Digital Detox: Reclaiming Your Real Life from Screens

In today's digital age, social media has become an integral part of our lives. While it offers numerous benefits, such as connecting with others and sharing experiences, studies have shown that excessive use of social media can have detrimental effects on our mental health.

Manuela Băbuș
Medical Writer
Digital Detox: Reclaiming Your Real Life from Screens
source: Freepik

Increased Risk of Depression, Anxiety, and Loneliness 

Continuous exposure to carefully curated highlight reels of others' lives can lead to feelings of inadequacy, envy, and low self-esteem. This constant comparison often contributes to negative emotions and can exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Disrupted Sleep Patterns 

Research conducted in 2018 has linked social media use to disrupted sleep patterns. Excessive screen time, especially before bedtime, can lead to decreased sleep quality and quantity. Sleep disruption is associated with various mental health issues, including depression, memory loss, and decreased cognitive function.

The blue light emitted by the screens of electronic devices can inhibit the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. This can lead to difficulty falling asleep and restless sleep.

Decline in Communication: 

Another significant impact of spending excessive time on social media is a decline in face-to-face communication with family and friends. Studies have indicated that increased online activity is often accompanied by reduced interaction with loved ones. This lack of real-life social connections can lead to feelings of isolation and detachment.

Feelings of Anxiety, Stress, and Low Self-Esteem 

The constant exposure to carefully curated and idealized versions of others' lives on social media can trigger feelings of anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem. The pressure to present oneself in a certain way and the fear of missing out (FOMO) can significantly impact mental well-being. Comparing one's life to the seemingly perfect lives portrayed on social media platforms can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

source: Freepik

In a world brimming with information and constant updates, the Fear of Missing Out, has become an ubiquitous psychological phenomenon. FOMO refers to the apprehension that one is missing out on something exciting or interesting happening elsewhere, often fueled by social media and digital connectivity.

Understanding the Roots of FOMO

FOMO is a complex emotional state. It stems from our innate human desire for social inclusion, novelty, and the fear of being left behind. In the digital age, it has taken on new dimensions. People worry about missing out on events, experiences, and even opportunities showcased on their screens.

FOMO can manifest in various ways:

  • Social Media Scrolling: Scrolling through social media platforms, constantly checking for updates to ensure you're in the loop.
  • Event Attendance: Attending events or gatherings, not out of genuine interest, but out of fear of missing out on networking opportunities.
  • Product Purchases: Buying products or services simply because they are trendy or popular.
  • Overcommitting: Saying yes to too many commitments to avoid feeling like you're missing out on social engagements.

Excessive Dependency and Self-Absorption 

Social media platforms have been associated with a sense of excessive dependency on external validation and acceptance. 

The constant need for likes, comments, and followers can contribute to self-absorption and an unhealthy preoccupation with one's online presence. This focus on seeking approval from others can negatively impact mental health and overall well-being.

Negative Effects of FOMO

  • Stress and Anxiety: Constantly worrying about missing out can lead to stress and anxiety.
  • Superficiality: Pursuing experiences solely for the sake of not missing out can result in shallow, unfulfilling experiences.
  • Digital Addiction: Excessive screen time and social media usage can be a consequence of FOMO.

The Loneliness Paradox

Paradoxically, despite being platforms for social interaction, excessive social media use can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. The brain interprets online connections differently than face-to-face interactions. This disparity can result in a lack of genuine social fulfillment.

The Dopamine Dilemma

The brain is a complex organ that seeks pleasure and reward. Social media platforms are designed to tap into this very aspect of our brains. When we receive likes, comments, or shares on our posts, our brain's reward center lights up, releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This can create a psychological addiction and lead to a constant search for stimulation on social platforms.

source: Freepik

Breaking the Cycle

To mitigate the link between excessive social media use and feelings of anxiety, stress, low self-esteem or depression, individuals can take the following steps:

  • Mindfulness: Practice being present in the moment rather than constantly seeking the next thing.
  • Prioritization: Focus on what truly matters to you, and say no to unnecessary commitments.
  • Set Time Limits: Establish daily limits for social media usage.
  • Curate Your Feed: Follow accounts that inspire and uplift you, and unfollow those that trigger negative emotions.
  • Engage Offline: Prioritize face-to-face interactions and physical activities.
  • Digital Detox: Take breaks from social media to regain perspective.
  • Self-Reflection: Understand your values and what genuinely brings you happiness.


While social media has undoubtedly revolutionized communication and connectivity, it is crucial to recognize the potential negative psychological impact it can have on individuals. 

Being mindful of social media usage and implementing healthy digital habits can help mitigate these adverse effects. 

Balancing online interactions with real-life connections, setting boundaries, and maintaining self-awareness are essential steps toward safeguarding our mental well-being in the digital age.

Article Citations & Bibliography
  1. Social Media & Mental Health: The Harmful Effects - accessed October 29, 2023
  2. Świątek A, Szcześniak M, Bielecka G. Trait Anxiety and Social Media Fatigue: Fear of Missing Out as a Mediator. Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2021;Volume 14:1499-1507.
  3. O’Reilly M, Dogra N, Hughes J, Reilly P, George R, Whiteman N. Potential of social media in promoting mental health in adolescents. Health Promot Int. 2018;34(5):981-991.

Please note that the information provided on this blog is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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Manuela Băbuș.
Medical Writer