Just a Week‑Long “Social Media Detox” Can Help Ease Anxiety and Depression: Study

“Social media detox” is a catchphrase we’ve heard far too frequently, and many of us may have gone on board as well. Taking the “detox” approach isn’t just a phoney wellness trend, according to a recent study. It turns out that it has been scientifically shown to improve our health and alleviate the despair and anxiety that many of us have learnt to live with in the post-2020 era.

The study, which was published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, was based on an investigation of the social media behaviours of 154 participants aged 18 to 72, who said they spent an average of eight hours each week on social media. They were separated into two groups: those who took a week off from social media and those who did not.

The researchers analysed their mental health prior to the division.

Participants who did not use social media after the experiment ended reported significant improvements in anxiety, depression, and overall mental health. The group that continued to use social media as usual, on the other hand, did not have any such good benefits.

“Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall… This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact,” said Jeffrey Lambert, first author of the study, and lecturer in health and exercise psychology at the University of Bath.

Despite its benefits, the filtered “reality” we see on our feeds has an influence on our mental health. “While this is a terrific place to mingle and stay connected, it may also lead to a distorted perception of reality.” After all, you’re simply viewing the highlights of other people’s lives,” states L’Officiel Psychology in an article.

“Social media is a way for people to prove how successful, pretty, likeable, or confident they are, and sometimes that creates rivalry in terms of how many likes, views, or comments they get,” it continues, explaining how it causes anxiety. This circumstance can lead to a never-ending cycle of posting, checking, and… worrying. Taking a break from the norm can allow people to relax and stop the harmful cycle.”

The “cycle” in question is one that never stops spinning. We’ve grown so acclimated to the situation that we don’t even see it spinning anymore — even though we’re the ones pedalling it. “Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night,” Lambert stated.

Perhaps that’s why it’s important to take a break — to become more aware of the spinning and recognise how much time we spend doing so while wishing we had just a little more time to dedicate to our hobbies, finish work so we can log-off calmly, or finally de-clutter our homes. In fact, some of the study participants revealed that taking a seven-day break from social media allowed them to save roughly nine hours per week.

“Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people, it’s an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others… But if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps,” Lambert advised.

The researchers’ next step is to look at the benefits of going off social media for more than a week and see if the benefits can endure. If the latter is accurate, the researchers believe that a “social media break” — similar to “spending time in nature” — can be given to people to help them manage their mental health and, possibly, recover from various mental disorders.