Last week my friend posted a picture on Instagram; I cannot tell you the expression on her face as my attention immediately focused on the large words covering the picture “SOCIAL MEDIA HIATUS.” Social media is a part of life. Whilst we use it.
Differently, we are all affected by it, and like many things, there are some wonderful aspects to it. My recently retired Dad has been contacted by an old school mate that he has not communicated with since they left school. This man is also newly retired; they took a break whilst employed, and now they can return to the freedom of life without employment, completion of a circle impossible without social media.
The Dark Side
However, there is also a dark side. Bullying, comparison, privacy, addiction are all problems associated with social media. I remember the feeling of melancholy as I walked upstairs to a friend’s house to see the eleven-year-old daughter laying on her bed scrolling her new phone.
She had taken herself upstairs, away from my slightly younger daughter claiming sickness, the previous visit to the same friend (prior to the phone) was full of the joyful giggles of children engrossed in an imaginative world. I felt the same feeling when we returned to a different friend’s car after a nice walk, and her same-age son, who had run around gleefully with the children for the two hours in nature, asked for us to all stand around the car before heading to a local hotel for hot chocolate so he could check his messages.
Observing the transition of a child with a creative mind, full of wonder, passion, and curiosity about the real world moving suddenly to a person that chooses to scroll a virtual world is incredibly sad.
We as adults are to blame, the developers that design their apps to be addictive and us, the users that model the behaviour. Have you seen the meme with two mums and two children sat on a park bench? One mum and child are both reading books; the other mum and child are both scrolling phones. The mum with the phone looks across at the other child engrossed in a book and asks the mum with the book, “how do you get your child to read books?”
Reducing My Screentime
A couple of years ago, I began to track my screen time. I found myself spending approximately four hours per day on my phone. This equates to around 60 days and nights per year. A shocking statistic that gave me the motivation to start making changes. The changes have developed over time, and the goal is to reduce screen time. I repeatedly say that I do not have time, and there I was, spending sixty whole days and nights scrolling through a phone screen. Of course, some of this screen time brings benefits to myself and my family.
We enjoyed a beautiful holiday in Greece because I spent so many hours searching for our perfect holiday, within our budget. Sometimes I learn of events that enhance my skills and help me to be better at my job. I connect with people that bring improvements to my wellbeing and have experiences I would not have without social media. However, when I watch the remarkable child lose their marvel as the addiction of social media eats away at their mind. I realize the same happens to me, and the only way to open my mind to the wonder of the world and bring back my creativity and spark is to reduce or detox from social media.
Digital screen technology is improving exponentially. A focus on-screen brightness and clarity leads to LED backlight technology with strong blue light waves. During the daytime hours, blue light is beneficial. Our human circadian rhythm sets our sleep and wake cycles based on the blue light emitted by the sun.
The circadian rhythm regulates your body’s sleeping and feeding patterns, brain activity, hormone production, and cell regeneration. During a natural light pattern created by the rising and setting of the sun, the body releases melatonin around 9 pm. Your body temperature drops as your body prepares for rest. This contrasts with your body’s reaction to the natural morning light when the opposite will happen: your body will produce cortisol, and your body temperature will rise, prompting you to wake.
Too much unnatural blue light, particularly in the normal hours of darkness, can confuse the circadian rhythm, leading to difficulty sleeping at night and tiredness during the day. A study published in 2010 showed that when exposed to bright LED lights, the melatonin production in 99% of individuals started later and shortened by around ninety minutes.
When your body releases less melatonin, it becomes harder to fall and stay asleep. Disrupted sleep will unsettle your mind and body, sometimes resulting in mental health problems, immunity issues, weight gain, infertility issues, and increasing the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. If social media is not causing you unnecessary anxiety, sleep disruption will.
By detoxing from social media, you can improve your mental and physical wellbeing dramatically. There is no one way or easy way to detox from social media. If you have determination and commitment, you will find the decision to stop scrolling does transform into physical action. Otherwise, the simple answer is to delete the apps.
Continuing to have the apps on your screen is like a smoker trying to quit smoking whilst keeping a packet of cigarettes in their pocket. They are addictive, and you will feel drawn towards them.
Make yourself accountable by sharing your plans with others and plan to have an extra few hours in your day to spend doing something that is fulfilling, nurturing, and nourishing. Most of all, enjoy opening your eyes to the breath-taking wonder that is our world again.