Disconnecting from social networks for a week can improve well-being: it’s time to do ‘digital cleaning’ | Technology

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Maybe you’re on vacation and your phone has no signal, or you forgot to charge your phone and now you’re sitting in a waiting room, anxious to see what’s happening on Twitter or what your friends are doing on Instagram. Feeling uncomfortable when you don’t have your mobile in your hand, as if something is missing, is a warning sign: It’s good to disconnect. In most cases, you don’t need to disconnect completely and forever. A break from social media for a week is enough to lead to significant improvements in well-being, according to a published study in american magazine Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networks in May 2022.

In the long term, taking a break could be a way to manage your mental health, because taking a break increases self-control and awareness of the time and energy spent online. In addition, people realize everything they can do with their free time, such as going for a walk, seeing family or friends, picking up hobbies old and even discover new hobbies. “Your self-esteem begins to improve and your mood changes; you make changes that make you feel better,” says Marian García Arigüel, director of Orbium, an addiction treatment and detoxification center in Madrid and Barcelona. The first step for digital cleaning it is to be aware and assume the need for a change in behavior. Then comes the most difficult part: carrying it out.

Addiction versus bad habit

Although many people use the word addiction to refer to this great difficulty of setting a limit to mobile, it is itself a spectrum disorder that ranges from mild to severe, and treatment may require professional help, therapy and a long rest. The health psychologist José Tamayo Hernández explains that, in order to distinguish the problematic or addictive use of social networks from the normal or even a bad habit, it is necessary to identify if there is an “intense psychological discomfort”, a negative influence on the personal relationships, at work, studies or the abandonment of leisure activities.

Consult the networks rada more getting up, before going to bed or when you wake up during the night; typing or looking at posts while doing another activity, such as eating, walking, or conversing in person with another person; Repeatedly checking for any new notifications or responses on the network are some red flags that call for a change in behavior, but they don’t always mean a bigger problem. “It is not possible to identify addiction to social networks, or any addiction, through objective criteria, such as the number of hours dedicated to this activity daily,” says Tamayo Hernández and adds some examples that, probably, are addicted to social media: “When the user is not able to control their access, feeling impelled to do so whenever they feel the desire or have the opportunity to do so, and when it leads to the breach of obligations, commitments and plans, or leads to social isolation and abandonment of face-to-face communication”. To this, the expert García Arigüel adds the fact that there is often a decrease in cognitive functions, such as attention and concentration in cases of addiction.

Another symptom that the bad habit has become a disorder is when the person feels nervous, irritable or frustrated when they cannot access the Internet, either because it does not work or is slower than usual, or if these psychological states occur by receiving few likes or comments. That’s when it becomes a matter of self-esteem.

Gabriel Pozuelo, a psychologist who has been working with addictions and problems with social networks since 2018, explains that, in general, too much importance is given to the amount of likes and followers that a person has in the networks. Although it is not, as such, a particular symptom of addiction, being obsessed with those numbers can be an indicator. “It would be necessary to investigate why this social approval is needed. We cannot make our self-esteem depend on the number of ‘likes’”, underlines Pozuelo.

Social networks have to be like a window that opens, but not the main door.

Excessive concern about posting every day, at any time, can also be indicative of a more serious issue. In most cases, except for situations when networks are used professionally, this perception that an audience must be served is unreal. “To this type of users we recommend that you lower the activity. There will be a time when perhaps it will take time to get used to it because before it was done very frequently. But he has to find balance with private life. After all, social networks have to be like a window that opens, but not the main door,” says the psychologist, who cares for influencers who experience difficulties in establishing the barriers that separate personal and professional life.

The main challenge that this group faces, as he explains, is dealing with criticism, so his recommendation is to change the perspective and give less importance to “the nice things” that are said on the networks: “Reading good comments always comes to you.” Well, it boosts your ego a bit, but we don’t have to give it much importance. When you start to not care what social networks tell you positively, the negative things begin to affect you less as well (…) In the end, you are giving less value to social networks”.

What to do to cure misuse

Jumping from video to video, from publication to publication, from one social network to another for hours, without even remembering what you have seen, read or watched in the last few minutes, is the example of when one goes into automatic mode, without realizing account of the content you see. “Most people say ‘I’m not hooked, it doesn’t happen to me,'” says Pozuelo, but then, when I invite them to look at the time they spend on social networks, they get scared: “Sometimes we don’t spend much time , but we do it many times a day.” Therefore, the expert recommends that applications that measure and give alerts be installed whenever a certain limit of hours is reached. To prevent the mobile from being an extension of the hands, he advises keeping the mobile out of reach on a daily basis, such as leaving it in another part of the house. At night, he recommends that its use be replaced, at least one hour before bedtime, by another activity, such as reading a book or listening to music.

To the list of recommendations, José Tamayo Hernández stresses the importance of suppressing the use of electronic devices, in addition to mobile phones, while carrying out activities such as eating, walking, watching television or chatting with another person. He also suggests disabling push notifications that aren’t strictly necessary, as well as uninstalling apps, deleting conversations, and ditching dispensable group chats.

Disconnect to connect with real life

Mental health experts have recently noted an increase in the desire and even a need to disconnect from social media. “Not only to patients, but to colleagues, family members and myself,” acknowledges Tamayo Hernández, who has been working on this issue since 2004. Marian García Arigüel agrees that interest in establishing these limits is increasing progressively, despite the fact that it is still difficult make it happen. For people who want to establish rules and make a more conscious use of the mobile, the expert recommends establishing two-hour intervals to use the mobile freely, walk during moments of rest, do manual activities and, above all, reestablish personal connections. , such as face-to-face chat with friends, without having the phone in your hands.

For his part, the emeritus professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of the Basque Country Enrique Echeburua He maintains that setting the limits of use is “especially positive when abusive use has been made”, but it is also recommended to everyone, even if there is no addiction: “You have to disconnect from the network, to connect with real life Because everything is a matter of time.

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