Stepping Away From Social Media

Should I Step Away or At Least Detox From it?

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Have you been on social media more since the current COVID-19 pandemic? Do you feel like it’s a problem or think it could potentially become a problem? According to GlobalWebIndex, “The average internet user is now on social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, or messaging services like Snapchat and WhatsApp, for over 2 hours per day.” That excludes the time spent on email and other technological devices. Brett Williams from Mashable states, “There are now over 3 billion social media users in the world — about 40 percent of the global population.” That is a lot of people spending time on social media platforms. With more technology and social media use increasing every day, people’s time is becoming more limited since they are staring at a screen.

Multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. Negative consequences from social media use can include feelings of inadequacy about life and your appearance, fear of missing out, isolation, depression, anxiety, stress, sleeping problems, and cyberbullying and self-absorption. In extreme cases, it can lead to an addiction that can affect your physical health also. Other possible consequences to social media addiction include not getting adequate nutrients and exercise.

Besides affecting mental and physical health, social media use can damage your relationships. Isolation, anxiety, and depression caused by the stress of social media can have real-life consequences. Other concerns about using social media include privacy issues and usage of my online information. With news about hackers and companies using your online information to sell you certain products, it has caused people to lose trust and turned off from participating with social media use. We only know of cases of databases and privacy of users being hacked and used that have been told to us. Imagine all the cases that have not been announced to the public. That’s something that hasn’t been fully understood because the technology is too new to understand the full extent of social media and the issue with private information being hacked.

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I know I felt I was spending to much time on social media. I personally only have Facebook and can’t imagine how being on other platforms it would affect me. I felt myself having some of the negative experiences caused by social media. I felt as I had to compete and compare myself with others all the time, was in fear of missing out, and felt isolated. I wanted to know what my friend Stephen felt when he detoxed and stayed away from social media. Stephen told me, “I came to realize on one of my off days that I was spending a lot of time inside staring at my news feed on Facebook. I was feeling that I was missing out and my life was inadequate compared to people on Facebook. That’s when I realized that social media was doing more harm than good for me and decided to step away from it. Since getting off last year I feel way better and don’t want to get back.”

I also had the opportunity to speak with Cecilia, a Howard County resident and former student at HCC who’s unconnected from all social media platforms. Her perspective is similar to Stephen’s, as she had an experience a couple of years ago that catalyzed her abstinence from social media. Cecilia states, “I often took social media, Instagram and Facebook ‘breaks’ and realized I was happier when I didn’t have it. Years ago, I was in a relationship where I was constantly unhappy. But all these people were commenting on how beautiful we were and what a great couple we were. It was crazy! I used what other people saying we were a good couple to justify staying with someone who didn’t respect me.” Cecilia doesn’t believe she’ll ever use social media, stating, “We already carry around a little device that lets us call or text that a video or picture, and send it to your friend, why send it to the world?”

I don’t believe social media is all bad. There have been some great positive consequences from social media. I believe that everyone is different so social media might be benefiting your life; however, I’ve come to the realization for myself that social media was something I had to get off of. Of course with technology advancing and innovations with social media I might not have a choice in the future but to participate. I just think that asking yourself some questions surrounding social media is a smart idea. Even if you don’t plan of getting off of it or staying off of it is not the goal, considering the amount of use can be helpful. Good Housekeeping and LifeHack have great tips if you are interested in how to detox from social media,

Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding your emotional and mental well-being. Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center is located in Columbia, MD, and can be accessed 24/7 at 410-531-6677. Howard Community College also offers students free counseling at the Counseling Services. To reach them, you can call 443-518-1340 for more information.