Few things make me angrier in life than the idea of detoxing. The idea of detoxing your body by living on nothing but juice and herbal tea for days on end perpetuates the myth that if you consume anything other than liquefied fruit, you are making your body impure (and immoral).
This approach supports the pseudo-scientific idea that to detoxify your body you don’t need anything more than a functioning liver and kidneys. But lately, we are being forced to taste the reality of a trend which has been brewing for a while: the digital detox.
A digital detox, the practice of abstaining either partially or totally from the online world – usually social media – for a set period of time, is gaining traction. Some people ‘detox’ for a weekend, some opt for a full week, while the truly dedicated detoxers opt to cut social media out of their lives for a full six months.
To detox, or not to detox
It’s easy to see the appeal. In an age of smartphones and virtual working, it’s doesn’t take long to feel bogged down by the never-ending stream of online updates. Keeping up with close friends in this uber busy world can be difficult and time-consuming, but keeping up with thousands of moderate acquaintances through the medium of social media can be downright exhausting.
Social media can also be an incredibly negative and damaging place. The perfection that people portray is already causing a spike in bad body image – especially for teenagers and young girls. Add the regular barrage of hate and online abuse that many women face into the mix (especially politically active and socially aware women), and you can see why some people just want to take a break from it all.
Positivity only, please
While it can be helpful to take a break from social media occasionally, it isn’t necessarily a long-term solution. Sometimes people need to take a break, just to take a break. But if you need to step away from social media regularly for the sake of your mental health and wellbeing, it may be time to re-examine how you’re using social media.
Indeed, it may not be social media per se that’s the problem, but rather the people you’re interacting with. If you find you’re frequently getting anxious, upset or angry at things that you see on social media, it may be time to ‘cull’ your feeds.
Take the time to go through your ‘friends’ lists’ – on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr – and remove the people who no longer add anything positive to your life. That ex-boyfriend you’ve never quite managed to delete? Be gone. That colleague who constantly makes you feel guilty for not doing more? Get rid of them. That girl on Instagram whose ‘perfect’ life and ‘perfect’ body fills you with shame? Unfollow immediately.
Remember, you are completely in control of your digital experience. You are under no obligation to befriend or follow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself, your life, or your choices.
And if office politics or family tensions prevent you from completely cutting someone out of your digital life, remember that both Facebook and Twitter allow you to mute or hide someone’s posts without actually unfollowing them.
Haters gonna hate
Of course, this step can only take you so far. While unfollowing all the negative people on your feeds can improve your online experience exponentially, sometimes things are out of your control – especially on Twitter
Most women or minorities who have tweeted about politics, feminism, or social justice will have, at some time or another, received online abuse or harassment. Many people often feel compelled to reply to these bigots and harassers – either out of a desire to defend themselves or in an attempt to change their minds. But protecting yourself first will always be more important than responding to vile people who will rarely listen.
Although it doesn’t help that Twitter’s reporting feature is seriously flawed, the block and mute features can be a lifesaver when you’re being bombarded by abuse and unpleasantness. You may not be able to remove these people from Twitter altogether, but you can remove them from your mentions.
Reclaim social media
Next time you read a think piece about the value of digital detoxes, and question whether or not it’s time to take one yourself – ask yourself this: Is my social media world what I want it to be? If the answer is no, take the time to reclaim your timelines, and make social media a place of positivity.
If, after all of that you still want to turn off Twitter, then log off with glee, knowing that the social media you return to will be the social media you want to be on.
Picture credit: TanyaGoodin.com
About the author
Olivia is a copywriter, blogger, and digital media pro with a passion for politics and social media. In 2014 she founded the feminist blog Petticoats and Patriarchy, and since then she’s gone on to write for digital publications about politics and activism in the age of social media. In June 2017 she became the deputy editor of The Nopebook, an online feminist lifestyle magazine that aims to entertain, inform, and empower. She can usually be found on Twitter (@oawoodward) tweeting about politics, feminism, and cats.