The phenomenon of social media addiction is present in people of all generations, and it’s a result of the dominance of digital reality over the real world. This indicates it’s high time we learned how to detox from social media.
An unhealthy relationship with your social media can impact every aspect of your life in more or less extreme ways. It affects your mental well-being, relationships, and productivity and can even lead you to act in a dangerous and self-destructive manner.
To tackle this issue, we need to be aware of the negative side of social media platforms and reduce their presence in our everyday life. It might be easier said than done, but there are numerous methods and strategies to help you do it, so let’s get into it.
What Is a Social Media Detox?
Social media platforms keep us hooked because they fuel our insecurities and the need to keep up. Several studies suggest that what we read online can cloud our minds and result in irrational and harmful decisions, such as peer-pressured alcohol abuse.
Minimizing social media time not only contributes to our mental and physical health but also helps us gain control over our decisions and actions. Generally, digital detoxes help stabilize ourselves and detach from the overwhelming pressure we face online.
Detoxing from social media means willingly restricting usage or quitting the platforms altogether. You can either delete social media apps from your phone, use other apps to limit your usage, or deactivate your accounts for however long you need.
Signs You Need a Detox from Social Media
If you’re skimming through articles on ways to detach yourself from social media, you’re probably already aware you need a break. In turn, many of us don’t realize the grasp social media has over our lives. Here are some signs you should consider a detox.
You compare yourself to others all the time
We can be whoever we want online, so we promote only the positives and paint the picture of a perfect life. Many fall for the illusion and start comparing themselves, envying and hating other people, ultimately developing severe mental health issues.
You start believing everyone else is happier, more successful, and more beautiful than you, which triggers your anxiety and lowers your self-esteem. You measure your worth in likes and become depressed when you don’t get the attention you think you deserve.
Getting off social media is the best way to break free from constantly comparing yourself to others. You’re overlooking the fact that everyone is going through hardships. They only choose not to show it online.
You have to post everything
You spend every concert posting videos of your favorite songs online instead of listening and enjoying yourself. You Snapchat your food and caption the photos with quotes on how life is good. No trip can go without a series of stories of you having a great time.
If “pics or it didn’t happen” are the words you live by, all of the above is probably your everyday reality. Even when there’s nothing worth posting, you post one of your many selfies with a cute caption to keep the attention coming.
You keep scrolling
If your scrolling sessions start first thing in the morning and finish when you fall asleep, phone in hand, you are in deep need of a social media cleanse. You likely do this without realizing it and usually won’t admit the constant immersion is stressing you out.
Most of us check our social media through our phones, which easily creates a distraction and prevents us from working, socializing, or mindfully doing any other activity for that matter. Deleting social media apps from your smartphone is a good way to start your detox.
You’re always online out of fear of missing out
A major reason you keep returning to social media is FOMO or fear of missing out. FOMO underlies social media-related anxieties and stress because you pressure yourself into constantly checking for new posts and instantly replying to all your messages.
FOMO is accompanied by issues like anxiety, depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem. The saddest part is that it buries you deeper in virtual reality while you’re missing out on the real world.
You’ve become self-absorbed
No one likes to hear harsh truths about themselves, but a sound reason for taking a social media break is the fact that you make your social media accounts all about you — and not in a good way.
Extreme self-centeredness comes in the form of selfies galore, endless tweets of your every thought, and posts that serve to elicit a reaction from others. This can only isolate you from your real-life friends because you obviously value only the attention you receive online.
You mistake social media popularity for real social life
Whether scrolling through Instagram, texting a Tinder match, or watching the latest TikToks, spending too much time on social media is harmful to our social life. We unknowingly distance ourselves from reality and forget how to communicate offline.
Taking a break from social media is necessary when you start neglecting your friends and loved ones over your social media. Your socializing is more about posting photos with people than spending quality time with them.
It’s not natural to constantly interrupt the conversation to take a seemingly happy selfie with your friends and brag on Instagram. While you’re busy obsessing over who looks at your stories, remember that your friends will have more fun online and offline without you.
You don’t enjoy social media
In light of the above, ask yourself — how many times has social media ruined your day? Have you noticed how scrolling stopped being fun and the content you see mostly annoys or bores you?
Like with any addiction, the dopamine rush that comes with every login slowly fades, and you’re left with an all-consuming habit you can’t control even when you’re driving, running late, or trying to get some sleep.
How to Take a Break from Social Media?
Social media can undoubtedly negatively impact your well-being, but you should consider both its healthy and unhealthy aspects. Reducing online time or completely deactivating your profiles — the decision is entirely up to you. There are many strategies to choose from, so let’s begin.
Make an announcement
Although you might feel like you’re attention-seeking, the starting point for your detox should be to tell people you’re going offline. You’ll be more motivated to stick to your decision if you know someone could call your bluff for not lasting more than a few days.
Mindfully use your social media
According to a 2018 study, limiting your time on social media reduces FOMO, anxiety, depression, and loneliness — the most severe consequences of too much time online. The study proposes using social media for no more than 30 minutes daily to see the results.
Not everyone can achieve this goal, especially if your job involves social media management, so if you’re up for a social media cleanse, you can start by consciously limiting and optimizing usage. You can do this in several ways:
- Track your usage through an app. Most of us access our social media through our smartphones, so you can download an app to tell you exactly how much time you spend on each platform and set a restriction on your daily use.
