Psychologist Dr. Logan Jones says that while social media ‘detoxes’ can be helpful in some cases, it’s more important to explore why you need to take a break in the first place.
"On a deeper level, these social media companies know exactly what they are doing [from] a neurological perspective. What they're doing is called intermittent reinforcement -- it's what casinos do too with slot machines. And it's the same with swiping on Tinder or checking your Instagram. The addiction is the reward pathway, it's a dopamine hit," Jones said.
So, instead of quitting Facebook or Instagram cold-turkey, try lessening your social media intake bit-by-bit. For example, Jones suggests “turning off notifications, turning off vibrate, and using a feature on your phone that monitors how much time you spend on social apps.”
"Addiction is anything you do to escape a feeling that has a life-damaging consequence. So a lot of people will turn to social media to escape a feeling of boredom, loneliness, wasting time -- whatever feeling they want to escape. The life-damaging consequences of social media addiction are that you are not present and as engaged with life," Jones said.
These evaluation questions can guide you in your self-assessment.
It’s also helpful to replace your social media addiction with positive habits, like reading, exercising, or meeting up with friends in real life. But don’t be discouraged and give up if you feel the urge to check your phone for Facebook updates 3 seconds after you pick up a book. It takes at least 3 weeks or 21 days for new habits to fully form, according to Jones.
In summary, social media is like a drug, so it’s best to take your recovery efforts one step at a time. Understand where the problem of your social media addiction comes from by assessing your own motives and then find new healthy habits to replace your addiction. But don’t forget to be patient with yourself, we are all a work in progress.
Finally, always consult a health professional first regarding any questions or issues you have, these tips are no substitute for medical advice.