The Social Media Detox

Before you roll your eyes at the mention of yet another New Years Detox to add to the list, bear with me. I’m not talking starving yourself for 3 days, living off pea soup for the next month, or quick-fix “tea-toxes” that have you spending the beginning of 2017 on the loo. I’m talking tiny little changes you can make right now, which really can have a positive and long-lasting impact.

For me, the word detox brings to mind restrictive diets which ban harmful or addictive substances from the body. The benefits of a detox in this sense might include losing weight, reducing bloating, gaining energy or improving the skin. Most seem to be focussed on improving the way we look, especially around this time of year. In my view, there’s a distinct lack of detoxes aimed at improving the way we think and ridding mindless crap from a part of the body that often gets overlooked: the mind.

It wasn’t until the latter part of 2016 when I really started to prioritise my mental wellbeing. A year ago, I would have scoffed at an article like this – I thought it was all flowery nonsense, that my mind was ‘fine’ and if anything, I should be focusing on improving my physical health instead. I found it far easier to go to the gym and train my body than take time out to ‘train’ my mind. Why is it that we still find it so uncomfortable addressing our mental health? Is it because we aren’t really sure how a “healthy mind” should function, so we find it hard to recognise when one becomes “unhealthy”, and even harder to offer solutions?

What we do know is that our minds are not at their best when they’re clouded by negative emotions like self-doubt, loneliness, anxiety or fear. In order to combat these feelings, we’re told to think about what’s causing them. For me, this task was overwhelming; I put all my energy into evaluating my life and trying to find causes and answers, which often made the negative emotions worse. So, I decided to leave the “big stuff” (career, goals, friendships, relationships, money etc) to one side, and focus on the “small stuff” – things I could control more easily. What was my daily routine? What did I spend a lot of time doing? And what was I letting influence my mind?

I knew that, like most of my generation, a lot of my spare time is spent on social media. My scrolling has almost become second nature – a quick check of my emails, snapchats and notifications in the morning turns into an aimless scan of the latest videos that my friends have shared on Facebook, an in-depth stalk of some Australian fitness model on Instagram and a browse through Pinterest for my latest makeup inspiration. Before I know it, a good chunk of my morning has disappeared and I’m usually left feeling demotivated, inadequate or just plain guilty for wasting so much time glued to my phone.

Whether our weakness is Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, it’s common for a significant part of our days to be taken up consumed by other people’s lives.

For me, it’s Instagram. Those bloody squares. What makes them so addictive? Since taking up blogging a few years ago, Instagram has been the main social media accompaniment to my blog and undoubtedly the best promotion tool that I’ve used so far. It’s no secret that I really love a hashtag. Without Instagram, I wouldn’t have tapped into the vast, worldwide beauty community which is full to the brim with creative, inspiring and supportive people. Instagram allows me to be one of those people, and I love it for that reason.

The problem comes when I let myself use Instagram for pointless stalking of content that doesn’t inspire me, but has the potential to do the opposite. I’m talking about pictures of those who lead seemingly ‘perfect’ lives or represent today’s STUPID standards of beauty. The mums of Instagram who manage to maintain abs of steel whilst looking after two toddlers. The influencers who earn £10k per post to go on ridiculous trips around the world (I mean, that’s just pure envy talking).

Of course, following the lives of those you aspire to be like or those who motivate you to achieve your goals (or even just get out of bed and head to the gym) can be beneficial. But I do think there’s a fine line between feeling motivated and feeling like somebody’s life/job/body is so unattainable, there’s no point even trying.

I’m not saying I’m incapable of understanding the difference between Instagram and real life – I’m fully aware that someone’s social media presence is likely to just be their “best bits” – but perhaps it’s worth recognising that since we spend a large amount of time on social media, it could be influencing our mindsets more than we think. What if it’s causing you to feel that all these “best bits” are better than yours might ever be? Over-exposure to so-called ‘perfection’ can make it difficult to recognise and appreciate your own achievements. For me, it can encourage unhealthy comparison – even when I might not realise it.

So what can you do? Firstly, recognise whether any of this rings true for you. It’s likely that some people reading this won’t feel like social media has a negative impact on their mind – they use it to keep up with family and friends, watch the occasional cat video and couldn’t care less which country Tash Oakley is in today. But if you’re anything like me, you might want to try a little social media detox. In a nutshell, it’s simply a cull of content that isn’t benefitting you or improving your mindset.

Take a look at your Instagram feed, following list and explore page with all this in mind. Instagram’s explore page is tailored to you. It’s based around who you’re following, images you’ve liked, images your followers have liked, and trending content. When mine shows trashy celeb gossip and bronzed models with six-packs lounging on a beach, I know I’m probably not doing myself any favours. I want to scroll through Instagram and get inspired by real, creative people, not feel like I should binge on a tub of Nutella then punish myself in the gym. So I go on a ruthless unfollowing spree and spend 10 minutes engaging with users and pictures that make me want to get up and be a creative genius. Like magic, your feed and explore page will follow suit. The same goes for Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. Be brutal. Have no mercy. If it ain’t doing you any good, you shouldn’t spend your time looking at it.

Whilst the ideal goal would be to spend less time on social media (duh), I can’t see myself doing so any time soon. Especially given my love for beauty and blogging (and now YouTubing). So, by being aware of the impact social media could have on me if I let myself become consumed by it, and by regularly reviewing what these platforms think I’ll enjoy to ensure it’s what I actually enjoy, I can at least feel like I’m using my time beneficially. If I stick to this, a “quick scroll” can actually give me the motivation I need to smash my day and start adding to the endless talent and creativity that’s already out there.

To anyone who gives this a go, I hope you find it helps, or is at least strangely therapeutic. And do let me know if you have any thoughts or similar tips – I’d love to hear them.

 

Photography by Olly Woodburn (@theollywooarchive) // Makeup & Hair by me // Watch by Abbott Lyon (@abbottlyon)

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