The online detox: benefits and pitfalls

The tether between individuals and the allure of the Internet has perhaps never been so pronounced as it is in 2017. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and a plethora of other applications, there is a wealth of personal media platforms that are operating 24/7, and a sense of duty and urgency that some feel in maintaining it. In a study focused on young women age 18–34, it was found that 21% check Facebook in the middle of the night, 57% said they talk to people online more than face-to-face, 34% check Facebook first thing in the morning when they wake up, and 39% identified themselves as Facebook addicts (Parr 2010).

It is not uncommon to see groups of young people who are out at dinner with their phones in hand the whole time — taking photos of their food, selfies of themselves, or communicating with people who are not present at the event. Famously, a group of young girls were noticed taking selfies during a baseball game in Arizona. As Sharp (2015) wrote; “During live game action in the bottom of the fourth inning, cameras focused in on roughly a dozen sorority girls in the stands who could not be bothered by what was going on in the game. Instead, they spent a full two minutes trying to get perfect selfies.”

The focus on social media has made the Internet user experience more introspective, giving people a platform to be the focus of their own website. Some have even levied this into fame; modern-day idols who have risen to the status of the elite, particularly on YouTube, Vine and Instagram.

It is this allure that makes a detox so daunting. Not only is it a deprivation of the constant recognition that one receives online, but a series of missed opportunities in sharing current events — no matter how mundane they might seem. The online world has become of utmost importance, despite the clear benefits of weaning oneself off from it, from the superficial to the quantifiable: “Just ten days in to my detox I started to feel like my attention span increasing [sic] and the length of time I could focus on one task was greatly improving.” (Zook 2014)

The nature of social media is such that it can lead to distress in one’s psyche. Amedia (2015) notes that the intensity of the online world, which requires constant engagement, creates a factor of self-awareness that may trigger depression in some people.

Some can even feel animosity or hostility towards others; Constant self-evaluation on an everyday basis, competition and comparing one’s own achievements with those of other users, incorrectly perceiving physical/emotional/social characteristics of others, feeling of jealousy, and narcissistic behavior — these are all factors that may positively or negatively influence self-esteem (Pantic 2014).

In social media, this ever-present medium that can feed or starve one’s ego; will their efforts be rewarded with validation? Or will they be left staring at that haunting ‘0’ occupying their notifications?

In the context of the classroom, this connectivity has turned the mobile phone into a veritable portal to another world. In a study of the mobile phone usage of students, it was observed that (a) minority of the students use their smartphones to enhance learning, such as to look up pertaining information about the lesson, take pictures of information on the blackboard; however [the] majority of them use smartphones for personal affairs during courses. (Ugur & Koc 2015)

Mankind survived for millions of years without social media, yet in the last decade, it has become so paramount, you would think people were born with a phone in their hand. It is not only possible to buck this trend, but perhaps desirable. It may be difficult at first, but it would appear that the benefits of shedding this addiction far outweigh the negatives. You might not get 1,000 likes for leaving Facebook, but you just may found 1,000 things in the real world that you actually do like.

References

Amedie, J 2015, The Impact of Social Media on Society, Advanced Writing: Pop Culture Intersections, Student Scholarship, Santa Clarita University

Pantic, I 2014, Online Social Networking and Mental Health, Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, Vol.17 Iss.10 October 2014, pg.652–657

Parr, B 2010, The First Thing Young Women Do in the Morning: Check Facebook, Mashable Australia, 07 July 2010, http://mashable.com/2010/07/06/oxygen-facebook-study/#Jv5xY5D2bEq1 (last accessed 23 August 2017)

Sharp, B 2015, These Sorority Girls Would Rather Take Duck-Faced Selfies Than Watch Boring Baseball, Uproxx, 1 October 2015, http://uproxx.com/sports/girls-take-selfies-baseball-game-diamondbacks/ (last accessed 23 August 2017)

Ugur, N & Koc, T 2015, Time for Digital Detox: Misuse of Mobile Technology and Phubbing, Procedia — Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol.195 Iss.3 July 2015, pg.1022–1031

Zook, J 2014, Do a Social Media Detox, Jason Does Stuff, October 2014 https://jasondoesstuff.com/social-media-detox-recap/ (last accessed 23 August 2017)