Following her breakup with fiancé Pete Davidson, Ariana Grande announced that she would be unplugging from the internet for "just a lil bit." In a now-deleted Instagram post, she offered some insight to her fans into the reason why she wouldn't be logging on for a while. "It's hard not to bump news n stuff that i'm not tryna see rn," she wrote. It turns out, Grande may be onto something we should all consider giving a try.
Grande joins a growing unplugging movement in which people, whether it is post-breakup or just to feel less dependent on their phone, voluntarily step away from their social media or the internet as a whole. Sometimes it's just for the day, other times it's for weeks. A 2017 study found that almost 60% of teens and young adults choose to take breaks from social media and report feeling better for it. The top reasons offered by those surveyed were: being tired of always having to keep up with what was going on, being tired of conflict and drama, and social media distracting from work or school.
There are countless studies linking social media's effects on our social perceptions and overall mental health. While correlation does not equal causation, studies have shown that people who spend more time on social media are more likely to experience symptoms of depression.
Another thing to consider when thinking about unplugging is negativity and harassment online. Grande herself has been subject to exorbitant amounts of harassment following her breakup with Mac Miller, deciding to date and get engaged to Pete Davidson, on top of the passing of ex-boyfriend Mac Miller. Half of women claim to have experienced harassment online and have felt sexually victimised on social media. Even if you aren't personally experiencing harassment online, studies have shown that people can experience trauma from viewing social media posts about natural disasters and violence. Taking a step away from that is not only nice, but often very necessary.
That's not to mention the social pressure everyone can use a break from: We are encouraged to present the best version of ourselves online, which in turn creates the illusion that only the best version of ourselves exists. Others then feel the pressure to live up to curated versions of their friends and followers. While people naturally compare themselves to those around them, social media exponentially increases the ability to compare ourselves to a lot more people. As a result, our view of our own happiness can be augmented by our curated perception of other people's happiness. If you're scrolling through your feeds with a sense of dread and envy, perhaps unplugging could be just the thing.
Grande and the unplugging movement may be onto something. Taking a break from tech could be the answer to more peace of mind or just a better evening routine that doesn't involve scrolling through Instagram until the early hours of the morning.
If you're thinking of taking a tech break, the first thing to do is to know how much you can really unplug. Many of our jobs require that we are still responding to emails, so a completely tech-free break would likely only be possible if you took vacation days.
However, when it comes to our personal lives, there are a lot of ways you can unplug. Start by setting a goal for yourself: Maybe it's one week, one weekend, or even one day. Decide whether it will be everything online, or if it will be only social media. Depending on how long you'll be offline, it might be helpful to your friends and followers to take a page from Grande's book and leave a note. It doesn't have to be detailed, just enough to let people know that you'll be unplugging for "a lil bit."
Now that your goals are set, it's time to start purging your phone of tempting apps. If you think that you'll accidentally start scrolling out of habit, consider deleting apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter from your phone during your break. It's harder to cave and take a peak at Instagram if you've removed it from your phone. If you can't quite hit the delete button, consider logging off. It makes it that much harder to scroll when the app doesn't automatically log in.
Whatever ends up working for you, it's important to remind ourselves that constant connectedness doesn't need to be the norm and that everyone is entitled to their breaks whatever their reason may be.