Priya* had posted a slew of pictures with colourful filters on Instagram following her latest trip to the beach. When asked whether she was happy after the trip, she replied with a sad "no." "But you seemed happy in your posts," I quipped. Enter social media where your reel life happiness may not be real.
According to the Telegraph, an average person looks at the phone almost 27 times per day, mostly for using social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Although walking into a room where nobody is scrolling through phones may look surreal, you have to pull the plug on these you-don’t-know-where-your-time-went apps once in a while.
“It is necessary to draw the line between social media use and abuse,” says psychologist Mina Dilip. “What happens today is we use these apps so much that we are unaware that they are actually using us. It is nice, enjoyable and a great break, but it is very addictive.” She describes the internet as an ‘anaesthetic’ or a getaway from the real world. “Life is so chaotic and stressful nowadays that we get lost in the internet world where there’s so much content as we try to keep pace,” she adds.
It is at this point that you need to ask yourself when was the last time you went a full day without checking social media. If sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit disappeared tomorrow, would you feel empty and depressed? Has social media become an addiction for you?
Ashitha, an employee at a private company, said, “I found it very difficult to stop scrolling through Instagram. It went to a point where I was using it from 9pm to 3am.”
Mina says that today’s youth are so engrossed in “living in the present” that they consider social media a life-breath or a substitute for oxygen. “I have seen a spike in the number of cases of people trying to seek therapy for social media addiction. Although many of them are parents seeing advice for their children, I have seen many youngsters coming in too.” In 2015, when she started her practice, she says that she had seen 4-5 cases a month of social media addiction, but this year it has touched 18-19 a month.
“I was always very much into social media, but it was during a vacation to a hill station that I realized what true happiness is. With no internet or Wi-Fi signal, me and my friends thought we’d lose our mind, but instead we connected to each other on a human level,” says Archishma Iyer, a college student.
Describing her addiction, she says, “I always wanted to be hooked onto what was happening in the world. I would just keep scrolling through Facebook. My health took a toll, my sleep schedule was off the charts and worse, I felt like my short term memory had taken a hit. But now that we had an enriching experience, I feel I could definitely survive a day without social media.”
Mina says that anything beyond 20 minutes on social media can have a negative impact on the brain. “The change in neurotransmitter and chemical balance levels in the brain is exactly the same when you are using too much of social media as it would be if you are using cocaine.”
Can you recall the last time you didn’t care how many likes or comments you received on a social media post? Or didn’t spend more than two minutes on filtering a photo before posting? Or didn’t feel angered, triggered or jealous when a friend posts a picture on #TravelGoals, #SelfLove or buys cosmetics that you’ve always wanted to have. Or couldn’t resist spending a bomb because you wanted to check out that “uber-cool” restaurant where you saw all the pretty food pictures coming from?
If all of these are still fresh in your memory, it's high time you reach out for a social media detox.
Although like any other detox, it might seem like a punishment, studies have shown that people have found an increased amount of time available for recreational activities or other work. By reconnecting with the real world, they also experienced higher levels of self-esteem and happiness.
Here’s how you can do an easy social media detox…
Uninstall social media apps: Although it may seem very difficult to let go of such apps, uninstalling a few at a time helps a long way. This not only includes social media apps, but also food delivery, shopping and beauty apps as the urge to make yourself feel better during times of stress can do a lot of damage. The impulse can make you take bad decisions that you might regret later.
Mute notifications: If you are unable to uninstall apps, start with hiding or muting notifications first. The urge to look at the phone screen happens mostly with numerous bell notifications.
Ask a friend to handle social media for you: If you can’t muster the self-control to reduce your social media usage, share your credentials with a trusted friend and ask her/him to handle it for you.
Replace social media with another activity: If you track your social media usage every day, you may find that you are wasting a lot of time on it which could be used for another activity like a sport, art or even reading books.
Track your social media usage every day: There are tons of apps available that tell you how many hours you spend on the internet every day. The data will help you figure out at what times of the day you log on to social media, for how many hours and on what apps. Based on it, you could work on a detox plan.
Declutter mails and notifications at a specific time every day: Once notifications keep popping up, we automatically have the urge to check them out immediately. Instead, allocate a time to answer all the emails and delete unwanted notifications.
Start going old school: Using colourful notebooks and pens to jot down important things helps in reducing stress and can also make you good at organizational skills. It helps improve your handwriting too!
Remember that these are just suggestions and if symptoms of addiction, depression or stress persist, you might need to consult a psychologist.
[* name withheld on request]
(Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for qualified medical advice. It only includes generic information. In case of queries or more information, please consult a mental health care professional.)