It’s fairly safe to say that social media has essentially become a third appendage for many people. The ever-present world of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can make it hard for people to stay focused on what’s most important. While social media can be a fun place to interact with friends and other people with similar interests, too much of it can be a bad thing, and a social media detox may be in order.
Whether you think you’ve reached a social media overload or just want to better reconnect with the world you have in front of you and not on your phone, keep reading to find out how to do a social media detox.
What is a social media detox?
A social media detox is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the act of purposefully refraining from using social media platforms for a set, specified amount of time.
There have been several studies concluding that the overuse of social media can affect self esteem and self confidence, and lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. Social media makes it very easy to compare yourself to others, and doing so for a prolonged period of time can have a negative impact on someone’s self-esteem and how they perceive themselves.
A social media detox can help get you back to a more grounded and centered place.
What are the benefits of a social media detox?
While it may sound as though the main goal of a social media detox is to deprive you of your life sustenance (and if that’s what you think, you're probably way past due for one...), there are plenty of benefits that can come from disconnecting from the social media world.
Reconnect with reality: First and foremost, you’ll be able to reconnect with the real world. It might sound scary, but there’s a lot out there that doesn’t require a smartphone at all. Like walking, talking, using most of your senses, and so on.
Improve mood: As mentioned above, studies have shown the negative impact social media can have on your mind, particularly in young adults. Disconnecting from social media can allow you to get out of the negative cycle of comparing yourself to others.
More time: While on your social media detox, you’ll likely have a lot of new free time on your hands. Fill that time with something productive, whether it’s a new hobby or getting around to reading that book you’ve been meaning to. It’s also important to pick up something that you can and will want to continue to do after your detox.
Lose your competitive streak: Our social media posts have essentially become an extension of ourselves, and we’ve started understanding the popularity of these posts as a reflection of our own status. Getting the most likes and seeing how popular your posts are versus someone else’s is grossly unimportant and unnecessary. We’re one social network away from Black Mirror’s Nosedive episode. Stepping away from social will help you re-center and hopefully make you realize that all of the competitive nonsense you previously partook in is indeed that: nonsense.
Regain a sense of privacy: In today’s world, privacy is more of a concept than a reality. If you’re constantly cataloging your life on social networks, you’re essentially shoveling your privacy away, whether you’re okay with it or not. Given how much data and information big tech companies have on their users, privacy is now a commodity. Performing a social media detox will let you hoard it.
Better handle your FOMO: Social networks are designed to keep engaged on them so you constantly stay on them. So many pride themselves about keeping you “in the know” in the social networking world. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are great at providing content surrounding your interests and it’s easy to experience FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, when you’re not connected in some way. But really think about it. How much are you really missing out on if you read that Sophie Turner met Jonathan Van Ness backstage at the VMAs the second it was posted or a couple of days from now?
Live in the moment: When was the last time you sat down to watch a movie or TV show without picking up your phone to tell the world you were doing so? Or just watch a movie without picking up your phone at all? Taking a break from social media will allow you to pay full attention to the moment you’re currently in. You won’t be dividing your attention between a movie or your significant other and your phone. Make memories that you remember, not ones that Facebook has to remind you of.
How to do a social media detox
Before you just “decide” that you’re detoxing, there are a couple of things that you should be sure are in place to set yourself up for social media detox success.
Plan it out
Think of how long you’d like to do your social media detox for. If you’re purposely giving yourself a short goal out of fear that you won’t be able to last longer without checking social media, you’re not in the right mentality. Of course, you’re going to need to be reasonable about the length of time you plan on going without checking your social networks. Yet 30 days is an achievable goal that should be easy to attain if you continue to stay busy.
You should also tell people who will notice your absence from social media that you won’t be around and that they can reach you in the real world - not the fake one. Who knows, it may inspire some of your online friends to rethink their own social media habits and try their own detox.
Deactivate your accounts
While this step is not required, it will help in the instance that you slip and try to login to check on posts. Here’s how you deactivate Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
How to deactivate your Facebook account:
Click the small arrow at the top right of any Facebook page.
Click ‘Settings’ > ‘General.’
Click ‘Manage Account.’
Click ‘Deactivate Account.’
Provide a reason for leaving.
How to deactivate your Twitter accounts:
Click ‘More’ on the left hand menu.
Click ‘Settings’ and ‘Privacy.’
Click ‘Deactivate your account’ at the bottom of the login and security screen.
Note: You only have 30 days to restore a deactivated Twitter account or it will be permanently deleted. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
How to deactivate your Instagram account:
Click on your profile icon at the top right of the page.
Click the settings cog icon next to your user name.
Click ‘Privacy’ and ‘Security.’
Click ‘Edit Profile.’
Click ‘Temporarily disable my account.’
Give a reason.
Re-enter your password.
Click ‘Temporarily Disable Account.’
Delete your apps
Now that you’ve temporarily deactivated your social accounts, it’s time to delete your apps. They’ll be easy enough to download again once your detox is over. And given how easy it is to reactivate some social network accounts, having the app still installed could lead to a lapse.
Delete them. Do it. Think of all the photos and videos that could take the place of the storage those apps currently occupy!
Know your triggers
There’s going to be a point where you’ll be triggered to login and check posts or send out a Tweet. For some people, it’s a specific time, like right when you wake up in the morning that gives them the itch. For others, it can be going to a concert or other social events that you’ll feel obligated to pull out your phone and share what you’re doing with the world. It’s important for you to define the time or events in your everyday life that are likely to trip you up.
Once you’ve recognized what tempts you to use social media the most, try cutting it out. Of course, you can’t cut out something like waking up in the morning, so if your triggers are unavoidable, see if you can make yourself busy doing something else during that time.
Post social media detox
If you’ve successfully completed your social media detox, give yourself a pat on the back! You’ve earned it. The time spent away from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like may have given you a slightly different perspective about how you interact with the world around you. In fact, you may be less interested in social media in general. With that in mind, try to follow these tips.
Reintroduce social media slowly back into your life. Don’t cannonball back into it. It could take you back to square one.
Try to be more cognizant of the time you spend on social media.
As a follow up to the previous tip, you should also be more cognizant of using social media when you're with other people. Stay in the now.
Use app timers for your iPhone or Android phone that will force you to limit the use of apps you specify.
Go through the accounts you follow and unfollow “noisy” ones. That person you never talked to in high school but who constantly posts about their wonderful life and kids. They can go. That clickbait account that posts 40 times a day? They can go, too. Consider this the spring cleaning of your social networks. From now on, only follow accounts or people that you are genuinely interested in or care about.
Bonus: Share your social media detox experience on social media. If you have the time to post 14 pictures of your cat, you have time to share your detox story. Share how you reconnected with things in your life that often went unnoticed or underappreciated. Talk about your new hobby that you picked up along the way. Posting your experiences for others to read will not only reaffirm how you felt about the process, but someone else out there probably needs to read about it themselves.
And remember, the idea of a social media detox isn’t to rid yourself of it, but to use it in a way that’s not detrimental to your mental well-being. Or a complete waste of your time.