Should we actually take a social media holiday?

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Step away from the phone

Over the last few months, the media has repeatedly advised Brits to do one key thing for our mental health: take a social media holiday and step away from our online friends.

Alex Proud’s article in The Daily Telegraph suggested that having fewer friends makes us happier and if you really want to enjoy the second half of your life, you have to purge yourself of most of the friends you made in the first half; but does this apply to ‘online’ friends too? The Huffington Post reminds us that friends make us happier and healthier but does this refer to spending time together in the real world or the digital one?

A University of Michigan psychologist, Ethan Cross, found a direct correlation between time spent on Facebook and feelings of dissatisfaction, loneliness and isolation.  He comments: “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection,” said Kross. “But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result – it undermines it.”

So is taking a social media holiday something we should actually do and will it make us mentally stronger?

Well I tried it. Whilst on holiday, just to add... (if I took a social media holiday during working hours I might be fired).

So how was it? Did I feel any better? Was my mental health transformed and a new me appear?

No. For me, social media is a way to connect to the outside world and my social network. Disconnecting from it left the mind wondering what I could be missing.

After just two days of being ‘offline’, I was itching to find out if a friend had announced anything, or more importantly, if the media had released new images of Prince George. I felt completely left out of the world and as though I has been ostracised from the global and social network news agenda.

The social media holiday did make me realise one thing, however. It made me recognise that it isn’t social media that's the issue, but the people I follow.

The ‘so called’ friends who made my life feel inferior and substandard had to go post my social media holiday experience. The ex-colleague who is on on a sabbatical and travelling the world for six months had to go.

The school friend who posts ‘Happy Monday’ pictures of her hot dog legs from new exotic locations monthly whilst I am scraping frost off my windscreen at 7am… no brainer; removed.

The sense of relief and confidence this digital detox gave me really was an eye opener. Let’s not blame social media for affecting our mental health, let’s blame our poor online network choices – both friends and brands. Instead of a social media holiday, we need to re-analyse our networks and carry out a social media audit to ensure we get the very best out of the social world.

So perhaps Alex Proud was right; having fewer friends really does make us happier and this applies to both online and offline networks.

BlogColin Cather