the extent to which I rely on and use social media. It was clear it was unhealthy and a borderline addiction.

After a few days, I got used to not having social media. It was quite refreshing not scrolling through things like Facebook and Instagram almost every day. Unsurprisingly, without social media, I found myself with a LOT more time on my hands. This meant I had way more time to work and for hobbies.

people aren't likely to be putting their worst foot forward on there, whilst most things people post have been carefully calculated and edited

Although social media may have seemed like an absent-minded way to kill time and procrastinate from a silly amount of reading; in that time, I would often be looking at things that had the potential to make me feel even more insecure and would cause me to self-deprecate.

I would ask myself utterly pointless questions that exacerbated my existing anxieties and mental health problems, and ultimately, lead me to question aspects of myself.Why don't I look like that? Why am I not like that? Why aren't I doing that with my time? Why has this person liked this?

Self-esteem is crucial for good mental health, and with something I looked at multiple times a day often negatively affecting this, it is not surprising that mine deteriorated so quickly. I have now realised more than ever that social media is NOT the thing that you should be comparing yourself to, or looking at if you already feel like crap.

People aren't likely to be putting their worst foot forward on there, whilst most things people post have been carefully calculated and edited, and so, these are unrealistic things to be comparing yourself to.

My social media hiatus week confirmed a lot of the things I disliked about social media, but, it also made me realise the things that I like and missed about it.

I'd heard about most things people had done through actually talking to them about what they'd been up to, rather than just finding out about it in a more impersonal way on social media

At times, not having social media felt very isolating. Although I could still call and text, I found that not being able to use Whatsapp, Snapchat or Facebook Messenger meant that I could not instantly reach certain people; this was both lonely and incredibly inconvenient at times. I missed the ease of being able to contact people all over the world, or the ability to quickly share something funny I had seen: things which would help me stay feeling connected with people.

By the end of the week I'd gotten used to not having social media and I could have easily gone another week without it. Going online again, it was lovely to come back to a lot of messages and things to catch up on. However, I found that trying to catch up on stuff like Instagram and Facebook was very tedious and I didn't see much point after a while.

A post shared by ecofolks (@ecofolks) on

I'd heard about most things people had done through actually talking to them about what they'd been up to, rather than just finding out about it in a more impersonal way on social media. Facebook and Instagram were also the social media platforms that I missed the least, and I use them a lot less now because of it.

Going a full week without any form or use of social media (with no cheating - I promise!) allowed me to take a step back and look at the positive and negative aspects of it both for me and in general. I have now adjusted my use of social media to cater for my mental health, based on what aspects of it I missed or not.

Now I spend way less time scrolling aimlessly through Facebook and Instagram. I mean, do I really need to know that someone from my primary school "just won £500 on a scratch card!!!". Congrats to them, but I doubt this information will do much towards improving my mental health when I could be doing something much more valuable and productive with my time instead.

I now focus my social media use on the more personal and private platforms, such as Messenger, Whatsapp, and Snapchat: things that will boost my mood, rather than lower my self-esteem.

Social media can be toxic, but it is also an invaluable resource to help us feel connected with people and what's going on in the world. Above all I've realised that if certain aspects of social media are not making you feel good about yourself, why spend hours of your day on it? Just use it for what you think are the good bits instead.

Try it for yourself, have a detox and see what bits you actually miss.

Featured image: Epigram / Leila Mitwally


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