Saturday 16 May 2020

Ditch the Detox: Why it's OK to Stay Connected on Social Media During Lockdown

I have seen many people discussing the idea of lockdown as an opportunity to disconnect from their phone, and reduce the time they spend on social media. Equally, there are lots of articles circulating the web that also heavily promote this digital 'detox'. Instead, I want to write about the importance of staying connected - or to word it better, why you should not feel guilty if you choose to stay connected and active on social media during lockdown. I want to make a quick disclaimer; of course, lockdown is impacting different people in different ways. Social media and hyper connectivity may be detrimental to some people's mental health, and this post is not attempting to invalidate or dismiss that. But as somebody who loves using social media and interacting online, I want to discuss from a more general perspective, why you should not feel guilty if you take pleasure in continuing to keep connected during this time.

I feel that now, despite the fact that it is fairly common knowledge that most people rely heavily on their phone throughout the day (whether this be for work, to answer emails, message friends, google a new word or concept, scroll through social media), there is still a lot of taboo surrounding high phone usage, and in admitting that we are checking social media and staring at our screens 'more than we should'. When was the amount that we should be using our screens ever determined, anyway? If you google 'social media detox lockdown', there will be hundreds of articles telling you why you should be stepping away from screens 'now more than ever', followed by the same regurgitated suggestions that you may want to try going for a walk or reading a book. It's a bit absurd that the underlying suggestion is that it is not possible to do these things whilst retaining a healthy and balanced relationship with social media. I feel that the term 'detox' immediately negatively associates social media with the idea that it is toxic, draining, and unhealthy. Of course, social media can incite negativity, but I think that there is also a tendency to forget the joy, the humour, the love, and the interactivity that social media provides. In ramping up the obsession with the need to digital detox during lockdown, perhaps this is conditioning and shaping the point of view that lockdown can only be a depressing time, and one that will be inevitably worsened by social media. It's a bit of a paradox that it is always the internet telling us that we need to detox from the internet. Perhaps we are more obsessed with the constant feeling of guilt for using our phones regularly (and therefore with feeling that we need to detox), than we are with using the phones themselves. This may be a bit of a reach, but I do think it is important to rewrite the narrative that social media is a happiness drain. There is no reason why a healthy and positive attitude towards social media should not be encouraged, rather than perpetuating the idea that it is not possible to stay connected and stay happy at the same time.

For those who are furloughed, or students, etc., lockdown means that we have all the time in the world to dedicate to reading, baking, exercising, and completing online courses, so why step away from social media and using our phones now? Particularly if it brings you so much pleasure, and enables you to appreciate the littler things in life by uploading a photo of your freshly baked cake to your Instagram story. 

The age old argument is that social media is damaging, because 'we only see the best bits' of a person's life. Whilst the latter is true to an extent, it is arguable that now, nobody has any 'best bits' to share, because nobody is living a filtered life in the middle of a pandemic and a national lockdown. And yet, people are still engaging with these platforms. I love that social media allows me to still see my friends and keep in touch with my family. I can stay in the loop with what people are up to and how they're feeling, without even directly contacting someone. And if I am missing my favourite faces, I can see them at the tap of a button. I really think that in this time I would be struggling more without social media - not because I am a phone addict that desperately needs a detox, but because I would be without the pleasure that social media brings to me. 

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