Disconnecting from social networks: is it a recommendable option?
Several key ideas about the psychological effect of disconnecting from social networks.
Social networks are here to stay. Just a few years ago their use was restricted to academic circles, but today it is very difficult to meet a person who does not have at least one profile on any of them.
It could even be said that the way in which we present ourselves on social networks can begin to be considered another part of our identity: our digital identity. But to what extent does this coincide with what we consider to be our "real" identity?
In this article, we will explore this and other questions, with special emphasis on the benefits that we could obtain if we disconnect from social networks.. Or at least, to devote more time to our "analog" life, to the detriment of the digital one.
Disconnecting from social networks: what does it involve?
Social networks have revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. Since their emergence in the first half of the last century, the world is a much more interconnected place, to the point that we know what is going on at the opposite end of it in just a few seconds. It can also be said that have contributed to fostering freedom of expression and even to the construction of knowledge.The new technologies have also contributed to fostering freedom of expression and even to the construction of knowledge, as it is now the product of many millions of users sharing information simultaneously.
This transformation of new technologies has progressively displaced television and other traditional media, and has raised scientific questions about how it may affect those who make use of them. The flip side is that there are users who, for one reason or another, spend too much time on these online platforms, which affects the way they relate to other people in their real lives.
As it is still a recent phenomenon, there are still many doubts and controversies regarding the and controversy regarding the way in which their use can compromise health or quality of life.. In this article we will address six potential benefits of disconnecting from social networks, according to what science says on the matter.
1. Establish relationships with the people around you
All social networks allow communication with anyone, no matter how far away they may be physically, directly and without further ado. This is an advantage that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago, and which makes the world a smaller (though less private) place. Despite this progress, the paradox arises that sometimes it can end up distancing us from those who are close to us, such as family and friends.
The more time we spend on the Internet, the less time we devote to those who live with us, and this can have an impact on the ties that bind us to them.The more time we spend on the Internet, the less time we spend with those who live with us, which can have an impact on the ties that bind us to them. Although networks can be an important source of support (especially during the adolescent stage), it is still essential to reconcile their use with life in the everyday environment in which we build our daily lives. In no case should they be two incompatible realities, although this is often the case.
Disconnecting from social networks, reducing the number of hours spent sharing content or receiving content from others, is an opportunity to strengthen ties with those closest to us. It is necessary to bear in mind that the quality of a bond is measured by the time shared, and that most of the contacts that are born on the Internet tend to be diluted before materializing in an offline relationship.
2. Communicate face-to-face
Social networks have their own ways of communicating, which become popular among their users and the community as a whole. In recent years, terms such as "hashtag" or "trend topic" have proliferated to describe their own functionalities, which have crossed the jargon barrier to become part of the "pop" culture scene. Thus, these media have established a unique and recognizable language, to which figurative elementsThese media have also contributed figurative elements with which to convey emotions (the well-known emojis) and compensate for the almost total absence of non-verbal cues.
Although each social network emphasizes a different aspect of the communicative act (from the use of the written word to images), and all of them seek immediacy in their way of relating to the user, none of them offer experiences that are even close to the face-to-face encounter between two people, none of them offers experiences that are at least minimally similar to a face-to-face encounter between two people sharing a physical space. sharing a physical space. Not even through the insertion of videoconferencing or other similar technologies.
Communication between human beings involves both verbal and non-verbal aspects, which are largely imitated by social networks, but incorporating a myriad of different nuances (proxemic, prosodic, etc.) that none has managed to reproduce accurately to date.
Considering that social skills are developed through practice with our peers in everyday settingsIn fact, it is possible that too much networking (along with a lack of real interactions) can hinder the development of such an important skill.
By reducing the time we spend on networks, we test and improve our real-life interpersonal networking, which is essential for forging close bonds or for progressing in academic and work-related areas.
3. Contextualizing reality
Social networks inflame users' desire for admiration, to the point that some scientific studies have described many of the dynamics in them. many of the dynamics that unfold in them as "narcissistic behaviors".. The truth is that in the networks we all want to show our best version, or at least the least bad of all possible, this phenomenon being more noticeable in adolescents (as they are in a period especially vulnerable to rejection and sensitive to social pressure).
Very often, people compare their life with what they see on the networks, without realizing that they are a window that does not represent the reality of the person who is shown there.They do not realize that they are a window that in no way represents the reality of the person who is shown there. Images of fascinating trips, expensive clothes or an elegant sunset in a paradisiacal landscape do not imply that fascinating things are happening on the other side while our life is going on in the most absolute mediocrity; rather, the selection of the contents that are published is based on an obvious social desirability.
