5 Reasons Social Media 'Cleanses' Are Kinda Bullsh*t

You know you'll just go back.
PHOTO: istockphoto

Like any resolution, social media breaks sound like a great idea. Finally, you'll stop wasting an hour stalking your ex's new girlfriend! At last, you won't question your decision to stay in on a Friday night! Once and for all, you'll quit fantasizing about the dreamy lives of people you've never even met!

As it turns out, though, deleting your apps isn't totally necessary. I spoke with Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Director at the Media Psychology Research Center, and learned that it won't automatically fix your negative feelings—and in fact, you might feel even moredisconnected and alone. Here, five reasons why you should reconsider a cleanse:

  1. Social media on its own isn't making you jealous or sad.

    Yes, seeing your friends hanging out without you on Snap Maps can bring you down (especially if you already were having a hard time to begin with). "People who are vulnerable due to low self-esteem or who are already depressed will have a tendency to process information in a negative light," says Dr. Rutledge.

    "The misuse or overuse of social media can exacerbate symptoms in people who have predispositions or vulnerabilities, but not using social media is not going to cure social anxiety," adds Dr. Rutledge. Simply put: If you feel envious or insecure when you look at other people on Instagram, you'll still feel that way when you hear them humblebrag at a party. All these platforms do is put those feelings more out in the open—you have to dig deeper if you really want to curb the negative thinking.

  2. If you cut yourself off from Instagram or Facebook, you might feel even lonelier.

    It can be hard to remember just how much we use these sites and apps actually to be social—from messaging each other dumb memes on Instagram to getting an event invite on Facebook. "[Social media] allows you to stay connected to friends and family—this is important to your mental and physical health," says Dr. Rutledge. "Many people rely on social media to connect with you for meaningful reasons."

    If part of your motivation to take a break is because you feel lonely when you see everyone's squad stories, deleting the apps from your phone might block communication in unexpected ways. You might just return post-Insta break to a bunch of DMs that really would've cheered you up weeks ago.

  3. Taking a quick phone break has surprising benefits.

    Yes, everyone's had those moments when they plan to get some work done and find themselves in a Snapchat black hole. But in moderation, taking a short break to look at Instagram can be good for you.

    Dr. Rutledge notes that taking a few minutes to check your phone lets your brain rest. Plus, if your friend sent you an A+ share snap or a hilarious video, you may experience much-needed stress relief in the middle of a midterms study hustle.

  4. You'll feel a lot of pressure not to slip up.

    Doing something so definitive as banning apps for a period of time can make you feel like that much more of a failure if you drunkenly re-download Instagram before your break is over. "The solution is to self-regulate, not beat yourself up," says Dr. Rutledge. "We all have learned to self-regulate in other areas—goofing off, spending money. Some things are harder than others, of course, but they all start with our ability to recognize a goal and make conscious decisions."

    If checking Facebook is something you're used to doing multiple times a day, even as a passive habit, it makes sense that suddenly not having it could be really tough. You might end up feeling more anxious about "messing up"—who needs that stress in their life?

  5. You still haven't figured out WHY you're addicted.

    Broadly assuming all social media apps are equally bad for you doesn't actually help you figure out why Instagram is such a time suck. Instead of a monthly cleanse, Dr. Rutledge suggests keeping a diary for a few days and jotting down every time you use a different platform, why you went on it, and how you felt after. You can also add categories like "work" or "entertainment" to give you a better breakdown. And if you really want to center yourself, you can write down some real life goals to see how social media sometimes distracts you from them.

    You can even see an app breakdown by checking your iPhone's battery usage (TIL I use Instagram twice as much as I use iBooks, great) and use apps like Forest to keep you from touching your phone when you need to focus.

Follow Julia on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.

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