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Why we all need a social media detox once in a while

Erin Burtenshaw

If you were born after 1995, you don’t know life without the internet, let alone social media. We are in the age of social media. You probably have Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp open right now… I know I do.

Everyday, I spend countless hours scrolling through the same apps. I don’t realise until the evening, when I lie in bed, how it affects my brain. I spend hours trying to get to sleep because I cannot switch off. I think about my day and who followed me. I think about why I don’t look like the girls who I follow on Instagram. I question why my friends are ignoring me when I can see that they were active ‘just now’.

If social media didn’t exist, you wouldn’t expect to hear from your friend all day, every day. You wouldn’t compare yourself to the models’ ‘perfect life’ and I’m sure you wouldn’t think about who followed you.

I first got Instagram when I was just 10 years old. I put my age as 30 and it was as easy as that. I would spend around 1 hour a day messaging my friends and finding other friends from different schools. This is when my social media ‘addiction’ started. 

Perfect life

On social media, we only portray what we want the world to see: just the good things in our life. If anything bad happens, we overlook it, we don’t share it with all our followers, we keep it to ourselves. Keeping it to ourselves is a big problem because it can mean that we’ve forgotten or we never learn how to express our feelings in the real world. Take me as an example, I go to Twitter to rant, debate and vent about my day but I never speak openly about it in real life.

Yes, some things about social media are good – it helps us stay in touch with long-lost friends and family whom we otherwise might never contact, for example. But, it is now more normal to have conversations over our phones, using emojis or the occasional ‘LOL’ or ‘LY’, than it is to have a meaningful conversation face to face with a beloved. Social media becomes a problem when it dominates social interaction – when we spend more time online than we do having face to face, natural conversations.

Cyberbullying is also a major issue, with teenagers becoming more insecure and playground bullying turning online as soon as they get home. It is constant. They cannot get away from it. It’s on every app, every site. A study reported on by Unicef stated that ‘victims of cyberbullying are more likely to use alcohol and drugs and skip school than other students. They also are more likely to receive poor grades and experience low self-esteem and health problems. In extreme situations, cyberbullying has led to suicide’.

Social media gives teenagers a voice, a platform to be accepted and heard. But how can we protect ourselves fully when we do not know who is on the other side of the screen? Someone we don’t know may prey on us at our most vulnerable, as we begin to open up to them about our lives, just as we start to feel comfortable.

All consuming

Social media wasn’t designed for excessive use, and neither were phones. Go back 15 years and phones were used to call somebody and receive the occasional text. Often the most use would come from playing ‘snake’ or Bluetoothing the new song you just heard to your cousin. Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple, did not let his children use an iPad – this makes me wonder, what was so bad that he wouldn’t allow his children to use what he had designed?

We are in an age where we revolve around our smart phones. I believe that not enough research has been done into the mental and physical effects on adults – let alone teenagers. The technology hasn’t been around long enough for extensive research to have been done, but it already feels like instead of improving our lives, making it quicker to access information and find out what’s happening in the world, it’s consuming aspects of our lives as well. We only have one life, we need to look after ourselves throughout it.

So I propose that you put down your phone for at least 2 hours a day – easier said than done I know – and talk to your friends, talk to your family, read a book or even just watch the TV. Express your feelings. Limit your time scrolling through endless amounts of content, looking at people who you are never going to be (and that’s a good thing, because you’re you).

We all need a social media detox. We all need to protect ourselves from the potentially harmful effects of social media on our mental health. In life, we have to worry about a lot. Social media shouldn’t be another worry.

YOLO, TTYL XOX


This is a guest post by Erin Burtenshaw, 17, from Southampton. If you are a young person with experience of mental health difficulties and would like to blog for us, please email racheltemple@mcpin.org.