Without a doubt, nowadays most of us are online 24/7, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being stuck at home leads us to check social media more often than usual, but there are disadvantages in doing so, especially regarding our mental health.
Around 45% of the world’s population use social media (Emarsys, 2019) and with the fast rate of improving and accessible technology, more and more people will surely use it. According to GlobalWebIndex, the average time spent on social media is three hours a day, but in the Philippines on its own, we spend an average of four hours a day. In fact, according to GlobalWebIndex, we’re the leading country regarding time spent on social media.
With everything and everyone accessible through social media every day, it’s bound to take a toll on us. Aside from that, we’re able to grasp new information all the time, and since we’re getting news from everywhere and anywhere that has Wi-Fi, we’re going to overload at some point. In other words, too much use of social media can cause mental issues, influenced by the power of what we see and what we see and read.
Do you also notice how hard it is to actually work or study most of the time when we’re always on social media? There’s actually science behind this, regarding one of the neurotransmitters in our brain, called dopamine. Basically, dopamine is that one neurotransmitter that leads us to feel satisfied or to feel pleasure. Dopamine is mostly released when we’re doing something we know we’ll get a reward from doing. In this context, when we use social media, we get more dopamine out of it because our brain knows we’ll get an instant reward from it or makes us feel good immediately, unlike when we’re studying. Logically, we know that studying will definitely help us in the long run, but since our body is so used to getting large amounts of dopamine from the long amount of time we put in social media, it gets harder to put in more effort in studying when we know we won’t get pleasure or satisfaction from it right away.
So, how do we actually take social media breaks? Of course, it’s easy enough to say it, but it’s harder to actually put some action into it. The thing we have to remember is to take it slow, and to be patient with ourselves. Since we’re so used to checking our phones all the time, we’re not going to be able to stop looking at our phone right away. This is where dopamine detox comes in. It’s when we set aside a day in a week, without checking social media or the internet in general. When we do this, we’re going to have so much more time to do things we don’t usually do, like cleaning, reading, drawing, writing, or maybe exercising inside of our own homes.
Alternatively, you can limit your use of social media. It may be hard but you have to be patient and you have to take it slow.
I myself tried the dopamine detox some months ago, and during the first time, it was incredibly hard not to check my phone. It came as no surprise, but the next day, I relapsed, but as I said, patience is key. I did the dopamine detox 2 more times, and it’s been hard, and I tried to lessen my use of social media to a few hours instead of shutting out the whole day. For me, it’s really hard but I can’t say for everyone else. For example, my dad has better self-control when it comes to social media, and I can really see that because he’s so productive at home (with gardening and other activities at home.) It just really differs from each person, and you have to test out what works for you, so that you avoid relapsing but at the same time having enough rest from the internet or your phone in general.
Social media has a way of impacting our lives, especially with the current times and situation we are in right now, but that’s no excuse to neglect our health. When everything is chaotic, it’s okay to take a breather and put your phone down. In this pandemic, we are asked to physically take care of ourselves by staying at home and wearing a mask when we go outside, but let’s not abandon our mental health as well, because it’s just as important.