- Filter your content. We often see social media posts that trigger a negative response. Browse through the pages and people you’re following and remove posts that bring you down, leaving only the positive and motivating ones.
- Turn off notifications. Notification alerts are a nuisance because they compel you to check your phone constantly. Turning them off will keep you focused and more mindful of your time.
- Delete social media apps from your phone. If you don’t trust yourself with a social media detox app, you can remove all social media apps from your phone and force yourself to check them over a different (and less convenient) device.
- Turn off your devices. If deleting the apps doesn’t work for you either, you can resist the temptation by turning your phone off at certain times, such as while with other people, driving, working, or going to the bathroom. In addition, keep all your electronic devices outside the bedroom — it will help you sleep better.
Revisit your motivations
Face it — the usual suspects to blame for your social media sprees are boredom, FOMO, and the dopamine rush you get when someone likes your post. You check your timeline out of habit and mechanically, not because you actually need to.
Once you’re aware of this, you can learn how to stop using social media without deleting it on the one hand and take advantage of the positive experiences on the other. There are three questions you should consider:
- Is social media your escape from reality? Boredom, loneliness, and depression can be a tricky combo for anyone, and dabbling on social media won’t make it better. Instead, reach out to your friends offline or find a new hobby outside your house.
- Do you actively engage with other people or passively scroll? FOMO will prompt you to log in, but ironically, it will also paralyze you from actually making contact. Passive usage removes the “social” from social media, leaving you lonelier and more isolated. Try to make contact by commenting or messaging someone.
- Do you feel bitter about your own life when using social media? Do you often see other people’s posts and immediately feel the sting of jealousy? It’s hard not to compare yourself to others and feel like an absolute failure. Focus on what you have instead of what you lack and highlight the positives.
Focus on other activities
The advantage of planning a detox from social media is that you’ll have so much more time to do all those things you never got round to because you were too busy scrolling. You should aim for offline activities that don’t involve technology, alone or with other people.
Most people are surprised by how much free time they have and how they’re better at managing it. If you don’t already have any pending activities you plan to do, here are some suggestions:
- Sign up for a class. You’ll learn something new and meet new interesting people.
- Start exercising. It will do wonders for your physical and mental health, and you can also do it with friends.
- Try meditation. Meditation takes time, but it can help you declutter your mind and recover from any mental health issues you experienced due to social media.
- Take up a new project. Productivity is one of the major social media detox benefits. An interesting side project or job is a constructive way of spending your free time, and you’ll feel much better about yourself.
- Pack your things and go on a trip. Traveling enriches the mind and the soul, so why not do it as a part of your detox?
While you might force yourself to do these things at first, you’ll soon do them more easily. If you neglected your hobbies and interests for social media, a detox is a perfect time to rediscover them.
Social media used to be all about connection, but somehow we ended up more distant. You should dedicate a significant part of your detox to rebuilding your relationships and reconnecting.
Live contact makes us happier and healthier. Getting rid of social media opens up the time to call up a family member or an old friend and spend some time with them. You can ask them to do an activity together, go for a walk, or grab a coffee.
If you’re introverted and have difficulty reaching out to people, try to join a club, get in touch with acquaintances to get to know them better, or invite a classmate or colleague to a drink. You might be surprised by how well it goes.
Take up a social media detox challenge
Social media detox challenges are perfect for those who feel they’d do better completing smaller detox tasks each day than entirely giving up on social media overnight. You can measure your progress over time and decide if you’ll deactivate for good when it’s done.
These challenges became all the rage during the coronavirus lockdowns and can last several days up to a whole month. Many bloggers came up with different challenges you can read on their websites or find in the form of a table on Pinterest.
The most demanding are the 30–day social media detox challenges which consist of smaller daily tasks to break some bad digital habits, such as checking your social media in the morning or before bedtime or taking your phone to the bathroom.
The challenges can also be very creative and involve exercising, an activity you otherwise wouldn’t think of, or even something daring that pushes you out of your comfort zone. The ultimate goal is to detach from social media and simultaneously have fun.
What’s In It for You?
With the right detox strategy, you can restore balance in your life and create a healthy relationship with your social media. That said, there are several essential benefits of a social media detox:
- More free time, which also means more productivity and better time management. You might notice you’re not always late anymore, and you have enough time in the day to complete all your tasks.
- Better self-confidence. Once you stop comparing yourself to others and bringing yourself down over not being as successful, popular, or beautiful as someone online, your focus will shift to self-betterment, and you’ll find ways to feel good in your own skin — as you should.
- Learning to be present. No more remembering moments through photos and videos — stop and breathe in everything that’s happening and genuinely enjoy it.
- Building meaningful relationships with the people you care about. We talked about the importance of making an effort to reconnect. Socializing helps preserve your mental health, so learn to cherish your relationships.
- Less anxiety and stress. Being constantly tense disrupts your everyday functioning, so once you remove the stress, you’ll notice you’re more focused, relaxed, and sleep better.
A social media detox improves your mental and physical health in more ways than one, and if you persist, you’ll soon reap its benefits.
Social media was originally a tool to keep us connected and informed. Somewhere along the way, it became a lifestyle where we identify with our Facebook and Instagram profiles and mistake virtual reality for real life.
Distancing yourself and learning your self-worth away from the eyes of the online community is the most powerful thing you can do for your well-being. We all have a complicated relationship with technology, but the good news is we can work it out.
So, take up a detox today, rediscover the real world and find a balance between reality and social media that works best for you.