In her TED talk, College scholar Amber Quinney talks about going on a thirty day fast from social media. She reports feeling “free for the first time in a long time. Free to think. Free from judgement. Free to focus. Free from this busy, noisy, information-hungry world.” (1)
So, what are the real benefits of taking time away from social media?
Time. I try to use my phone as little as possible, but, to my disappointment, my screen report tells me week in, week out, that my average screen time is almost four hours per day. And every time, I wonder what on earth I am doing on my phone for all those hours. But the truth is that as soon as we reach for the phone, and unlock it by inputting our pin, we are entering another world. The world of quick dopamine hits, endless information, entertaining pictures, videos and so much more engulfs us for hours on end. What could we achieve if we could put these four extra hours per day towards achieving our true goals?
Improved sleep quality. The bright blue light emitted from our phone has no benefit for our sleep pattern. It mimics the sun, which means that using a smartphone at night confuses the brain, and disrupts our sleep schedules, negatively impacting our ability to sleep. (2) Equally, the intense and addictive narrative of the virtual world in which we live while we are on our phones does no favours for those who struggle to fall asleep at night. It cannot be denied that the strange and sometimes upsetting posts we come across on social media often leave our brains unsettled and unable to fall into a peaceful slumber. Time away from this gives the brain time to focus on sleep.
Shift in priorities. Have you ever spent half an hour choosing which picture to post on Instagram? Twenty minutes reading the comments on the latest viral meme? An hour editing your TikTok video to perfection? And in what way did it help you prepare for your interview? Did it help you get everything done on your to-do list? How did it support your monthly goals? Social media is a distraction. In her TED talk, Amber Quinney talks about logging off social media, and back into real life. She highlights the importance of activities like reading, learning a new skill, spending time with a loved one, or travelling. Since taking a break from social media, she has been able to “reclaim her time” which is something that, to my mind at least, sounds most appealing. (1)
Privacy protection. We can all agree that it’s somewhat bothersome to have to provide personal information about ourselves every time we seek to make an account on a new website - email address, date of birth, password: information we give away without hesitation simply because it is what is required of us to join the newest app. But is it worth the stress and inconvenience we experience when we forget our login details, receive SPAM emails, or, unbeknownst to us, have our data stolen? ‘Have I Been Pwned’ is a website through which users can discover if any email addresses they use have been exposed as a part of any security breach. Their website is entitled: Have I Been Pwned: Check if your email has been compromised in a data breach. Such a security breach, might I add, an uncommon occurrence. A 2019 article from The Guardian spoke of how the largest collection of breached data in history had been discovered, which included more than 770m email addresses and passwords posted to a popular hacking forum. (3) This shocking data makes me want to steer clear of the world of websites as much as I can.
In reality, a total purge of social media is not always possible. However, using it with a different perspective is. Amber Quinney recommends keeping in mind intent when using social media. She also reminds her audience of the importance of learning to like yourself, to avoid seeking social validation. Equally, a short detox from social media might give you the change in perspective you need. It could be a chance to refocus on what is truly important in life and could provide the courage needed to help you move away from being a slave to sites. (1)
1. Ted.com. n.d. Social Media: The Biggest Threat to Your Brain. [online] Available at: <https://www.ted.com/talks/social_media_the_biggest_threat_to_your_brain> [Accessed 16 June 2022].
2. Loria, K. and Gould, S., 2015. How smartphone light affects your brain and body. [online] Business Insider. Available at: <https://www.businessinsider.com/how-smartphone-light-affects-your-brain-and-body-2015-9?r=US&IR=T#:~:text=Smartphone%20screens%20emit%20bright%20blue%20light%20so%20you,gives%20your%20body%20the%20%22time%20to%20sleep%22%20cues.> [Accessed 16 June 2022].
3. Hern, A., 2019. Largest collection ever of breached data found. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/17/breached-data-largest-collection-ever-seen-email-password-hacking> [Accessed 16 June 2022].