It’s 8 p.m. on a Friday night.
You’re excited because you have zero plans and you’re ready for some much needed “me time.”
Your comfy pants are on and you’re curled up under a fluffy throw blanket. You cue up the latest heartwrenching episode of This Is Us (ready to cry your eyes out).
By 8:30 p.m., you realize you haven’t made it past the first 5 minutes of the show.
You’ve been sucked into social media.
It started innocently enough:
You just wanted to check Instagram while the opening credits were rolling. You saw that a coworker was enjoying her beach vacation.
Oh, her friend was there, too? Let me pop over to that feed next. What a cute baby. Who is she married to?
Before you know it, you’re deep into friends, acquaintances and even strangers lives. You’ve spent 30 minutes watching other people rather than your favorite show.
We’ve all been there. In fact, someone told me recently that social media is one of the only “socially acceptable addictions” out there right now.
So it begs the questions:
Why is it so easy to get hooked on these apps? And how do you even know when it’s time to take a break from social media?
What’s the big deal?
Let’s say you are hooked on social media. So what? You’re not hurting anyone. You’re still being productive at work and taking care of yourself.
It’s not like you’re hurting yourself or anyone else, right?
And that’s true. All things taken into consideration, it’s one of the safest addictions you could have. But what about your mental health? What about your quality of life?
Let me ask you:
Are you happy?
Or are you feeling stuck in the comparison trap, worried about the privacy risk, and overwhelmed with too much information?
Because I’ve started noticing a trend.
The other day I was googling something about social media and the search engine auto-populated the following search queries:
- Break from social media
- Social media break
- Social media detox meaning
- Taking a social media break for mental health
That’s not a coincidence. It shows that everyone gets burnt out on social media at some point.
How a social media detox works
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of a social media break, I want to be clear on one thing:
Moderation is key.
You don’t have to start deleting profiles. You don’t have to run and tell your friends that you’re logging off. Heck, you don’t even have to pledge to never use it again.
You just need a break. You just need a few days where you put the phone away and focus on the present moment.
No posting. No liking. Just living.
So what you’re about to learn is easy. The hard part? Sticking to it. So let’s start with the basics.
How to start a break from social media
- Step 1:Pick a time frame. I recommend at least 7 days to reap the full benefits. But more on that in a bit.
- Step 2: Start using an actual alarm, not your phone. Because what’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Scroll. So start by putting your phone across the room and spend a few bucks on a new alarm like the one I use.
- Step 3: Silence your social media notifications or uninstall the apps altogether. This reduces the temptation drastically.
- Step 4: Find hobbies that don’t involve your phone. I can’t stress this one enough. Because it isn’t enough to commit to no social media. You should fill that void with something else, otherwise, you’re just going to slip into old habits.
Here are a few hobbies that I picked up during my social media hiatus (I’ll add more hobbies at the end of this article):
- Calligraphy book for beginners
- Paint by numbers
- Doing a jigsaw puzzle
- Reading self-development books like this one
- Going on a 30-minute walk each day
- Step 5: Avoid all screen time 1.5 hours before bed. I learned this trick from the book Sleep Smarter. (And at the risk of sounding overdramatic, that book completely changed my life). Not only does social media affect your mental health, but it also ruins your sleep if you use it right before bed.
Deciding on the perfect amount of time
The amount of time you stay unplugged and how often you choose to do it is up to you.
Try it for at least 7 days.
7 days gives you enough time to reap the benefits of staying off social media. It gives you enough time to step away from the negativity. And more importantly, it gives you enough time to clear your head of the comparisons to others.
Now, there are 2 variations of a social media hiatus:
- Variation 1: You do a complete detox with zero interaction on any platform. So no checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok.
- Variation 2: A limited detox using a timer. This is where you allow yourself to check your accounts based on a set amount of time. So for example, you’d set a timer for 20 minutes per day to check your social media. Once that timer goes off, you’re done. Log off. Back to reality.
Which one should you choose?
Well, I’ll be honest with you.
Remember how I said sticking to a break from social media is tough?
I wasn’t kidding.
Old habits are hard to break
You wake up and the first thing you want to do is open your phone and start scrolling.
