If you’ve noticed yourself spending a lot of time on social media, running out of time to do housework and self-care, or feeling like a failure as you navigate the adulting struggle, then it may be time to do a social media detox. When I think of the word detox, I picture chugging down a bright green smoothie or going to a spa to sit in a sauna.
But though a social media detox doesn’t involve any of those activities, it may have some of the same effects—ridding our bodies of toxins and replenishing it with something uplifting and rejuvenating. Deciding to do the social media detox is the first step, and this article covers the rest: how to take a break from social media. No sweating or chugging smoothies required.
Are you in?
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What is a Social Media Detox?
A social media detox is the result of staying away from social media or taking a break from social media for an extended period of time. The purpose of a social media detox is to break away from the addictive nature of social media and reclaim time, rest, and more stable emotions.
When I did my first social media detox, I started out with a semester of college, four months. I chose this amount of time because my semester was crazy, and I needed to be more selective with how I spent my time.
Social media is a great tool. It allows us to stay connected with friends and family who are far from us and find out more about topics of interest. However, as with any tool, social media can also be toxic and harmful. It all depends on how we use it.
While social media gives me a boost of excitement or contentment when I get a notification, it also leaves me empty and isolated when the notification bell isn’t ringing. I’ve noticed that social media can suck up my free time, foster an environment where I’m constantly comparing myself to others, and leave me anxious and unhappy.
It is most certainly OK to take a break from social media. Because social media is so widely popular, it may feel like you would miss out on something if you were to take a break from it. But quite the opposite.
You’ll be able to enjoy the things happening in the present, the people you meet, and the friends and family nearby. Taking a break from social media provides focus and boosts productivity, too.
When we take a break from social media, we are reminded of its original intent—a tool to help us stay connected to friends and families.
The length of a social media detox depends on your goals for the detox. If you simply want to gain some perspective, a short social media detox, like a week or two, may be enough time. However, some people may be trying to instill new habits around social media. In that case, three weeks to 30 days is a better length.
Bottom line: the more engrained the behavior you’re trying to change, the longer time you’ll need for the social media detox.
But—it does get easier. Once I left Facebook in college, I realized how easy it was to live without it. I thought I would miss all of the notifications and updates, but after a while, I would forget to even go on Facebook.
Wishful thinking? With these steps on how to take a break from social media and my 7 keys to success, you’ll be better equipped to do your own social media cleansing.
6 Benefits of Staying off Social Media
The idea of staying off of social media for more than a few hours may feel like an unsurmountable task. It’s not. However, because behaviors around social media are so habitual, it’s not an easy task either.
So to motivate you to pursue your social media detox and not to give up, here are the benefits of staying off social media.
Social Media Break Benefits
Before you even get started with your social media break, here’s why you won’t regret it. Taking a break from social media can detach us from the harmful habits and toxic features of social media. Here are additional benefits it provides.
#1 More Time
Social media takes up a lot of our time. With every notification and every post, we are giving up precious time. Yet, as busy adults, the most limited resource we have is time. Time is the only thing we can’t get more of. Social media turns our time into confetti, small moments that are hard to use productively. This leads to the second benefit of a social media break.
#2 Better Productivity
While it takes about 15 minutes to focus on a task, it only takes 15 seconds to get us off of that task. This means it’s 60 times easier to distract us than it is to get us to focus.
Every time a notification from a social media app flashes on the screen, we risk getting derailed again. Can you imagine how much you could get done without the constant interruptions?
#3 More Restful Sleep
The blue light that screens emit are notorious for keeping us awake. All the social media activity stimulates us further, and makes falling asleep harder. On top of that, social media can invoke certain emotions, like discontentment and anxiety, when we compare ourselves to the “picture perfect” lives of our friends, family, and celebrities. These thoughts are the opposite of what we need when we’re trying to rest.
Other Benefits of Social Media Detox
The first 3 benefits focused on what a social media detox could do for us personally. However, the benefits of staying off of social media stretch far past that. A break from social media also affects our relationships with other people.
#4 Ability to Be Present with Others
One benefit of staying off social media is that we are better able to enjoy time with other people. It’s almost impossible to spend quality time with friends and family when we’re constantly looking at our phones or checking our notifications and social media feeds. In fact, it gives off the impression that we’re too busy to pay attention to the other person or that they’re not as important as whatever or whoever is blowing up our phone.
