De Montfort University in Leicester, in an attempt to encourage students to carry out a digital detox, switched off all social media for a few days. The main purpose of this is to promote student wellbeing by highlighting the detrimental effects that social media can potentially have on one’s mental health. In the digital age that we live in, life has reached the point where interconnectedness and the online world is intrinsic and because of this, separating ourselves is almost impossible, therefore inherently putting us at risk to the negative mental effects. UEA, unlike De Montfort University, have not opted for the encouragement of an entire ‘digital detox’, instead advocating balance through activities and incentives intended to distract and bring us back into the real world, such as the new and popular dog walking scheme.
The dependency that we have on social media and the Internet is becoming increasingly apparent, especially when schemes like De Montfort’s social media detox are enacted. Responses received by people when prompted to discuss this topic accentuate this further, for instance, Seàn Bennett, a third-year International Relations and Politics student and one of the managing directors of Inkwell Productions, emphasises the pivotal role that social media plays in his company, bringing into question its success and existence without it. The dominance of social media in both the professional and personal spheres of life directly demonstrates its inescapability, making our vulnerability to its detrimental effects a constant threat.
A world that revolves around social media makes one feel isolated and out of the loop should they not partake, which Katie Colyer, a second-year International Relations and Politics student highlights, by saying that in leaving social media ‘you shut out the massive communication opportunities’ that it offers, leaving one constantly on edge about what is happening without their knowledge. Reverting back to a stage where we do not have this anxiety involves a monumental shift in our mindsets, making it a hard task, but second-year Psychology student Emma Moxon points out that a digital detox would be beneficial for ‘proving that nothing awful will happen if you’re not online for a few days’. This is a reminder that most people could do with, the world will not stop when you detach yourself from the online world, although it may seem like it.
On top of the amount of time that we waste staring at a screen, the content that we are exposed to online is equally as harmful. It’s no secret that the person we are online is different to reality, we are concerned about showcasing the best parts of our lives, possibly to evoke jealousy amongst others, but in doing so we receive a taste of our own medicine from seeing others do the same. The reception is often damaging, bringing an onslaught of emotions and feelings that make us feel inferior. Adjectives used by Bennett to encapsulate this negative effect include inadequate, untravelled, poor, and unsuccessful, stressing that comparison is one of the most dangerous aspects of the online community for our mental wellbeing and self-worth.
A digital detox that I carried out myself, albeit unintentionally, proved to be one of the most productive, clear-headed days I can remember. I ought to do it again, and I implore others to see for themselves how beneficial it is to have this separation. The adverse effects of social media, I believe, are only recognisable once one has stepped away and experienced the stark contrast in mentality that comes with this. It’s time to live in the real world again, and I guarantee you will thank yourself for doing it.