Studies have shown that constant connectivity can make maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle difficult.

If you are wondering why you might be having sleeping problems, peaking anxiety levels, feelings of loneliness and a perishing attention span, your social media indulgence may be excessive and unhealthy. This could be a sign that you are due for a digital detox.

According to the Global Digital Yearbook 2019, South Africa ranks number six when it comes to nations that spend the most time online.

The report published by We Are Social and Hootsuite indicates that on an average day, our digital engagement clocks up to eight hours and 25 minutes while the global norm is six hours and 41 minutes. A 2016 article published by the research firm Dscout also reported that an ordinary smartphone user touches their device 2 617 times a day and checks their messages every six minutes.

I ran a 24-hour poll on Instagram to check how much time my followers spent on social media. These were the results:

Seventy percent confirmed that they spend over eight hours online while 30% said they spend less than five. These results can be interpreted to mean that our social media engagement is somewhat excessive.

For many of us, resisting the urge to constantly check our mobile devices (even when there is no message notification) is difficult. According to the 2018 Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, phone device distraction undermines social interactions. From my own experience, device distraction is a real problem because it does compromise face-to-face conversations.

Do you recall a time when a question had to be repeated over and over again before your brain could formulate an answer or before your brain could begin to comprehend what the actual question was?

What about the time when your response to everything was “yes” and “wow” or “really?” with your face looking down on your phone? Or the time when you had company at a restaurant but you kept glancing over your phone pretending to be looking out for an important message? As the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology study says, this accounts for the decrement in the quality of our real-life relationships.

On an average day, my social media network engagement entails scrolling through Instagram feeds, reacting to Facebook posts, viewing Whatsapp stories and retweeting on Twitter. Honestly? It is tiring.

So if you are like me and you are suffering from eye strain and text-pain (another word for neck-pain), then you are most probably spending too much time online. And yes, lucky for you, you are due for a digital detox.

Distract yourself and engage in activities unrelated to social media or digital devices – read a book, take a walk or visit your grandparents, they usually have fascinating stories to share. Your participation in these activities will surely guarantee a refreshed mind and a rejuvenated spirit.

I have established an off-digital routine and it includes: switching off my mobile data/wi-fi for two hours minimum a day. During this time, I take a walk to a friend’s house (I’d prefer my grandparents but, sadly, they live in another province) or I help around the house with chores. These activities help me offload and they spark an increment in my usually low energy levels.

Increased stress and anxiety levels and feelings of loneliness are psychological and emotional effects triggered by continuous exposure to social media.

Let’s talk about how these platforms have become spaces for heightened insecurities and constant toxic comparisons of light vs dark, black vs white, thin vs fat and rich vs poor. All these contribute to FOMO (fear of missing out), feelings of inadequacy and discontentment.

You subconsciously might have been on a constant quest for more – more friends; more followers; more likes; more money; more clothes. Or a constant need to feel validated. To be understood. To look prettier, and ultimately… to be more than yourself.

These are body image insecurities that haunt me long after logging out.

If this is how you also feel after you’ve clicked the log out button, then maybe it is time to consider a social media diet and a digital detox. Cut down on your daily dosage to relieve the impact of overload. Switch off your laptop and put your phone away for a couple of hours. And no, the hours when you are sleeping don’t count.

Practise mindfulness. Revisit your vision board and re-align your dreams. Finally, look around you and look carefully – maybe then, you will realise that you have more. More than enough to be grateful for.

FEATURED IMAGE: Palesa Mofokeng is a student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela. Photo: File