Social Media, Helpful or Harmful? {+ Mini ‘Media Detox’ Challenge Ideas}

This may or may not apply to you depending on how much social media you use, but I wanted to share an idea I came up this last week with for limiting my social media use, as well as some other ways to limit your time on social media. I want to preface by saying I don’t think social media is an entirely bad thing, I realize that it is actually not something we can do without these days, especially in terms of business/marketing for most industries. It is also a good way to stay connected with far away loved ones. But think about it… how much of the time we spend online and on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, email, etc.) is actually spent engaging in meaningful time with loved ones? I occasionally watch Facebook videos of ridiculously cute animals and laugh with my husband, but this is probably not the #1 most effective way of bonding we have at our disposal. 😂

However, what I do know that social media is WAAAAY over used by 99.99% of us as a means of distraction/entertainment when really, we should be focusing on the people next to us and the things that actually matter in light of eternity. Can you guess how many times a day the average person checks their phone? Go ahead and think…the answer is below.

I’ve also started to notice how often others around me are on their phone as soon as there is even a moment of down time. The opportunity for engaging with others is missed. Our brains have no time for creative space which would be found in thought time because we fill every void with consumption. We are readily consuming all of what others are sharing without giving much thought to how it effects us. How much of it is even worthy of our time or healthy for our souls? Unless you carefully curate who you follow, it is the equivalent of mental junk food. We are constantly craving, never satisfied, and not leaving room for that which nourishes us and cultivates healthy relationships with others. And truth be told, the short term issues we face are the best case scenario. Even worse is the potential damage to our long term health. We see the highlight reel of others and compare it to where we feel inadequate or dissatisfied. This breeds negative emotions which we often don’t even realize. Research is linking social media to increased ill mental health and that in turn can impact our physical and spiritual health as well.

At this point, I don’t even have notifications set on my apps to alert me on my iPhone, but even without an interruption to notify me I still find myself reaching to check just to see what is new on my news feeds several times a day. The frequency is higher any time that I am not busy.

The truth is:

  • The 418th recipe I pinned for protein brownies is not needed—I still haven’t made the 417 recipes that I pinned before that one.
  • If I don’t reply to a DM until tomorrow, my world won’t implode. The other person’s won’t either.
  • I can limit checking emails to one time a day and I won’t miss anything urgent or important.
  • While we can definitely share important content like Ted Talks, Sermon Videos, and Podcast Episodes via online channels like Facebook, there is no video I can recall that I having ever watched on Facebook that impacted my life to the extent that it will never be the same.

You get my point. I won’t belabor it.

So why are we constantly checking these things? All these things are actually just a dopamine hit. Then I wonder why I need more and more of these activities when they are so unproductive. It is literally addiction.

This past week, I had the idea to only allow myself to check social media every other time that I thought about it. I added it to my other current practices for limiting social media distractions, which I have shared below as idea for you to challenge yourself with.

I was actually talking to one of my patients this the other day. We both agreed that we have convinced ourselves that we “need” social media in order to stay connected. We talked about how we are both so busy, rarely watch the news, and so to some extent, we rely on social media to keep us “in the loop.” I mean seriously, this is valid. I don’t watch any news and I only found out about the last 2 hurricanes that were headed STRAIT for us because of social media and concerned family members texting me!

Here’s my problem though. We have conditioned ourselves to rely on social media because it is available. What did we do before texting, Facebook, and Instagram? WE CALLED PEOPLE ON THE PHONE. Nowadays, that makes us uncomfortable. Both my patient and I agreed that when our cell phone rings, we hope it isn’t something that we actually have to answer because it often feels like too much effort to talk! Say what?! Here we sit, starved for human interaction and attempting to fill the void with virtual engagement, all the while, meeting in person or talking to the actual human voice on a phone would be much more fulfilling. But we have conditioned ourselves into discomfort with those things.

The other thing my patient struggled with was occasionally being on her phone when she was really needing to sleep. She said she does try to limit it, because she knows it is not a good habit. Still, she scrolls late at night when she can’t sleep, even knowing that it is the very thing interfering with her sleep! I have been guilty of this in the past. I think a lot of us struggle with behaviors like this. I now have a strict “no phone on while I am in bed policy.” I stick to that as it is clear cut and plain. No bending the rules, otherwise it is a slippery slope. Before my no phone in bed rule, “I’ll just check this one thing” turned into 45 minutes later and still scrolling.

So, has any of this convinced you to detox just a bit from social media/time spent online?

What if I told you the average person checks their phone between 90-150 times a day. One study even reported that the average person touches their phone over 2600 times a day. Yikes.

Here are a few challenge ideas for you. Hopefully you’ll try at least one!If you do, try stating with one at a time and then adding from there.

Challenge 1: Switch automatic alerts/notifications off on your phone.

Challenge 2: Every other time you think about / find yourself reaching to check social media, skip it. This will cut back on usage by 50% and I have found that I have not missed it. I has helped with awareness of how much time I spent.

Challenge 3: If your phone gives you a report on how much time you spend on social media, set a limit for the time you spend, or try to decrease your typical usage slowly (like by 5-10 minutes a week). I noticed that since my most recent iPhone update, my phone gives me an automatic daily use time.

Challenge 4: Delete apps from your phone during the day and reserve them use for evenings only (with the caveat that you stop screen time 1 hour before bed due to light disrupting sleep). Alternatively, delete and detox on weekends or 1 whole day per week. You can easily re-download them when you want them, but that extra step will be a deterrent. I even know of a writer who, when in the midst of big writing projects, will have his secretary change his password to all accounts each week and then not give him the new one until the end of the week. That’s hard core!

Challenge 5: No phone/screen for 30 minutes to 1 hour upon waking. I start every morning in the Word via a hard copy Bible. Only then do I move on to using my phone to read devotionals via Proverbs 31 and the Bible App. So, I usually don’t use my phone for the first 30 minutes of my day, and then when I do, it is 20 or so minutes of devotional time only. After that I am “allowed” to I get on social media.

When all else fails and you need a filer, ask yourself this question:

“Is this technology serving me, or am I serving it?” –Nir Eyal

If you decide to try any of these, or if you have other suggestions, let me know below!

P.S. I still remain pro-kitties and won’t ask you to give up cute animal video watching with others any time soon!


Interested in diving deeper? For more on this topic check out these resources:

Read the post How to Stay Informed Without Losing Your Mind by Nir Eyal
He share some helpful tips similar to what I listed above on limiting time online and still staying informed. If you prefer to listen to the blog post, you can go here or search in iTunes for The Optimal Living Daily Podcast episode 1042 in which the blog post is narrated to you!

Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Podcast episode 50. She discusses the effects on mental and spiritual health. Good, quick listen. Here is the link, or just search in iTunes.



Reader Questions:
1/ Do you limit your social media/online use, and if so how?
2/ Did any of the above sound like they would be helpful to you for limiting social media distractions?
3/ How soon after you wake do you check your phone?

One Comment Add yours

  1. lynnembw says:

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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