An example of this effect (harmful to the self-esteem of vulnerable people), can be found every Christmas in the television news, when an army of journalists rush to the lottery administrations to interview those who have won a major prize.
The probability that it "touches" is ridiculous, but it is distorted when it is shown publicly, generating a cognitive error that places it in a different terrain (more probable than it really is). Well, something similar happens in the networks when we are constantly exposed to information about how wonderful other people's lives are, in contrast to our own.
Distancing ourselves from social networks allows us to focus our attention on a much more real life, which is the one that surrounds us, the one where we witness the wonderful life of others.The distancing of social networks allows us to focus our attention on a much more real life, which is the one that surrounds us, in which we witness more clearly the fortune and misfortune that inhabit the world. It brings us back to the precise coordinates in which things unfold, beyond the showmanship with which everyone chooses to display their digital personality.
In fact, there are many studies that have linked this problem to the feeling of injustice and the erosion of self-esteem, which can be distantly related to depression and anxiety.
4. Avoiding addiction
Although there is still no consensus in the research community, many believe that social networks can stimulate addictive behavior. social networks can stimulate addictive behavior among their users.. This could be explained by characteristics such as the immediacy with which reinforcements are given (social approval with a click on the "like" button), their easy accessibility, the simplicity of their interface and the participation in communities that give the person a sense of belonging. There are even some networks that include simple games, whose purpose is none other than for users to stay as long as possible within them.
Many authors have described that the abuse of social networks is very similar to phenomena that occur in toxic addictions, such as tolerance (progressively greater use of any of the platforms) and withdrawal syndrome (significant discomfort when it is impossible to access the network from any device). This group of symptoms reduces involvement in other activities of daily life, such as family or work, and affects the time spent sleeping or exercising.
When the appearance of these problems is evident, it is essential to visit a mental health professional who can articulate an individualized treatment, leading the person towards a responsible use of these tools (which can be particularly useful when used in the right way).
5. Protecting oneself from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem
Many studies have found a relationship between the time spent using social networks and depressive symptoms, although it has not yet been possible to clarify the exact dynamics underlying the finding. In any case, there seems to be some consensus that the use of networks is not in itself a factor that impairs mood, but rather that everything is subject to the way in which they are used..
Networks are, therefore, a double-edged sword: they bring positive or negative things, and whether one or the other is received will depend on what the user does during the time he or she spends on them.
In the last decade, standardized protocols have been created to detect, through the use of social networks, the profiles of users who may suffer from depression or express self-harming ideas, with the aim of identifying people at particular risk of suicide. It is expected that in the coming years all these tools (which are based on the principles of artificial intelligence applied to language) will be used to offer secondary prevention interventions (in the early stages of a potential disorder).
A relationship between anxiety and social networks has also been observed.particularly when the use of social networks is aimed at coping with difficult emotions for which alternative and adaptive coping mechanisms are lacking. There is some work that even relates the number of profiles available (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) with the autonomous activation of the user, who would perceive an overwhelming demand when trying to take care of all of them in the way he/she would like to do it.
The use of social networks should therefore be moderated among people with a depressive or anxious disorder. The exact way in which these phenomena are related to each other is still unknown.Most of the research that has been done to date is based on correlational analyses, which do not allow us to draw a cause-and-effect relationship. Thus, the use of networks could precipitate the problem, or perhaps it would be the mental disorder that would be motivating the abuse of the Internet. Self-esteem could be at the base of both assumptions.
6. Preventing sedentary lifestyles and insomnia
The use of social networks is generally a sedentary activity. To compose a tweet or upload a post to Facebook, the person does not have to make any physical effort, so the time spent on these platforms is inversely proportional to the time spent on sports activities. This problem is very important especially in childrenMany of them already have their own online profile, as they need exercise for a healthy development.
On the other hand, there is also evidence that excessive use of social networks can reduce the time spent on sleep, or make it less restful.
This finding could have three possible causes, namely: cognitive hyperactivity during the hours close to bedtime (due to performing mentally demanding tasks on the Internet), staying connected until the wee hours of the morning (taking time away from rest) and exposure to screens that project excessive light on the retina. All this can alter circadian rhythms, regulated by the suprachiasmatic nucleusregulated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus and the production of melatonin from the pineal gland.
Disconnecting from social networks can be the perfect occasion to devote time to activities that to dedicate time to activities that contribute to improve our general physical conditionThe use of social networks can be the perfect occasion to dedicate time to activities that contribute to improve our general physical condition, as long as the use of them prevents a healthy life. As we pointed out, all this is even more important in children, since by participating in symbolic play (together with their peers in real life) they contribute to the maturation of their nervous system and the development of skills necessary for a full social life (which also results in greater body movement and optimal physical condition).
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)