God created us as social beings, which allows us to have a relationship with Him and pushes us to have relationships with others. So let’s choose to be present in those moments.
#5 Cuts Down on the Number of Misunderstandings
As a blogger, I love written communication, but I’ll be the first to admit that it has its limitations. In a face to face conversation, there are so many social cues that we read when a person is talking or listening.
What’s their body language like? Are they smiling or frowning? Is their tone serious or playful? Which words are they emphasizing? Do they seem nervous or sad?
In a social media post, it’s easy to read into something that isn’t there. We can easily be offended by what we thought someone meant in a post or comment. But without the physical social cues, it’s hard to know what someone really means.
#6 Bursts the Bubble
As a business consultant in a tech company, I understand the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms. They can be great to improve business processes within a company. On the other hand, AI and algorithms can also curate your experience on a social media platform.
The social media creators want to keep you happy and coming back for more. One of the ways to do that is to show you what you want to see and hide what could make you abandon the platform. The downside is that you end up inside a “bubble” where you’re only seeing half of the story or a limited view of current events.
Taking a break from social media allows you to get outside of the bubble. It encourages you to be curious, ask questions, explore new ideas and perspectives, and meet people who are different than you.
How to Take a Break from Social Media: 7 Easy Keys for Success
Now that you know the benefits of a social media detox, I hope you’re pumped up and ready to give it a try. To help you break away from social media, I’ve compiled my 7 keys for success. These are easy, simple and won’t cost you any money. They have been tested and proven by yours truly.
I’m not crazy or anti-technology. In fact, I’m a millennial and young professional who is navigating the adulting struggle. I’ve found that staying off of social media has improved my quality of life and these seven tips have helped me do that. So next up: here’s how to take a break from social media.
How to Break Away from Social Media
Before you begin, remember that you are in control of your social media usage. It may sound like a line from a cheesy twilight episode, but it’s true. The social media does not control you. You control how much and when you use social media.
Understanding this principle will make your social media detox more successful.
#1 Set Goals and Do a Feelings Assessment
Write down on a piece of paper why you want to do this social media detox. Is it because you want to realize one of the above benefits of staying off social media? Is it because navigating the adulting struggle is a lot for you right now, and you could use a little less noise in your life? Perhaps your job is insane in this season, and you just need to reclaim more time for yourself and self care.
Whatever it is, write down the goal and put down the why. Then, do a quick assessment of your feelings, specifically how you feel when you use social media or what you feel that prompts you to get on social media. Both can be helpful for determining why a social media cleanse may be helpful. Here’s an example from my own life:
My goal is to stop going on Instagram everyday because Instagram gives off the impression that all of my friend’s lives are perfect. This makes me compare myself to them and leaves me feeling discontent and unhappy.
Now whether you’re doing a 30 day no social media challenge or simply limiting the amount of time you spend on social media, you know your goal and why you’re trying to accomplish it. Moving forward, when you feel like going on social media or ignoring your time limit, you can look back at this piece of paper and remember why you’re taking a break from social media.
#2 Choose Your Approach: Start Small or Quit Cold Turkey
Now that you have a goal and a why, you can choose an approach.
- Start Small: The idea of this approach is to cut the time you spend on social media little by little.
- First, start with the weakest link. Assess all the social media you use. More than likely, there will be one social media platform you use the least. Cut that one first.
- Next, start tracking the amount of time you spend on each remaining platform. Some smartphones have this capability built in.
- After observing for a week, set an app time limit for each social media app. You should be able to do this in the parental controls area of your device. The limit should be close to how you already use the app (which you observed in the previous step).
- Every week, continue reducing the time limit for each platform by 5-10 minutes.
- Continue to repeat the previous step until you get to your goal or to zero. Set a new goal for yourself weekly and track your progress.
- Quit Cold Turkey: This is the simplest approach, but also the most difficult depending on your social media usage.
- First, stop using all social media.
- Second, continue to repeat the previous step until the end of your social media detox.
#3 Turn Off Notifications
Though you may have to go dumpster diving in the settings secontion of the social media platforms, you can turn off notifications. Why is this helpful?
Notifications interrupt you with a seemingly “urgent message” to get you back into the app or on the website. But actually, these messages aren’t urgent. They can be read later, and most of them require no action on your part.
