The Stack Archive

Why a social media detox is like a bad fad diet

Wed 30 Dec 2015

Over the years there have been hundreds of diet detoxes that have come along to help us get the life and the body that we’ve always wanted, my favorite being the Juice Cleanse.  Something about the word “cleanse” makes us think that the juice about to be consumed is the cure all for our life problems. Picking up a magazine with the latest detox makes us think that perhaps if everyone participated then we could collectively cure world hunger, create world peace and all human beings would become the beautiful unicorns that we strive to be.  The problem with these detoxes is that the lifestyle cannot be maintained for more than a month or so.

Similarly to fad diets, a trend that has been popping up lately is the social media detox.  People are giving up their social media for 14-30 days.  However, many of them end up journaling their experiences by heading back to the social media channels they vowed off of in the first place.  Instagram models, Youtube stars, and basically anyone who has made a name off of social media are the first to jump on this trend.  Essena O’Neill; the Instagram model who famously gave up social media and a modeling career, is just one example of a social media star taking it to the extreme and completely going offline.  However, I can’t help but to feel like cutting yourself off of social media completely is like cutting yourself off of food.  We all know that overeating is bad, but isn’t under-eating bad too?

The internet has created a new world; it’s like Disneyland everyday, everywhere we go.  According to the MIT Technology Review, “The virtual life is becoming more social than physical life, but it is less a virtual reality than a real virtuality, facilitating real-life work and urban living.”  Considering this we can see how much of our lives have gone online.  How many businesses could not have been created without the internet?  Groupon, Apple, Fitbit, and so many of our favorite companies could not exist or would be drastically different without the internet and it’s social media network that binds us all together.  How many moments would we miss without the Internet of Things working to keep families together?  Social media allows us to spend “quality family screen time” when our busy schedules don’t allow us to be together.

When did detoxes become the answer to cleansing our minds and bodies of the bad?  I understand that none of us want to become sluggish zombies enslaved to the tiny screen in our hands but the world is full of vices; alcohol, food and now the internet are commonly thought of as such.  In reality anything that we put too much effort into can become a vice; working too much, not budgeting, neglecting the people we care about, judging others and watching too much Netflix (guilty) are just a few examples of vices that we let run amuck on our lives everyday.  The answer is not an extreme, delete all your apps, kind of a thing.  It’s about not letting these vices control our lives but to take them in moderation.  Hello people, when did we forget the lessons in moderation we learned in 8th grade health class?

The best place to learn moderation is at home.  Disturbingly I have found that parents are quick to hand their toddlers tablets full of games in order to keep them quiet but they’re surprised when their kids grow up to be online addicts.  Once kids are introduced to social media it becomes another virtual game for them to see how many likes they can get on a picture or post.  Getting likes gives us the same high that we go to amusement parks to find, we all know it, don’t deny it. Society has created a hunger for online social interaction.  I”m hungry, aren’t you?  We cannot ban people from it just like we can’t starve them.  Technology and social networking are here to stay, just like the food we consume, we have created a need for it.

Over the years the food pyramid has changed but one thing has remained the same, eat a balanced meal.  Just like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs illustrates, first we must feed ourselves, then shelter ourselves, then we have to fulfil our social needs to belong.  Social media by nature is a way to fulfil those needs.  Human nature is narcissistic and we need to be told that we have value to others if we ever want to reach self actualization.  Since we can’t carry mirrors around all the time to validate how we feel about ourselves, social media has given us selfies and front facing cameras to make our body’s look beautiful for the Instagram pictures we post in order to get more likes than our friends.  It may seem sad to live in a society where this is what we look forward to everyday but social networking has given us someway to feel like we belong to each other!  It’s fantastic.

Let go of the idea that a social media detox is going to change your life.  You’ll re-download those apps after your cleanse is over and want to tell the world about it anyway.  It might change you for the 15-30 days you participate in it but come back to reality; a detox is simply going to make you hungrier.  So go on and have that piece of chocolate that you hide in your sock drawer and post that selfie you took at the zoo with the zebras but don’t waste too much time on anything that you do.  Go see the world, help someone in need and make real relationships because that is what social media was made to illustrate.

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