With a new social media app dropping seemingly almost every other day, there are some people who are deciding to leave these platforms behind altogether. And doing so wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
Last weekend, Twitter owner and former CEO Elon Musk shared that the app would be placing temporary limits on the number of apps users could read in one day due to “extreme levels of data scraping and system manipulation.” Unverified users were initially limited to reading 600 tweets per day while verified users, those who pay Twitter a monthly fee of $8, could view up to 6,000 tweets per day.
While some people were outraged and left for Twitter alternatives, such as SPILL and Bluesky, others joked about how the limit would boost their mental health and help them get back on track with their goals.
What an exciting mental health initiative for unverified users! https://t.co/7rLuHUsz2D
— Ashley Nicole Black (@ashleyn1cole) July 1, 2023
And others still contemplated living social media as a whole, which they me be better off doing. In a recent advisory, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared that social media poses a “meaningful risk of harm to children,” noting that adolescents who spend at least three hours a day on social media are twice at risk for mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
And it’s not just children, though they are especially susceptible to the negative consequences of social media. On average, Gen Zers are more likely than any other generation to cite negative feelings about social media and are more likely to report having poor mental health, according to McKinsey Health Institute’s 2022 Global Gen Z Survey. But baby boomers in eight of the 26 countries surveyed said they spent as much time on social media as Gen Zers, and millennials were most likely to post the most on social media.
“Social media use has been linked to causing or worsening various mental health symptoms. Research shows that it can disrupt sleep [and] increase stress levels and self-reported symptoms of depression,” says Naiylah Warren, a licensed family and marriage therapist and clinical content manager at Real, a mental wellness app.
The benefits of breaking up with social media
While some people are contemplating a permanent break from social media, even a temporary one can benefit your mental health.
Social media “can decrease feelings of FOMO [fear of missing out], which can trigger anxiety, alleviate symptoms of depression, and increase overall well-being,” explains Warren. “In practical terms, social media breaks can make us feel more present in our day-to-day life, provide us with a sense of having more time, and increase our connection to ourselves and those around us.”
Michelle Goodloe, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of GMichelle Wellness, agrees. This summer, she’s taking an intentional break from social media apps to focus on her self-care and recover from burnout.
“When your sense of self-awareness isn’t strong, social media can have a significant effect on your feelings about yourself,” she says. “You can become more perceptible to comparison, self-criticism, and even shame depending on the content you’re exposed to and consuming.”
For people curious about doing their own digital detox, Goodloe suggests replacing screen time with discovering a new hobby or revisiting an old one, such as reading, puzzling, or journaling.
“Taking regular breaks from social media is a helpful self-care practice,” she says. “Replace time usually spent scrolling with an activity that brings you joy, ease or rest instead.”
Perhaps Musk is, actually, doing us all a favor then. Unless we all end up on a competitor like Threads.