Social media dieting: The healthier alternative to detoxing
Everybody talks about digital detoxing, but what about a diet?
by Sara Mahendran /
December 11, 2019
Photo: Unsplash / Brooke Cagle
I knew my addiction to social media got especially bad when I started checking my phone every 20 minutes or less. And I couldn’t stop, because this was my way of coping whenever things got stressful. Can you relate?
I hated how every time I opened Facebook or Instagram, mindless scrolling ensued. There wasn’t any fun or value in it, either. It was just a toxic thing that wasted my time and made me feel numb. I thought about going on a social media detox, but who was I kidding? I knew I couldn’t stick to it. However, I got really sick of my bad habit and I inadvertently ended up going on what I’d like to call a social media diet. Now, after one or two months on this diet, I spend around just 20 minutes a day on social media.
This ‘diet’ formula worked so well, I even went one or two whole days without feeling the need to check my socials sometimes. It felt very liberating, and I hope it helps you too. Keep reading to find out how you can start a social media diet like I did.
What is a social media diet?
Just like how a typical diet involves reducing your portion size and eating more healthily, I believe a social media diet involves (i) reducing the time you spend on social media, and (ii) consuming more wholesome content that boosts your intellectual wellness.
A detox on the other hand, involves cutting off your social media usage to zero every day. This method has its pros: it pushes you out of your comfort zone and gives you the free time to do more meaningful things, like connect with people in the real world or do activities you didn’t have time for before.
But there are some cons as well: If you were very addicted to social media, a full-blown detox is tough to pull off, and even if you manage to do it, the whole experience could be emotionally painful if you start to feel lonely, bored or stressed.
Photo: Unsplash / Anthony Tran
Overall, detoxing isn’t very sustainable (for me at least), because it would leave me itching to go back to social media every day. It’s similar to going on a crash diet, where the measures taken are extreme and the chances of defaulting to old habits are high.
That’s why I prefer social media dieting – you’d be taking it slowly and gradually, which gives you a higher chance of sticking to it.
Every single time you flip to a social media app, take note of the time you spend, even if you were on it for only two minutes. Then at the end of the day, add it all up. You might be surprised to find out how much time you actually spend on social media.
I still remember how eye-opening and alarming it was when I first added up my minutes and realised I spent four to five hours a day on this. That was one of the catalysts that encouraged me to break the habit.
2) Weed out unproductive accounts
Photo: Unsplash / Raychan
A good next step is to cut out ‘junk food’ from your diet. This refers to all the guilty pleasure type of content that you like to indulge in, but doesn’t necessarily make you feel good.
So think of all the clickbait articles that pull you in, all the dank memes you scroll through but don’t crack a smile at, or all the random videos you binge on which don’t add value to your day. All of these have to go. It was a pretty tedious process first, for me, and I found myself unfollowing so many accounts that I started to worry there’d be nothing left on my feed.
At the end of the process, there was still plenty of content left, thankfully. And over time, I found myself using social media a little lesser now, with all the triggers that caused me to be addicted gone.
Tip: One of the things that clog up your feed and lengthen the time you spend on your phone are ads. They can be hard to remove, but you can declutter your feed over time by reporting the ads you encounter as spam.
3) Address the external triggers that cause you to use social media unhealthily
Photo: Unsplash / Georgia de Lotz
It’s important to clarify that there is nothing inherently wrong with using social media. For me, the issue was that I was using social media at the wrong times. For example, I’d feel tempted to open a social media app every time I felt the pressure at work rise. That meant my workflow consistently got disrupted.
To deal with that, I chose to swap the habit of checking my phone with grabbing a small snack, getting some water, or maybe just taking a short walk instead. The more intentional and mindful I got about this issue, the easier it got over time. Eventually, the old muscle memory got weakened and new habits got built.
It’s still a work in progress though, there are times I still find myself reaching for my phone and I have to remind myself to do something else instead. On the bright side, it’s a lot easier to ignore my phone now after all that practice.
Tip: If you prefer to use apps to track and limit your phone’s usage, some good apps are Moment, Forest and OFFTIME.
4) Start following more wholesome accounts
Photo: Unsplash / Chad Madden
Lastly, start incorporating more ‘healthy food’ into your social media diet. Anything that intrigues you, inspires you or is in line with your hobbies and teaches you something new, is great.
Now, social media has become a little more productive and enriching for me. It’s a nice feeling. I don’t feel as guilty since I feel like I’m engaging my brain every time I scroll through the feed.
After all, social media is meant to be a good invention, it’s not an intrinsically bad thing. We just need to do our part by tidying up the clutter and following the accounts that keep us engaged and happy.