Let's face it yet again... the constant information overload and the perennial pressure of round the clock connectivity (and consequent accountability) that we are subjected to can frankly be very unnerving and exhausting. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even WhatsApp: do we really need them as much as we use them? After all before social media too life had existed and perhaps the quality of human interactions was more meaningful and genuine.
"Before the proliferation of social media people actually had to make an effort to connect and socialize with one another. No connection happened at the fingertips like it is happening today minus physical presence or even conversation. People had to pay social visits or atleast dial a telephone number to hear another's voice. Hence the socialization process was definitely much more conscious," says a Guwahati based sociologist.
A social media detox is actually like a diet detox which you undertake after a prolonged stretch of eating very rich foods. The same way that the body/digestive system routinely needs to ease itself with healthy 'easy to digest' food the mind and psyche too needs a break from the overcrowding of information and the often overwhelming human connections.
I have often had conversations with people on this subject and arrived at some interesting insights on why exactly we need a social media detox. Social media, especially Facebook is really a place where people flaunt the highpoints of their lives. Be it travel highlights, career achievements, relationship highs and even mundane things like glitzy social gatherings, the pictures and posts say it all. In such a scenario the ones who live fairly uneventful lives might feel inadequate and insignificant. This is obviously a red flag situation in terms of mental wellbeing.
Also another fact is that Facebook posts are often exaggerated impressions/accounts of a person's reality and actually a large percentage of people do not live the lives that they portray on social media. "Consequently most people get jealous and insecure when they see these seemingly flawless accounts of another's life. It can lead to competition or depression in many cases and is definitely unhealthy," explains Raina Bhattacharya a senior mental health counselor from Guwahati.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even WhatsApp: do we really need them as much as we use them?Secondly very unfortunately, social media has become an uncensored ground for people to vent out against social and political issues that they are in disagreement with. "While there is nothing wrong in expressing a view, it is definitely wrong to indulge in personal mudslinging with the ones who have a different view. This is happening at an alarming rate and often people use derogatory language too. Even the ones who are mute spectators to these very acrimonious public exchanges on social media are negatively impacted. Hence I as a counselor advise my patients to restrict social media use and frequently detox," shares Bhattacharya.
The third insight actually is a little more complex and understandably more dangerous. "Excessive usage or addiction to social media can alter a person's perception of reality and even cause serious mental issues. I have seen many patients who escape reality and responsibility and live within their superficially constructed social media image. This is particularly dangerous for people who have borderline tendencies for split personality, bipolar people and even the ones who are victims of drug and alcohol abuse,' says Bhattacharya.
According to her a teeming number of psychiatric patients have or have had a history of online dating or even serious relationships, obviously with the wrong people. "After all it is so easy to camouflage your real self on social media. It is no secret that extra marital affairs too have seen a never before rise after the advent of social media," she explains.
The fourth insight is plain scary. Facebook and Instagram are also preying grounds for criminals, anti-social elements and stalkers. There have been instances where toddlers have been kidnapped as their guardians callously disclosed sensitive information like the location of their house while uploading pictures on Facebook. Other criminal acts have also happened owing to such callousness. As a precautionary measure one should never ever disclose private and confidential information on social media. "It's best to never accept connection requests from strangers. Atleast every connection request that is accepted should have a set of known people in common. And the privacy settings should never be public," says Bhattacharya.
Some people consciously never feel the need to restrict their social media activities or take a detox saying that social media is a place where they network to advance their professional interests. "This may be true only partially," says Nandita Goel a budding artist from Guwahati. "For this to happen you have to connect with likeminded people. For instance I get business inquiries on my paintings only from people who like art and paintings. Having a friend list touching 5000 connections is of no use when you do not personally know atleast one third of the people. Most of these people have no genuine interest in your work and probably have only sent a random connection request seeing your attractive profile picture," she concludes with a smile.
So what are you waiting for? If you have been contemplating that detox just go ahead. During your detox you will realise that the people you really need in your life are always there irrespective of social media. A detox is a great way to re-establish meaningful in-person connections with those who really matter and also spend quality time with oneself.