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A Social Media Detox Helps My Eating Disorder Recovery

September 8, 2021 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Around this time last year, I was in serious need of a social media detox because doom-scrolling on Facebook and Instagram had monopolized most of my free time and sabotaged my mental health. This habit morphed me into someone who was constantly anxious, irritable, tense, and frantic. I could not seem to redirect my thoughts from the vitriol that spewed in the comment sections on my newsfeed, so to regain some measure of control, I turned to a familiar distraction: my eating disorder.

But since this made me feel even worse and increasingly desperate, I knew a healthier, more sustainable solution was in order. That's when I chose to unplug from the vitriol entirely—and it worked. Now a year later, I can confirm that a social media detox helped my eating disorder recovery and wellbeing overall. So for anyone out there who wants to do their own social media detox, here's what I have learned in the process.

Why a Social Media Detox Helps Eating Disorder Recovery

I can't blame social media altogether for the actions I've taken to harm my mental and physical health. However, if I'm not careful, the content on these platforms can influence my thoughts and behaviors in toxic ways. As research indicates, social media consumption can be especially detrimental to those who have an eating disorder or are at risk for developing one. The tendency to compare and contrast their own appearances with the curated photos on their feeds can exacerbate these individuals' feelings of body dissatisfaction or increase their obsession with thinness, a recent study points out.1    

Another study reveals that, in addition to body image concerns, frequent social media users are also susceptible to anxietydepression, or chronic stress due to the negative rhetoric spread across many of these platforms.2 This correlation between too much social media exposure and poor mental health outcomes is the reason I chose to self-medicate with eating disorder behaviors until I found a healthier alternative. But a social media detox helped my eating disorder recovery more than numbing the stress ever could.

The more I restrict my access to Facebook and Instagram, the less tempted I am to hide out from real life. I feel connected to my relationships, rather than incensed by the online comments of strangers. I feel both grateful and mindful in my own present reality, rather than jealous of someone else's virtual highlight reel. I have more time to spend on activities that enhance my self-care, rather than absorbing content that fills me with insecurity.

The first time I created a social media screen limit on my smartphone, it was like exhaling from a breath I didn't even realize I was holding. Moreover, I no longer felt the compulsion to backslide into harmful behaviors. And that's why a social media detox has become one of my favorite coping mechanisms for eating disorder recovery. 

5 Tips for Doing a Successful Social Media Detox 

When I embarked on a social media detox for the first time, my approach was rather extreme. I chose to deactivate my account on Twitter, and I set rigorous screen limits on both Facebook and Instagram. I allowed myself five minutes to use these platforms each day—just enough time to check notifications, respond to messages, or share a post if necessary.

I have since scaled back my usage to one minute daily on each platform because that's all I need. I no longer want to seek out online distractions when my actual life is much more compelling. While I don't think every social media detox has to be as stringent as mine, I recommend creating a plan for success. So here are some tips that I've found useful when implementing a social media detox in eating disorder recovery.

  1. Remove social media apps from all mobile devices. Or if that feels too hard, restrict access to those apps under "Screen Time" in the phone settings.  
  2. Find a relative, friend, or coworker to act as an accountability partner, then commit to doing a social media detox together.
  3. Turn off electronics at least one hour before bedtime, so the brain has a chance to unwind.
  4. Be aware of the triggers that influence social media use—boredom, loneliness, escapism, or distraction, to name a few.  
  5. Look for other hobbies to focus on. Read a book. Start a blog. Practice meditation. Learn a creative pursuit. Take a yoga class. Volunteer for a cause.

Have you found that a social media detox helps your eating disorder recovery? Do you have some tips for pulling off a successful social media detox? Please share your feedback in the comment section below.

Sources

  1. Alle, J. et al., "Social Media Use and Body Image Disorders: Association Between Frequency of Comparing One’s Own Physical Appearance to That of People Being Followed on Social Media and Body Dissatisfaction and Drive for Thinness." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, March 2021.
  2. Karim, F. et al., "Social Media Use and Its Connection to Mental Health: A Systematic Review." Cureus, June 2020.

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2021, September 8). A Social Media Detox Helps My Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2021/9/a-social-media-detox-helps-my-eating-disorder-recovery



Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Connect with Mary-Elizabeth on Facebook, Instagram and her personal blog.

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