"Social media cleanse"—a fancy term for deleting social media—has become something of a buzz-phrase in our increasingly plugged-in society. In December 2015, Ed Sheeran took an indefinite hiatus from Instagram after growing tired of "seeing the world through a screen." (He's since returned to the site.) In June 2016, Demi Lovato, who has a historically tumultuous relationship with the Twitterverse, stepped away from social media for 24 hours so she wouldn't "have to see what some of y'all say." Chrissy Teigen, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and a handful of other celebs have all followed suit—seeking respite from the realm of mirror selfies, nonstop notifications, and internet trolls, if only for a mere 24 hours.
In a world where we #DoItForTheGram and take more food porn photos than we know what to do with, it's no surprise many of us have glamorized the idea of taking a break from the digital and getting back to our pre-technology roots. (I know I have.) But every time I step away from Twitter, or remove Instagram from my phone, or temporarily deactivate my Facebook account, the same questions arise: Is deleting social actually doing anything for my mental health? Are all those Snapchat stories, Instagram double-taps, and Facebook updates impacting my life that much? Or am I just making these periodical forays into the land of no social media for naught?
I combed the recesses of my brain for similar questions and posed them to a couple experts. Their consensus: Social media is associated with some bad stuff, but it's associated with a bunch of good stuff, too. If you're feeling fine about your technology habits, there's no need to guilt yourself into a social media cleanse. But if your affinity for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat is causing you a ton of stress or is getting in the way of your life, then taking a break might be helpful. Here, six potential mental health benefits of a temporary social media cleanse.
1. It might help you sleep better.
A Bank of America-commissioned survey of 1,000 U.S. adults found that 71 percent of Americans sleep with or next to their smartphones. (Let's be real: I'm one of that 71 percent, and you probably are, too.)
But this can take a toll on your sleeping habits. According to the National Sleep Foundation, that blue light your phone screen emits can interfere with your body's production of melatonin—the hormone responsible for helping you get to sleep. Looking into that blue-lit social media void right before you settle in for some shut-eye can disrupt your ability to fall asleep. (You're not doing yourself any favors when you try to assuage your insomnia by checking Instagram or scrolling through your Facebook feed, either.) Needless to say, separating yourself from social media might lead you to spend less time on your phone—which might help you get to sleep faster.
2. It can force you to reprioritize in-person interactions.
Andreas Kaplan, a Europe Business School professor specializing in social media, tells SELF that excessive Facebook use is linked to things like social isolation, loneliness, and depression. And Jacqueline Nesi, a clinical psychology Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina, backs that up. "Social media can be a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family," she tells SELF. "But excessively using social media—at the expense of in-person interactions with friends or family—can negatively impact relationships and well-being."
3. It *might* reduce your anxiety.
According to research, excessive social media and technology use is associated with a lot of bad stuff—like high anxiety, low quality of life, and depression. But experts warn these results are only correlational—meaning relationships exist between usage and this bad stuff, but that doesn't necessarily mean that technology and social media cause the bad the stuff.
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