Following Apple’s recent introduction of its Screen Time feature, which lets iPhone owners view how much time they spend on social media, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have ironically been filled with screenshots of this very data.
“I can’t believe I spend two hours a day on Twitter!” Sarah will tweet, before spending another hour and 58 minutes on the app until finally putting her iPhone down for the night. She’ll have spent a considerable portion of her day flicking from one social media platform to another, mindlessly scrolling through carefully-curated Instagram photos that make her life feel infinitely less glamorous than her mates’, middle class baby shower anecdotes on Facebook that make her feel pressure to settle down and depressing Kavanaugh vs Ford Twitter debates that make her question humanity.
Social media can be applauded for making it easier for people to keep in touch with friends, talk to people they’d never usually meet in real life, and discuss important issues with like-minded strangers. But while the social media Gods giveth with one hand, they taketh away with the other. Social media can make us feel anxious, put a dampener on our creativity and fool us into thinking our lives aren’t as exciting as everyone else’s. It’s easy to see why too much screen time is making people feel bad about themselves.
With so many people identifying with the problems that social media can bring, digital detoxes are becoming increasingly popular. From blocking notifications and uninstalling apps to turning all devices off and placing them in a wardrobe on the other side of the house, there’s plenty of advice as to how users can ‘unplug’ and focus on their real-world surroundings.
Some people are even going as far as investing in luxury digital detox holidays, where they part with their devices upon arrival and collect them from reception at the end of the screen-free trip. The idea is that a break from texting, posting, and mindlessly scrolling will have a positive impact on hotel guests’ mental health, wellbeing and ability to stay present.
It’s hard to determine whether these digital detoxes will have a lasting impact on the health of social media users. The occasional tech-free weekend might have rewarding short term benefits, but if people immediately return to old habits once Monday returns, it’s unlikely that any real change will be achieved.
Nevertheless, if digital detoxing continues to grow and users become accustomed to the mental health benefits associated with less tech, digital marketers will need to find new ways to reach their audience. Current methods are unlikely to become obsolete unless social media is abandoned completely (and it’d take a Margaret Atwood-level disaster for that to happen), but profits will undoubtedly fall unless marketers are willing to adapt.