Life&Style Writer Georgina Tait suggests that we should take a break from social media for our mental wellbeing
Celebrities and social media influencers have recently been having digital detoxes, where they go for a prolonged period of time without their phone, or significantly reduce their daily screen time. Influencers will typically announce their planned social media breaks on their social media platforms, with the popular hashtag #digitaldetox.
For social media influencers in particular, their job is quite literally to be interacting on social media, so a digital detox is essentially just the equivalent of leaving the office for them. Arguably, part of being a celebrity is also to engage with their fans via their social media pages. Therefore, it is definitely healthy to take time away from their phone to avoid any online hate and remind themselves that their life does not revolve around social media. There have been many healthy benefits revealed in scientific research during a digital detox; improved sleep quality and improved concentration are just a few effects on the brain that a reduced screen time can do for a person.
The fact that influencers and celebrities are doing this begs the question as to whether the general public should be following in their footsteps. Although we are less likely to spend as much time on social media as an influencer or celebrity, there is always room for improvement when it comes to both mental and physical health. Particularly in the middle of a global pandemic, where most of us are now practising self-isolation and social distancing, it may be tempting to spend extra time on your phone if you are stuck in doors all day. Despite this temptation, it might actually have a negative impact on a person’s mental health, which is already at risk in the first place from the stress and panic from the virus. Forbes highlights how a long period of time on social media can impact a person’s general well-being, confidence and can sometimes even become addictive.
On the other hand, whilst self-isolating, we may actually want to be Facetiming, calling and messaging more than usual, as this is the only opportunity to socialise for some people in isolation. Ironically, at this particular time, increasing your daily screen time by digitally socialising with friends and family could have a positive effect on your mental health.
With this in mind, perhaps it is sensible to set a daily limit. For instance, allow yourself half an hour to be on FaceTime to a loved one, and then another half an hour to be messaging other friends and family. To some, an hour per day of screen time may seem excessive, yet it is surprising how long people can spend on their phone without realising. The average British person spends 3 hours and 23 minutes per day on their phone, according to Code . If you are in the age bracket of 16-24 years of age, this increases even more to almost 4 hours.
This shocking amount of screen time is recorded on any iPhone. Last year, Apple set up an option to put a limit on your screen time. Users are able to select specific apps, or select all apps classed as ‘social media’ to have a time limit on them. Once your time limit is up for the day, you stop receiving notifications for that app for the rest of the day, and you have to press ‘Ignore Limit’ to be able to use the app again.
Tom, a 2nd year physics student makes use of the social media limit on his iPhone. Before using this feature, he admits that he would sometimes be on his phone ‘for up to 3 hours per day’ and believes he became slightly addicted to Instagram. After researching the possible negative effects of this, he employed the Time Limit feature so that he is set to using social media for only one hour per day. He reported feeling ‘more awake’ during the day: he now does not look at his phone for the first half an hour after waking up, and tries to put his phone away an hour before he intends to go to bed.
By looking at a phone or any device, you are exposing your eyes to ‘a stream of photons’, which prevent the secretion of melatonin. For a lot of people, this does not appear to be common knowledge. There has been numerous amounts of research being carried out on the effects of social media usage, but as social media is all still relatively new, it is still impossible to know for sure how healthy or unhealthy it can be for a person.
Perhaps then, this period of self-isolation is a time for all of us to practice our ‘digital detoxing’ skills.
Check out these articles for some ideas about how to spend your digital detox…