Social Media Detox: A Mental Health Awareness Month Challenge

May 10, 2024

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and some people are going on a social media detox challenge to observe it. There are many people today who are addicted to social media. However, it is safe to say many of us get a dopamine hit from being on it. This is precisely why doing a social media detox is a perfect challenge for Mental Health Awareness Month. It will help you better understand how it feels to quit something you are used to doing. If you radically change your routine, it can also help you gain insight into your own mental health and how social media impacts it. Once the challenge is over, you can share what you learned during the detox with your friends.

an image of a phone placed on top of a laptop
Going on a social media detox is one of the challenges proposed for Mental Health Awareness Month

The Impact of Social Media and Mental Health

While social media can have a positive impact on overall mental health, it also poses some risks to the mental health of the person using it. Research by Andreassen et al. (2016) has linked more frequent visits to social media sites with an increase in depressive symptoms, social isolation, and exposure to bullying. In some cases, this study found that social media replaces social interaction instead of complementing it.

Social media exposes us to the influences of our peers and the people we look up to. This can be a good influence, but it can also push us to use substances, participate in behavior that does not promote wellness, and feel inadequate. We can’t always control what we see on social media, as our friends may repost what their friends of friends are posting. Social media can be triggering and upsetting. It gives us the illusion of being more connected to our friends and peers than we truly are. Therefore, this May, we are encouraged to participate in a detox to reevaluate our relationship with social media.

If you feel that you struggle with anxiety, due to the overuse of social media or any other reason, the best solution is to consult with experts from one of the top anxiety treatment centers in Arkansas.

a person looking through social media
Higher social media use is linked to an increase in depression symptoms

Social Media and Anxiety

Social media can cause or increase the feeling of anxiety by encouraging constant comparison with others, leading to feelings of inadequacy. The pressure to maintain an ideal online persona can be overwhelming, and the fear of missing out (FOMO) exacerbates stress. Additionally, the incessant need to check updates can disrupt daily routines and sleep patterns, further contributing to anxiety.

Social Media and Depression

Social media use can contribute to depression by exposing users to negative interactions and cyberbullying. Seeing others’ seemingly perfect lives can lead to feelings of loneliness and low self-worth. The lack of face-to-face interaction and the addictive nature of social platforms can also decrease overall life satisfaction, increasing the risk of developing depressive symptoms.

If you feel the symptoms of anxiety or depression caused by the overuse of social media, there are various mental health treatment programs that can help you deal with the issue.

Benefits of a Social Media Detox

People who go through a detox often find that they sleep better, have fewer anxiety symptoms, and have more energy to complete their tasks for the day.

Some of the benefits of doing a social media detox include:

  • Spending more time outdoors, in nature, or in community centers
  • Spending more quality time in person with our loved ones
  • Investing some time and effort in hobbies that do not involve screens
  • Better quality of sleep, as deeper sleep has been associated with suspending your use of screens a few hours before your bedtime
  • Observing firsthand your mood and behavior when you do not use social media
  • Getting the chance to reevaluate your relationship with social media
  • Increasing your ability to focus

A social media detox does not have to last forever. You can try it for as short a time as a couple of days, and it will be just as effective for these purposes as a longer detox. Unless your work involves heavy social media use, you will most likely gain from a social media detox and may have little or nothing to lose.

a person ready to make a plan for mental health awareness month
A realistic plan will ensure you are successful in this challenge

Planning Your Social Media Detox during a Mental Health Awareness Month

Because social media is such a big part of our lives in this day and age, planning a social media detox can pose some unique challenges. You may need to tell some of your loved ones they won’t be able to reach you through the usual channels and explain your absence so people don’t get worried about your safety. There are also some other considerations to bear in mind.

Setting Realistic Goals

If you’re a heavy social media user, don’t expect to be able to quit cold turkey within two weeks, at least on the first try. You may try detoxing from one social media platform per week, for example, or give yourself one hour during the weekend to catch up on messages. Document your behavior first and see whether a gradual or more drastic approach is going to be realistic for you. Even a significant cutback can do wonders for your mental health if an entire blackout is not possible for you.

Digital Tools for Support

Some apps, extensions, and websites can help you during your detox. Some apps, like Study Bunny or the Forest App, will reward you for staying off your phone for a certain period of time. Extensions like BlockSite can prevent you from accessing certain websites if you do fall into temptation and try to access Instagram or another social media site from your computer. Look into these tools and be prepared for moments when your motivation will waver.

Overcoming Challenges

Give yourself a reward for every milestone you reach during the social media detox. Have these rewards planned and ready to go. Give yourself a reward menu of sorts with both smaller and bigger rewards. Whenever you feel the urge to access social media but are able to stay off, give yourself a pat on the back. You are doing a social media detox, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t having any fun.

A woman holds a phone out of which notifications pop up during mental health awareness month
Walk away from Mental Health Awareness Month with more insights on your social media use.

Integrating Lessons Learned into Your Daily Life

Take some time to reflect, journal, and talk with a trusted friend about all the insights you are getting from this offline time. Is there a social media platform you miss? Is there one you wouldn’t mind giving up for longer? Are there ways you feel more connected with your offline friends? Alternative ways to connect with friends who live far away? Once you have identified the main lessons you learned during this time, make sure to come up with a plan to keep benefiting from them even after you come back to social media.

Engaging with the Community

If you feel the need to share your experience, update your social media contacts about everything you have learned during your social media detox. Who knows, you may influence someone to try. Your Mental Health Awareness Month challenge may become an inspiration for someone else. You may also continue engaging with the community outside of social media. Research ways to connect with the community in person and follow through.

Conclusion

It is a good idea to try going on a social media detox for Mental Health Awareness Month this May. Especially if you take into account the fact that social media use has been linked to worse depression symptoms and other mental health conditions and that it exposes people to social isolation and bullying. You may use the time you spend offline to pursue hobbies that don’t rely on screens, spend time outdoors or in community centers, spend time in person with your family, and reflect on the impact of social media on your life. Plan your social media detox mindfully and realistically for a higher success rate.

Want to learn more about getting help with your mental health? Mental health facilities in Arkansas for adults are ready to help.