It’s been said that because of social media we’ve become slaves to our devices, whether it be a phone, laptop or computer. What’s worse, preliminary studies involving teens indicates that high use of social media is correlated with increased depression, anxiety, insomnia and body image issues.
What’s the answer? Offline October. Haven’t heard of this movement? It began in Littleton, CO, when a small group of students got together after the community experienced a significant number of teen suicides. The students decided that “enough was enough” and they would challenge people —everyone, not just teens—to stop using social media for the entire month of October. On their website, offlineoctober.com, they write: “The challenge is meant for people to realize the importance of human relationships and the happiness that can come from direct human interaction.”
What a great idea! The iTHRIVE Plan calls this a “digital detox.” For a long time, we have encouraged people to take breaks from all technology, not just social media. We agree with author Gretchen Rubin who reminds us in her book The Happiness Project that “technology is a good servant but a bad master.” So how do you take a digital detox? Here are three strategies:
Create an electronic device free zone in your home
Take a break from listening to or watching the news
Periodically (and consistently) turning off the TV and the radio
Perhaps being offline from social media for the entire month of October isn’t for you. Well, then, how about “Set Aside Sunday.” And it doesn’t necessarily have to be Sunday. You could set aside Saturday or Wednesday as your day to unplug from social media. Just pick one day each week and don’t engage with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media application.
The founders of Offline October have the same goal as iTHRIVE: “We hope that from this challenge people will maintain and manage stronger friendships, develop face-to-face communication skills, and become happier in their overall well-being.”
Whether you accept the challenge to avoid social media for the month of October or make “Set Aside Sunday” a habit, we hope that you look at your social media use a little more carefully. While social media has many positive aspects, for some people it may be time to take a break. Time to enjoy the process of looking someone in the eyes—listening, learning and sharing. It’s time to thrive!
Levenson JC, Shensa A, Sidani JE, et al. Social media use before bed and sleep disturbance among young adults in the United States: A naturally representative study. Sleep. 2017;40(9).
Rosen LD, Lim AF, Felt J, et al. Media and technology use predicts ill-being among children, preteens and teenagers independent of the negative health impacts of exercise and eating habits. Computers in human behavior. 2014;35:364-375.
Sidani JE, Shensa A, Hoffman B, et al. The association between social media use and eating concerns among US young adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116(9):1465-1472.