Social media is the new dopamine high. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, gives us a happiness boost when we anticipate receiving a reward. When people share a post or get a like, they feel validated, seen, heard, and their brain receives a dopamine hit. Wanting more of that high, they will check their feeds up to 75 times a day!
The problem is social media isn’t a healthy high to depend on. Constant exposure to phones, computers and tablets increases electromagnetic exposure, and that stimulates your nervous system. That means you may feel jittery, extra tired, or have difficulty falling asleep after spending a lot of time checking your social media pages.
But health concerns aren’t the only risk.
While some people may feel better after connecting with people on social media, others feel more depressed, isolated, envious and insecure. It’s become such an issue, our culture termed the phrase “social media depression” to describe the sadness some people feel after spending hours being bombarded by other people’s lives, luring ads, and fear-based news.
What Happened When I DetoxedI was a latecomer to social media. I had no interest, nor time, for it. But after my divorce, I felt lonely. I missed my friends who lived 3,000 miles away. I opened a Facebook account. First, an old college boyfriend friended me. Then strangers sent friend requests. My friend’s lives were scattered all over my computer screen, like fifty different photo albums being shoved in my face simultaneously. While I was mourning a divorce, snapshots of beaming babies, happy couples and romantic vacations reminded me of what I didn’t have.
I didn’t see the meaning of it. So I rarely signed in. Instead, I opted for old school connections. If I wanted to hear what a long-distance friend was up to, I called them.
A few years later, I realized social media can be used to stay in touch with clients, and connect through things like Facebook Live. So I signed back in. And I learned how to control what I see on my feed so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
But still, after a while, I was. The positivity page I followed shared some depressing posts, like how sad loneliness is, and how much losing a loved one hurts. The organic news page posted how terrible everything is for you – from toxic slow cookers, to deadly vaccines and the poor abused livestock destined for food. Mainstream news shared all fear-based headlines, from natural disasters to impending war. It seemed no matter how well-intended people may be on social media, they couldn’t help themselves from sharing doom and gloom.
I’d sign in, get distracted by all the posts, feel (useless) information overload, then hours later regret the time wasted. I wasn’t getting a dopamine high. I was feeling more tired, less productive, and completely unfulfilled.So I did a Social Media Detox. I didn’t check social media for 30 days. I know, it sounds like a long time. At first, it was difficult. I had that feeling I was missing out on something, or disconnected. But the truth was, if I wanted to reach a friend, all I had to do was send a text or make a call. I really wasn’t missing anything that I absolutely needed to know.
Here’s what happened.
I enjoyed hearing my friend’s voices again. I felt more energized. I slept better. I got more done. I felt more productive. I spent more time doing things I love, like refinishing a piece of furniture, reading, writing, getting reflexology foot massages, meditating, giving myself Reiki, and watching more funny movies. I enjoyed an average day running errands without feeling the urge to check my phone. I walked my dogs without trying to multitask leading them, keeping an eye out for oncoming traffic, and seeing what my friend shared on Facebook or how many likes I got. The funny thing was, all of these things naturally boosted my dopamine levels! And I felt so grounded.
So instead of being drained by social media, wondering why more people weren’t seeing or liking my posts, spending hours trying to understand algorithms and wondering if I needed to buy whatever clever product was sparkling in my feed, I simplified my life. I was present for my husband. My dogs got more petting. And I felt more focused, accomplished and relaxed. It felt wonderful!
Your 10-Day Detox GuideYou don’t need to be off social media for a month to experience the benefits of a detox. Just 10 days can make a difference. And if you feel that’s too much, start with 24 hours and test yourself to see how much longer you could go. It feels empowering once you stop checking your social media pages, and start being more present. You’ll start to get new dopamine highs, and realize you don’t need to know who liked your last post to feel good about your life.
Start by replacing your habit of checking your feeds with something else that’s pleasurable for you. Studies have shown cuddling with your pet, working on a fun, creative hobby, exercise, listening to music, getting your to-do list done and meditating all produce natural dopamine highs.
So this is what your 10 Day Social Media Detox may look like…
Day One. Start reading a motivational book. Have it on you when you travel, so instead of checking your phone, you’ll read the next page.
Day Two. If you’re used to checking your social media after work, take your dog for a walk at that time instead. Or take a hot bubble bath. Or go to the gym.
Day Three. Boost your dopamine levels with foods like almonds, avocados, watermelon, bananas, eggs, yogurt and green tea.
Day Four. Try learning something new. Take a painting class, cooking class or music lesson.
Day Five. Join a community event, like an open mic night or a library lecture.
Day Six. Do your favorite exercise, and try a new work out.
Day Seven. Create reasonable to-do lists, so that you can realistically achieve your priorities for the day. Make sure to cross them out once they’re completed!
Day Eight. Take a walk outside, get fresh air and notice the beauty around you. If you have a dog, bring him/her along.
Day Nine. If you have a habit of checking your social media first thing in the morning, try doing a meditation during that time instead.
Day Ten. If you’re used to checking your social media during lunch, try talking to someone instead. If not a co-worker, directly message a friend and see how their day is going. If you’re used to checking your social media before bed, try reading instead until you’re sleepy enough to turn the lights off.
Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
If you find yourself easily tempted, store your device someplace it’s not so easily accessible. Don’t sleep with your phone under your pillow. Leave it in a separate room, or put it in a drawer, out of sight. Enjoy your rejuvenation time!
If You Try It…
Let me know how you feel afterward. Post your experience below in the comments!