Social media addiction: Here’s what a Bamber Bridge mum learnt when she gave up Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a week to help improve her relationships, mental health and life satisfaction

Social media can be addictive.

It can also be a minefield for anxious people like myself. So it came as a welcome relief when I was asked to give it up for a week and keep a diary of my experience to try to gauge its impact on my life.

For social butterflies, it might sound like a punishment. Why give up something that keeps you connected to friends and family, near and far?

But as a socially anxious journalist - perhaps a paradox in itself - I have a love-hate relationship with networking platforms.

Photo Neil Cross; Reporter Laura Longworth giving up social media for a week with the help of Professor Janet Read

I barely post personal content on my accounts because I overthink my statuses and worry too much about people’s reactions to them.

Yet, I feel more comfortable chatting in direct messaging apps than large face-to-face groups where I worry more about being judged.

So, in my week off, would I end up feeling adrift from my friends and family, or sailing calmer waters? Here's what I learnt:

Day one: it's Saturday night and I'm feeling good. I've been busy with house work and playing with my son, so I've not missed social media. You don’t have FOMO when you're busy trying to stop your toddler from putting his socks and toys in the bin!

Day two: I've had a full weekend without social media. Keeping in touch with people via text and phone calls has done the trick, and I've enjoyed quality time with relatives at a family party. My son and I talked all the way over on the train, although I slipped up on the way back without even realising by watching funny cat videos with him on YouTube. I totally forgot that it counts as social media! Anyway, the point is, my social cup feels well and truly filled. I've had some heart-to-hearts with loved ones recently, and it's made me realise how close some of my relationships are, and that I don't need to seek comfort, connection and validation from social media. Not everyone uses apps like Facebook or Twitter in this way, of course, but I regularly do, so I want to strike a more balanced approach. Tonight, though, I'm a happy camper.

Day three : This morning I couldn't find what I was looking for on my phone. In fact, I didn't actually know what I was looking for. It was only when I remembered I'd deleted Facebook off my phone that I realised I'd been looking for it. This shows I'm mainly logging on in the mornings just out of habit. I'd definitely rather be doing something with more purpose.

Day four: We had a little family date night tonight and the cute cat videos caught me out again! We watched them on YouTube with our son at a restaurant while we waited for our food. I've resisted chatting on WhatsApp or Messenger and even putting funny family pictures on Facebook. Of all things, I should have known cat videos would be my downfall!

I am a little gutted that I can't put the funny family photos on Facebook, though - it's a lovely way for friends and family who can't see my son often to track his development. That's something I love about social media: being able to keep in touch or reconnect with old friends or extended family who live far away.

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Day five: I'm back at work and can't help thinking about all of the stories I'm missing out on by not being involved in community groups on social media. But it's also allowed me to solely focus on writing up interviews I've already done, instead of chasing new stories. I think it's important to prioritise the information we consume on social media, instead of endlessly scrolling. That's when you feel unsatisfied and thirsty for more.

I've certainly had work addiction in the past, and my relationship with social media works the same way. I sought knowledge and achievements to feel seen, valued, loved etc - even though I already was - just like I seek information and connections from apps like Facebook and YouTube now.

Those are just normal human needs, but some of us struggle to feel like they're being sufficiently met, even if they are. It's like we have these big holes inside of us that we struggle to fill, and it’s a painful feeling.

Likes, shares, and reading enticing posts distract us from it and make us feel good - but it's a short-lived feeling, not like what you receive from a nourishing close relationship. People who are truly confident about their self-worth can probably enjoy social media without it feeling like it makes or breaks them.

Anyway, my social media detox has allowed me to reflect on what I’m already achieving, and what I already have. I've been able to enjoy learning for learning's sake. So, if there's a cup for curiosity, that one's filled for me, too.

I do miss watching parenting videos on YouTube, though, because I'm passionate about psychology, education and child development.

But I'm also feeling more confident as a mum by taking a break from them. Ever since I watched a video about a couple who taught their one-year-old to say more than a thousand words, I've felt like a rubbish mum who isn't doing enough for her son. Taking a step back from online comparison allows you to see the bigger picture, and enjoy the smile on your child's face when you play "put stickers on Mummy's nose".

Day seven: I've been thinking about how I want to change my social media use when I return to it.

I like its convenience: Facebook for example is like a huge contact book that makes it easier to organise social events or set up interviews. I couldn't rely on just my phone to keep in touch with old friends - I lose and break it too often as I'm so scatty!

But I don't want instant and constant access to social media, because it's so addictive, and I need time and space to recharge after social interactions. At the moment, I don't plan to download any apps apart from WhatsApp onto my phone.

I love talking with people one-on-one or in small groups. I love long, deep chats and being silly together. But I feel overwhelmed by big groups, whether on or offline. So, as I find it hard to keep up with too many group chats at once, I think I'll limit those to immediate family and close friends, where I can.

Online comparison is also a big thing for me. Envy is an ugly but real feeling for all of us, and the insecurity and anxiety that come with it are painful. It's been nice to step away from that kind of thinking and put more focus and time into the here-and-now. The post-observe-react set-up is like a digital catwalk of our lives, not like the give-and-take of natural conversation, or the comfortable silence of being with your best mate - the times when you can just "be", and that's more than enough.

Going forward, I want to use social media mainly as an all-in-one bullet journal or scrapbook of my life to share with my loved ones, near and far. Mostly, it will help me stay organised and arrange meet-ups in the real world with my friends and family. Sometimes, I might include some personal diary entries if I think they will help others, or myself.

To me, the key is setting boundaries that work for you, even if they go against social trends. Essentially, I want to use social media to make it easier to live and love in the real world, not to hide from it.

And just like with a physical calendar or scrapbook, I hope I might look at it once or twice during the day, or show it to friends when they visit, then smile, close it, put it back on the shelf, and carry on living my life.