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One of the perks of being a researcher is that I often learn valuable lessons about myself just from analyzing data about others.
But, is it possible that this information overload has a negative impact on me as well?
This is exactly how I found myself going down that rabbit hole of the social media cleanse. For seven days, I did the best I could to eliminate social media and the digital footprint in my life.
While I did expect some results, I came across a few surprising insights.
If you’ve ever wondered how social media may affect your life, I hope my experience my help.
The Social Media Cleanse Test
Ironically, I found out about the social media cleanse after I spent a long time on Facebook.
The infamous social cleanse test, which became viral among my social circles, includes 10 yes/no questions. The test has no score or anything like that. The idea with these types of questions is to help you observe the role social media may play in your life.
So, while not all the questions applied to me, I did recognize that:
1. I spend about half of my day on social media. But, I am a researcher. So, I do this as a normal function of my job. Still, half a day sounds like too much.
2. There are times social media stresses me out.
3. I often compare myself to others on social media.
Time to do a social cleanse.
What Is A Social Media Cleanse?
The concept of a social media cleanse is simple, and while we may find different versions of it, they all boil down to the same idea.
Social media, by design, works by stimulating the pleasure systems in our brain—so, we are drawn to it, give it more attention, and spend more time on the platforms. The obvious benefit to social platforms is that they can sell advertisements.
The benefit to us, you may ask? We can connect with others, get to know a lot more people, opinions, and beliefs across the world, just to name a few. This was never possible before.
Since our time is limited, our time on social media comes in place of other things that may benefit us more. For example, human interaction, time in nature, or exercise.
But there’s much more than that. With social media, we often start to compare ourselves to others.
Most people aren’t posting their natural struggles or true daily lives, to say the least. Think about Instagram model posts that show glamorous lifestyles. This can be problematic, since our brains don’t know the difference. As a result, we may wonder what’s wrong with our lives. In fact, multiple studies have indicated there may be a connection between social media and depression and low self-esteem.
My Social Cleanse Findings
For seven days, I stopped using social media. As a “responsible” adult, I made sure to update all my connections before, so they knew about my intentions. This is an essential part of the social media cleanse.
I also reminded myself to be mindful. The purpose was to avoid judgement, and allow myself to freely observe how I felt and what changes I experienced.
Here are my findings:
1. I slept better
Considering that I used to be on Facebook and YouTube every night, I was curious to see if the social media cleanse would benefit my sleep. Overall, I went to bed 30 minutes earlier, and I woke up less times during the night. Keep in mind, however, as a part of this experiment, I also shut down my phone two hours before bedtime. So this may have played a role as well.
2. I lost weight
The following finding may sound strange at first, so bare with me.
Over the years, I developed this habit of snacking on nuts while I checked out LinkedIn and Facebook, usually after dinner. I didn’t pay too much attention to this, until I stopped using social media.
So, after dinner, a thought came into my mind. What about the cashews and macadamia nuts in the fridge? Should I eat them just like every night? However, I realized my body wasn’t hungry. This experience repeated every night during the one week of the social media cleanse.
While I didn’t check my weight, my pants became loose and I could see more definition on my abs. (This opened a door to another big rabbit hole called mindful eating, which I hope to share in my future posts.)
3. I had more time
While I expected that, I was a little surprised to find out I actually had a lot more time. On average, I completed my tasks 1.5 hours earlier every day. I credited that to the fact that without social media “distractions,” I was able to focus more on my work. This was a pretty significant benefit, especially if you multiply 1.5 by 365 days.
Social media is a part of our lives and it goes hand in hand with the advancements of other technologies. As such, it is a much broader question of the impact technology has on our life. Technology can make our life easier, but at the same time, it comes with a price. Especially, when it makes us step away from our natural ways.
So, I don’t think social media is all negative. But, I believe we need to be mindful about the time we spend in social media, and the way it may affect us.
If there’s one thing my personal experience has shown, it is that social media can even influence the size of our waist.