For example, on Instagram when someone likes your picture, you receive a notification. But are you going to immediately send that person a direct message to say, thanks for liking my photo? No!
All of these notifications are informational at best, not urgent account activity.
But they make us feel like we are missing something, and so we hop on to the app pronto. Two hours later…you know how it goes.
Instead, turn off your notifications so you can control when you open the social media platform. It may feel lonely at first, as if no one is looking at or commenting on your pages and posts. But they are. You just aren’t getting interrupted.
You are choosing when you want to see account activity.
How to Stay Off Social Media
Steps #1-3 for how to take a break from social media focus on helping you break away from social media. There are a lot of behaviors and habits we all have around social media, and those keys to success will help you break the cycle so you can start your detox.
But now that you’ve started the social media detox, how do you keep it going? Once you’re on your social media break, here’s how to stay off social media.
#4 Delete the Apps from your Phone
Our phones are with us all the time. They make it easier for us access these apps and that much harder to take a break from social media. You can combat that by:
- Deleting the apps off of your phone, and
- Logging out of the website on your computer.
What does deleting social media do for you?
By deleting social media apps, you are making it hard to access those platforms. One of the reasons why social media is addictive is its accessibility. When the apps are on your phone, social media is at your fingertips.
But If you delete the social media apps or log out of the website, then it makes it harder to use social media. When you get the urge, these barriers force you to slow down and rethink why you’re getting online. This is when you pull out your goal and your why to motivate you to continue your break from social media.
Suddenly, downloading the app or logging back in seem like a lot of work for little to no return.
#5 Use Other Ways to Stay Connected
A very positive use of social media is staying connected. When you do a social media detox, you’ll want to find other ways to stay connected with family and friends.
You can stay connected by using:
- Phone Calls
- Video Calls
- Text messaging
- Face to Face meetings (dinner, lunch, coffee, walk in the park, day at the pool, etc.)
#6 Find Other Things to Do, Especially to Unwind
Instead of thinking of a social media cleanse as taking time away from social media, focus on the fact that you gain more free time. Spend that free time doing something you love, like a hobby. You could also:
- Dedicate more time to self-care
- Reflect more about your goals and priorities
- Summer? Complete a fun summer bucket list
- Fall? Use this list of fun things to do with friends
- Pray and Spend More Time with God
- Start a Gratitude Journal
- Find Ways to unwind after work
It’s no secret that social media can provide a “false calm,” where we get to turn our brains off and mindlessly scroll. However, scrolling rarely actually makes us feel better. All our problems are still there afterward, and if we’ve played the comparison game or gotten offended by something we thought someone meant online, we’re more stressed than before. That’s why finding different ways to unwind and relax can replace the “false calm” with a “real calm” that social media can’t provide.
#7 Do it with a Buddy
Lastly, ask around and see if there is a family member, friend, or fellow young professional that will join you on your social media detox challenge. As friends, you can also pick up a new hobby to fill your free time.
Having a friend doing the social media cleanse with you will motivate you, provide accountability, and encourage you when you feel like giving up.
Social Media Cleanse – We Were on a Break
As I was writing this post, I kept thinking about Ross and Rachel from Friends and the end of their romantic relationship in season 3. The next 7 seasons, Ross yelled, “We were on a break!” every chance he got.
This is a great phrase for you to use when a friend asks why you didn’t comment on their post or why you haven’t been active on your profile. Tell them that you and social media are on a break.
You may get crazy stares when you say you’re doing a “no social media challenge.” People may even tell you what you’re missing. Well, in that case, you can tell them the “social media break” benefits that they’re missing, too. :)
No matter your social media usage, a social media detox can help you take back control of your time and your emotions. The break from social media provides many benefits that allow you to spend more meaningful time with friends and family. It also pushes you outside the “social media bubble.”
A social media detox may be what you need to make navigating the adulting struggle a little easier. Take a break from constantly comparing yourself to others and have more free time to spend on things you enjoy.
And now that you know how to take a break from social media, I won’t be offended if you don’t follow Kara J Lovett Co. on all the social media accounts. I want you to enjoy your social media detox and realize all the benefits of staying off social media. Instead, join the email list to stay up to date on posts from KJL. Better yet, just go outside. Without social media, the world is now your oyster.
How do you detox from social media?
Leave me a comment below!
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