Social media addiction: Here’s what a Bamber Bridge mum learned when she ditched Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a week to help improve her relationships, mental health and life satisfaction


It can also be a minefield for anxious people like me. So it came as a welcome relief that I was asked to give it up for a week and keep a journal of my experience to try and gauge its impact on my life.

For social butterflies, this can feel like punishment. Why give up something that keeps you in touch with friends and family, near and far?

But as a socially anxious journalist – perhaps a paradox in itself – I have a love-hate relationship with networking platforms.

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Photo Neil Cross; Journalist Laura Longworth ditches social media for a week with help from Professor Janet Read

I barely post personal content on my accounts because I overthink my statuses and worry too much about people’s reactions to them.

Still, I feel more comfortable chatting in direct messaging apps than in large, face-to-face groups where I fear being judged more.

So during my week off, would I end up feeling adrift from my friends and family, or was I sailing on calmer waters? Here is what I learned:

Day one: It’s Saturday night and I feel good. I’ve been busy with household chores and playing with my son, so I haven’t missed social media. You don’t have FOMO when you’re busy keeping your little one from putting their socks and toys in the trash!

Day two: I spent a whole weekend without social networks. Staying in touch with people via text and phone calls did the trick, and I spent some quality time with loved ones at a family party. My son and I talked the whole way on the train, although I skidded on the way home without even realizing it while watching funny cat videos with him on YouTube. I totally forgot that this counts as a social network! Either way, the thing is, my social cup feels well and truly full. I recently had some one-on-one time with loved ones, and it made me realize how close some of my relationships are, and that I don’t need to seek comfort, connection, and validation. social media. Not everyone uses apps like Facebook or Twitter in this way, of course, but I do regularly, so I want to take a more balanced approach. Tonight, however, I’m a happy camper.

Day three: This morning I couldn’t find what I was looking for on my phone. In fact, I didn’t really know what I was looking for. It wasn’t until I remembered that I had deleted Facebook from my phone that I realized I was looking for it. This shows that I mostly log in in the morning out of habit. I would definitely prefer to do something with more purpose.

Day four: We had a little family date tonight and the cute cat videos surprised me again! We watched them on YouTube with our son in a restaurant while we waited for our food. I resisted chatting on WhatsApp or Messenger and even putting funny family photos on Facebook. Of all things, I should have known that cat videos would be my downfall!

I’m a little bummed that I can’t put the fun family photos on Facebook, though – it’s a great way for friends and family who can’t see my son often to follow his development. It’s something I love about social media: being able to stay in touch or reconnect with old friends or extended family who live far away.

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Fifth day : I’m back at work and I can’t help but think of all the stories I’m missing out on by not getting involved in community groups on social media. But it also allowed me to just focus on writing interviews I’ve done before, instead of chasing after new stories. I think it’s important to prioritize the information we consume on social media, instead of scrolling through it endlessly. That’s when you feel dissatisfied and thirsty for more.

I’ve definitely had a work addiction in the past, and my relationship with social media works the same way. I sought knowledge and achievements to feel seen, valued, loved, etc. – even though I already was – just as I now search for information and connections from apps like Facebook and YouTube.

These are just normal human needs, but some of us have a hard time feeling satisfied enough, even if we are. It’s like we have these big holes inside of us that we struggle to fill, and it’s a painful feeling.

The likes, shares, and reading attractive posts distract us from it and make us feel good — but it’s a short-lived feeling, not like what you get from a nurturing close relationship. People who are really confident in their self-esteem can probably enjoy social media without feeling like it makes or breaks them.

Anyway, my social media detox allowed me to reflect on what I already achieve and what I already have. I was able to take pleasure in learning for the sake of learning. So if there’s a cup for curiosity, this one’s filled for me too.

I miss watching parenting videos on YouTube, though, because I’m passionate about psychology, parenting, and child development.

But I also feel more confident as a mom taking a break from them. Ever since I watched a video about a couple teaching their one-year-old to say over a thousand words, I feel like a shitty mom not doing enough for her son. Stepping back from the online comparison allows you to see the bigger picture and enjoy the smile on your child’s face when playing “putting stickers on mommy’s nose”.

seventh day: I’ve been thinking about how I want to change my use of social media when I get back to it.

I like its convenience: Facebook, for example, is like a huge contact book that makes it easy to organize social events or set up interviews. I couldn’t just rely on my phone to keep in touch with old friends – I lose it and break it too often because I’m so scatty!

But I don’t want instant and constant access to social media because it’s so addictive, and I need time and space to recharge after social interactions. At the moment, I don’t plan to download any apps other than WhatsApp on my phone.

I like talking with people individually or in small groups. I like long and deep conversations and being silly together. But I feel overwhelmed by large groups, whether online or offline. So, since I have a hard time following too many group chats at once, I think I’ll limit these to immediate family and close friends where I can.

Online comparison is also a big thing for me. Envy is an ugly but real feeling for all of us, and the insecurity and anxiety that comes with it is painful. It was nice to get away from that kind of thinking and devote more time and attention to the here and now. The post-watch-react setup is like a digital gateway to our lives, not like the back-and-forth of natural conversation, or the comfortable silence of being with your best friend – the times when you can just “be “, and that’s more than enough.

Going forward, I want to use social media primarily as an all-in-one bullet journal or scrapbook of my life to share with those near and far. Above all, it will help me stay organized and have real-world get-togethers with my friends and family. Sometimes I may include personal journal entries if I think they will help others or myself.

For me, the key is to set boundaries that work for you, even if they go against social trends. Essentially, I want to use social media to make life and love in the real world easier, not to hide from it.

And just like with a physical calendar or scrapbook, I hope I can look at it once or twice a day, or show it to friends when they visit, then smile, close it, put it back on the shelf, and carry on. to live my life.

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