Social detox is all the rage these days, but here’s why it’s detrimental to your mental health

Updated on:17 November 2019, 16:17pm IST
Quitting social media is like turning your back on reality.
Sonakshi Kohli
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Unplug and unwind — Give social media a break for a healthy mind and feel the difference. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Not so long ago, a few smartasses on social media ignited a trend of jumping out of the passenger seat of a moving car, dancing on the road for a couple of seconds, and finally jumping back into the car—all this while the car was still in motion. What ensued was totally beyond the scope of reason and logic and every second person on social media took on this #KikiChallenge to show how cool they could be. 

Multiple accidents and some boredom later, the trend fizzled out only to make me realize this one true fact: Social-media trends may come and trends may go, but your sense of reason remains forever. And that’s exactly what’s going to save you from falling prey to the herd mentality—not another one of these temporary trends. By ‘another trend’, I mean the newfound love for a ‘social detox’ that everyone seems to be smitten with these days.

What is social detox though?

Dr Y.A. Matcheswalla, Psychiatrist at Global Hospital, Mumbai, defines it as being away from social media like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter voluntarily for a specific amount of time, decided by a person who feels he/she is addicted to the same.

Who is opting for it?

Mumbai-based psychotherapist Dr. Rizwana Nulwala explains the reasons behind a person deciding to get off social media in the first place:

“For a person addicted to social media, being online can give their brain the same rush and happiness that drinking or smoking gives. This, in turn, activates their reward system and tunes it to believe that a feel-good factor would come out of the number of likes and comments they get on social media,” she points out.

“In this case, going off social media for at least 90 days can rewire the reward system in the brain,” she adds.

In fact, Nulwala also explains how people going through a developmental life change or crisis, like a breakup, tend to take a break from social media in order to take some time to heal. Or perhaps, they feel that there’s no need to share the negative feelings on social media.

Additionally, people with low self-esteem could feel left out or experience jealousy upon seeing others doing well on social media. As a result, they end up feeling bad about themselves. This could be another reason behind a person deciding to leave social media according to Nulwala.

But wait! All’s not rosy when it comes to quitting social media

While experts, influencers, health Nazis, and well, pioneers of the herd mentality collectively paint the social-media detox as the go-to mental health booster, don’t you think that we all should be focussing on making ourselves mentally stronger to be able to deal with seeing reality instead? 

Perhaps, if social media doesn’t exactly show reality, then shouldn’t we be sharpening our sense of reason and focus on being able to tell the difference between right and wrong, truth and lies?

Because you know what? Social media isn’t the enemy. Your perception is. 

In fact, Matcheswalla is quick to remind us of the many pros of being on social media like being able to communicate with distant friends and relatives. More importantly, the ease of networking and business that comes with it. 

Not to mention, social media also enables you to keep abreast of the latest trends, issues, news, and important information. After all, we do see people spreading awareness about everything from forest fires in a remote corner of the world to raising fund for martyrs’ families via their posts online.

Let’s fight the enemy instead 

By enemy, I mean the way we process the information we see on social media. Basically, the idea is to make ourselves mentally strong to not let it cause anxiety or depression and here’s how we can achieve it:

Know the truth: “Looking at the pictures of others on social media can be disturbing and may cause depression and anxiety along with low self-esteem. But when you see these posts, you must be clear that in the pictures, the person might seem to be having the time of his/her life, however, it might not be entirely true. The picture could have been taken in the best phase,” points out Matcheswalla. 

And ladies, don’t forget the magic of the editing apps too.

Strike a balance: You have to break the loop of guilt, anxiety and depression by setting clear boundaries of engagement and not letting these visuals affect you.
“Keeping away from social media to enjoy the real moments and then getting back to it to gather information is how you can strike a balance,” he suggests.

Get inspired, not intimidated: How about taking inspiration from that picture of a woman with a flat stomach to adopt a healthy lifestyle and up your health game instead of whiling your time away in jealousy or intimidation? Sounds like plan, doesn‘t it? 

Sonakshi Kohli Sonakshi Kohli

Twenty kilos down and struggling to maintain the weight loss by preaching healthy eating, while eating unhealthy every now and then.