Here’s why that social media detox you just took probably didn’t work

Have you ever noticed that short term fixes never work?

Using duct tape to secure your license plate to a car’s rear bumper or gluing a piece of your shoe to hold it in place can help for a while.

Ultimately what you need is a long term solution.

Social media can be the same way.

Some experts have called for a “social media detox” as a way to deal with obsessive use. This has some value as a way to see how obsessed you are with Facebook or some other platform. The problem is, like any productivity hack, it doesn’t really tackle the root cause or deliver a solution that works all year and into the next decade.

Usually something like this happens.

The idea is to quit Facebook for a month or even more. You can’t check your feeds, can’t post new content, can’t even use the Messenger app. You resign … for a while.

It feels good at first. The brain science behind compulsive social media use is clear. We get a dopamine hit when we notice a large number of likes on a post. Experts say this approach to social media slots keeps us hooked because we all love positive feedback.


We love these detox periods because they reveal what we lack (namely, reality). We can live a healthy, normal life again, minus likes and comments. We learn to adapt quickly to the new normal. Still, there is something wrong. We know we’re just taking a break.

Another problem is that the social media platforms themselves aren’t really to blame. You might think they are, because they encourage obsessive use. Facebook and Twitter know we love to see positive reinforcement, and they make money when we consistently use their apps. However, they also add value. I like to see trending topics on Twitter to help research. I use Facebook to follow my family members and I like to see messages from friends.

A detox is a band-aid solution. The reason it works is that we secretly know we will be going back. Some people do rehab and never go back to social media again, but I would say they are missing something. Plus, detox teaches you not to obsess over social media, but it doesn’t reveal why you click, like, and share so much in the first place.

What usually happens is people do drug rehab for a while and then they become obsessed again. What I recommend is something completely different. It has to do with using social media for just short periods so they are useful and beneficial, but then stop and not keep scrolling, clicking and sharing for hours.

It’s better than a detox because it helps you identify compulsions to use social media and then gain control.

A detox is a switch that you turn off for a while, but when you turn it back on, you’re still scrolling so much. Controlled use is different. It’s more like a dimmer that you use to adjust and limit your usage, which leads to healthier habits.

If you are curious about how to control usage please send me an email ping and I can give you some more tips on what to do to make sure you don’t just do a short term detox. .

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About Madeline Powers


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