You might have heard celebrity powerhouse Selena Gomez is taking a sabbatical from social media apps for her mental health – but what can a move like this actually do for your brain? That’s what we’re here to dig up. Stick around – you’ll want to know exactly why we think Selena’s on the right track, plus we’ll be sharing a few tips to smoothly transition to a social media-free life.
On her live TikTok post, the star shared that she would be taking a break from social media.
“I’m going to be taking a second from social media because this is a little silly,” she said in the video. “I’m 30 and am too old for this. But I love you so much and I’ll see you guys sooner than later. I'm just going to take a break from everything."
The move comes after Selena achieved the position of most-followed Instagrammer – but she says the price of social media was more than a little taxing on her mental health. The singer-actress has long been open about her struggles with bipolar disorder, along with struggling with stress and anxiety – and it’s no surprise that the demanding nature of social media isn’t always helpful with keeping us mentally and emotionally well.
And she’s not alone, many of us have become chained to our screens – whether you’ve fallen victim to “doomscrolling” or the never-ending run of Instagram reels. We’ve seen the number of social media users around the globe frow from 4.2 billion to 4.6 billion over a one-year period between 2021 and 2022. We’ve even got research showing that screen time among teens has doubled and is sitting at an alarming 7.7 hours a day – and with rates of anxiety, depression and stress shooting through the roof, it’s worth weighing up the connection. Let’s have a look at the complex relationship between social media and mental health.
The science behind taking a social media hiatus
Take a breather from social media apps like Facebook and Instagram, even just for a beat, has a number of proven mental health benefits. One study undertaken last year found that reducing social media interaction for a week showed a marked increase in sleep issues, which is a known instigator of stress and poor mental health. Another study taken that same year found that participants reported an improvement in mood, along with lower levels of anxiety during their break – and, interestingly, these benefits extended after their break too. We’ve got more research yet finding people had reduced isolation and loneliness, along with less severe symptoms of depression after limiting their social media use. As you can see, you don’t even need to fully abstain for social media in order to obtain these benefits.
How to do it yourself
If you know you’re addicted to your phone, you may consider a complete break from social media, but if you know you can keep a tight leash on yourself, you may benefit from a simple reduction in use. Here are a few tips for you to reduce your time spent on your socials:
- Put your phone in a drawer, cupboard or another room when you go to sleep to prevent late-night scrolling.
- Keep your computer out of your bedroom to reduce the risk of checking out social media sites – this can cause a rise in cortisol and leave you feeling anxious in the room you should feel most relaxed in.
- Delete one or two apps if you’re phone screen is crowded with social media icons. For instance, if you have three apps for socials, delete two.
- Log out of Facebook and Instagram on your computer so you’re not tempted to check up on things there.
- Use a dumb phone – instead of today’s smart phones, you may want to try using a phone with less internet capability, less space and without the ability to host social media apps.
- Delete the apps off your phone and simply use the computer versions of these social media platforms – these versions are less user-friendly, making you less likely to lose hours on them, plus, your computer is less portable than your phone, meaning when you’re out, your mind is present and focused rather than stuck in your screen.
But if you know this won’t suffice for your level of addiction, you may consider a cold-turkey social media break. This is a little more challenging, but the research shows it can be rewarding in more ways than one – from our mental health to our social lives, taking time away from the screen can give us back more time and energy in our lives. Here’s how to start:
- Delete all of your social media apps – from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Tumblr; yes, some people still use Tumblr!
- In order to prevent yourself anxiously checking if anyone’s wondering why you’re not online, send out a message that you’ll be taking a break from social media and to call your phone in case of emergency.
- Set a time limit for your break – you may want to start small to set yourself up for excess and engender confidence, so even just a weekend break could be enough to improve your mood and motivate you to keep going. A week to a month is a better length of time to reap the mental health benefits, but there’s no wrong way to do this.
- If your job and safety allow it, you may even consider turning on airplane mode on your phone so you can’t access the internet.
You might be prepared at what you find out about yourself from conducting an experiment like this. Many learn that they use social media to cure their boredom, to distract themselves from uncomfortable feelings or to occupy their spare time – because of this, you may find yourself taking up other activities that fulfill the same function. This can be a good or bad thing – if you’re getting into sports, music and reading, you’re set to benefit from physical, mental and emotional health benefits, but if you’re simply transferring your social media time onto TV or internet surfing, you may find yourself struggling with those same isolating feelings and low mood. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of screen time, but if it’s taking up all your spare time and leaving you anxious, there could be a problem worth unpacking with a therapist.
Social media often causes a fear of missing out – also known as FOMO – and this is one of the biggest concerns standing in the way of people taking a break from social media. They may fear missing a friend’s post, wedding photos, party invites or birthdays, since so much of our lives are organised online. Facebook is one of the first ports of call for event planning and photo sharing, leaving many feeling left out of the loop if they’re not plugged in – but this in itself can cause a constant, underlying anxiety. You might be surprised at how little FOMO affects you when you take your break – out of sight, out of mind, as they say! You might feel freer and less tied down to all of these expectations and obligations that keep you coming back to your screen over and over again. You might find yourself engaging more in person and getting to know your family and friends better, being forced to pick up the phone and call or actually visit them in order to catch up. Whatever your findings are about yourself and your experience, be sure to journal them – it can tell us so much about our values, our fears and how we can best approach them.
Speaking of addiction, social media isn’t the only innocent-looking object of our obsessive behaviours – other things like gambling, drinking and even sugar can take over our lives. While we’re still in the early stages of how sugar affects the brain and hooks us in, we do know that it can have a similar effect to drugs and a similar driving force to other addictions – mental health issues. Many people seek sugary foods to get that dopamine hit that lifts them out of their low mood – but the cycle is locks us in is anything but a high. Is this cycle sounding familiar to you? We’re here to help. Join us for the 8-Week Program. We’ll help you change the way you look at food – and that doesn’t mean you have to follow restrictive diets or miss out on your favourite foods; we believe you can still enjoy delicious food without jeopardising your health. With celebrity chef Sarah Glover on our panel of experts, you’ll have an array of fun recipes at your fingertips, along with our own exclusive armoury of simple, tasty and healthy recipes for everything from daily meals to impressive entertaining. We know it can be hard to stick to your health goals – especially when you’re trying to manage it alone. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
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