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A social media detox could improve mental health.

Social media is a large part of daily life and has many benefits, such as keeping people connected, allowing people to advocate and providing the latest news. However, social media can get overwhelming, and taking breaks from these sites can have a good impact on a user’s mental health.

In 2019, seven out of 10 Americans used social media, according to the Pew Research Center. Social media allows users to absorb tons of information within seconds — the world is truly at one’s fingertips. The constant communication of information, good or bad, can become overwhelming. Since the world’s in the digital age, people may not realize the negative effects social media can have.

For the most part, users post the positive aspects of life, so it’s unreasonable to compare one’s life to others solely based on social media activity. Social media introduces insecurities users didn’t know they had. Heavily edited images show happy people with perfect lifestyles and perfect bodies. The perfect lives these types of social media posts convey appear unattainable to users and can harm their self-esteem. Taking a break from social media encourages self-care and self-reflection rather than comparison to others.

The pressure to post on social media and obtain positive feedback can be mentally draining. It’s harmful to think that the number of likes on a post is synonymous with one’s self-worth. If a post doesn’t get the reinforcement one expected, it can become disappointing and create a negative self-image. Also, the number of followers a person has shouldn’t be a form of validation, since most of the time, these followers are strangers and don’t have an active and positive role in the person’s life, according to Forbes.

People are, quite literally, losing sleep over social media. It’s common for people to check social media instantly in the morning and then right before bed. The blue light emitted from smartphones works against melatonin, a hormone that controls the sleep cycle. Lack of sleep negatively affects mood and memory and can cause major health problems. Taking a break from social media encourages more sleep, which in return benefits both mental and physical health.

By taking breaks from social media, users can indulge in other activities that are beneficial to mental health. Instead of spending hours on social media, users can talk face to face, spend time in nature, exercise, journal or practice creative activities such as writing and art.

Social media can be especially frustrating during COVID-19. It can be disheartening seeing people out of the house and breaking pandemic guidelines for those who’ve been quarantining. There’s a sense of loneliness and fear of missing out that comes along with social media, so averting focus to something else can be helpful. 

It may sound unreasonable to avoid social media altogether, but it can be useful to take small breaks every now and then. Social media fosters valuable information sharing and isn’t an entirely negative space. In reality, social media can be a beautiful thing. However, the never-ending posts and information that people absorb pose negative effects to mental health. 

Mastan Rashid is a sophomore media arts and design major. Contact Mastan at rashi2mx@dukes.jmu.edu