Technology was meant to serve us. We create things, like social media, to make our lives better so we can have more control over the limited amount of time we have every day. But is social media actually improving our lives? Or have we become slaves to our own creation?
How often do you reach for the phone first thing in the morning and check your Twitter notifications? How often when you’re on vacation are you more concerned about taking the perfect Instagram picture than enjoying yourself? How often are you locked in an internet argument on Facebook? A social media detox gives us a bit of clarity into this.
The amount of mental energy we give our phones, specifically social media, could be put to much better use.
Social media, in its inception, was harmless fun. Now, it has evolved to be part of our daily lives. It’s how we consume most of our information, and it influences everything from elections to public discourse.
But social media is not real life. As much influence, or seeming influence, it has, it’s a curated and selective sample of what’s actually going on in the world.
What Is a Social Media Detox?
A social media detox is a conscious elimination of social media use and consumption for a set period of time. Generally, most social media detoxes are 30 days, but some people do 7 days or even a year-long social media detox.
Why Take a Social Media Detox?
If you’re here or you’ve been thinking about taking some time off of social media, you should probably do it, and that should be reason enough.
If you feel like social media has taken over your life, if it preoccupies your mind, or if you find yourself constantly and habitually reaching for your phone, these might be signs that it’s time for a break.
How to Do a Proper Social Media Detox
The first step to taking a social media detox is to tell people.
Tell people you interact the most with that you’ll be offline for a while. This will do a few things.
First, it will keep you accountable. If you’re back within a few days Tweeting or posting photos, the people you told will hopefully call you out on it. This will help you stick with the detox.
Secondly, it will let people know you haven’t disappeared if you wind up sticking with it. Most people won’t really care, and some may not even notice (don’t take it personally!).
Delete the apps and block the websites
The next step is to delete the social media apps from your mobile devices, especially your phone. This step is required. I can almost guarantee you that you will not succeed if you keep the apps on your phone during the detox, or you try to rationalize to yourself that you’ll only check them once a week.
For this to work, you’ll need to disconnect completely. If that seems too hard (or even impossible), try a shorter detox.
You may also want to install an app or tool on your computer that can block out social media websites for you.
Plan what you will do during your detox
The last step is to plan what you will do during your detox and actually fill your time with the things you plan to do.
You may wind up surprised at how much time you’ll find during the day that you otherwise would have occupied with your social media habit.
If possible, try to replace your social media habit with something that doesn’t involve technology. I suggest this because using your phone or laptop to replace a digital habit isn’t really productive.
Some suggestions include:
- Spending time with friends and family
- Learning something new (language, hobby, skill)
- Working on a side project or business
- Exercising, gym, yoga
- Meditating and practising mindfulness
But if you need to replace your digital habit with a more productive digital habit, here are a few suggestions:
- Download Kindle on your phone and read books during downtime/boredom instead of looking at social media
- Listen to podcasts or audiobooks
- Take an online course
- You can sneak in some bingeing on Netflix.
Benefits of A Social Media Detox
It breaks the social comparison cycle
For example, if everyone you know is getting married and having babies but you’re still single, you may end up feeling isolated and lonely. This can even lead to serious depression for some people. Break away from this unhealthy cycle by taking a break from social media so that you can reconnect with all of the awesome things in your life.
You’ll stop feeling competitive
Even if you aren’t aware of it, social media brings out your competitive side. Each reaction and comment is a measure of how popular a particular post is, which can make you strive to outdo others and even yourself.
This type of competitiveness is not healthy, and it can cause anxiety and depression. Take a mental health break by stepping away from social media for a while!
It’ll improve your overall mood
The amount of time you spend on these sites is directly related to whether or not you feel stressed out or happy.
In other words, if you’ve been feeling highly anxious, stressed out or depressed, this is a good time to take a social media detox. It may feel weird at first, but your overall mood should begin to improve as you stay away from Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
You’ll reconnect with the real world
Sadly, people who spend a lot of time on social media sites report feeling lonely and isolated in real life. They are also more likely to suffer from a weakened immune system.
The good news is that even if you’re an introvert and uncomfortable with a lot of in-person interaction, you can boost your mood by simply going out in public. Take yourself to your favourite park or restaurant if you prefer to be alone. You could even go to a movie or concert.
You’ll stop obsessing over your past
Leaving social media behind for a while can give you the space you need to stop obsessing and actually move on with your life. Make sure that when you do return to social media that you take the extra step of blocking exes or anyone else who it pains you to see online. You can also tweak your Facebook memories to remove certain items so that you stop being reminded of them.
The first step to a successful social media detox is merely trying it. Even if you’re hesitant or unsure if you can do it, try it for a weekend. See how you feel after 2 or 3 consecutive days of being off of social media.
Like how you feel? Try a week and slowly progress to a full month.