You’re going to use the bathroom and you figure you might as well see what everyone is up to on IG. (C’mon, I know I’m not the only one who does this)
So I started my social media detox with a timer. For the first 3 days of my experiment, I set a 20-minute timer once per day. During that time, I was free to scroll my little heart out.
After the timer went off, I closed the apps.
But why 3 days? Why not 5? Or 7?
I had fully intended to use the timer method for the full 7 days. But truthfully, after 3 days of doing it, I was so surprised by how amazing I felt with less social media in my life. So I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my experiment completely unplugged.
I felt amazing.
And now, almost 8 months later, I’ve cut my social media intake down by 90%. So I want to share a few more hobbies/activities you can start during your detox.
30+ Things You Can do During Your Break From Social Media
- Start using a planner to boost your productivity
- Prepare your outfit for tomorrow
- Clear out your email inbox
- Create a morning & night routine for yourself
- Pack your lunch for tomorrow
- Delete old contacts from your phone
- Delete old apps you’re no longing using
- Organize your pictures on your phone/computer
- Declutter your closet
- Spend 15 minutes vacuuming out your car with a powerful handheld vacuum
Fun hobbies to try:
- Start a jigsaw puzzle like one of these
- Read a book or listen to an audiobook
- Start working out with free videos on YouTube
- Start using a gratitude journal
- Try a calligraphy book for beginners
- Go on a walk each day (if you have a dog, bring them along!)
- Create a fun scrapbook
- Try your hand at origami
- Start saving money by meal prepping
- Learn a new language with a free app
- Watch Ted Talks on YouTube
- Read a book or listen to an audiobook
- Sign up for Merriam Webster’s Word of the Day to learn a new word daily
- Brush up on your cooking skills
- Watch a documentary
- Take an online course
- Call your friends and family
- Go out for a happy hour
- Plan a vacation
- Go out of your way to do something nice
- Have a date night with your partner
- Have a girls/boys night with your friends
- Go see a movie with someone or rent it on Amazon Instant Video
- Start pre-planning gifts for your friends/families upcoming birthdays
- Start journaling
- Make a bucket list
- Create S.M.A.R.T goals
- Make a vision board
- Volunteer or donate to a charity you’re passionate about
- Write an email to your future self
- Research your dream career
- Update your resume and LinkedIn profile
- Use an affordable laser hair removal tool like this one so you don’t have to hassle with shaving
- Try a face mask
- Tweeze your eyebrows
- Deep condition your hair
- Do your own manicure and pedicure
- Whiten your teeth (As a gal with ultra-sensitive teeth, these whitening strips made my teeth 5 shades whiter with zero sensitivity)
- Start using a good quality self-tanner
- Upgrade your lingerie and get a few affordable matching pieces
- Use a Waterpik flosser if you hate traditional flossing like I do
- Do a full-body exfoliation
- Soak in the tub with a good book and a bath bomb
- Light some candles and relax
3 benefits of staying off social media:
So now that you’re clear on how to take a social media break, I want to share with you the why.
Why should you take a break from social media? What benefits can you expect?
Benefit 1: You’ll break the comparison cycle
Raise your hand if you’ve ever compared your life to someone else’s’ on social media.
Here’s something you should know:
We all have.
Research shows that most people who use social media end up comparing themselves to everyone they know. Yes, e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e.
For example, if everyone you know is getting engaged and married and you’re still single, you might end up feeling lonely and isolated. This can make even the most confident person depressed.
Getting off social media lets you stop that unhealthy cycle. It lets you reconnect with all the wonderful things in your life. It encourages you to be grateful for what you have.
It allows you to set goals for your life based on what you want. Not based on what you see others do on social media.
Benefit 2: Your privacy is protected
Social media is a great way to keep in touch and share moments but it also requires you to give up a lot of your privacy.
And you know what?
A few months ago I was having a conversation with a group of recruiters at a business conference. Curious about job interviews, I asked them this:
“What’s the biggest mistake potential candidates make that prevents them from landing an interview?”
Every. single. one. of them said, “Oversharing on their social media.”
Benefit 3: You’ll stop staying stuck in the past
Let’s be honest.
We’ve all been guilty of stalking an ex. Or checking out your current partner’s ex. Or seeing what your old college friend is up to.
This isn’t healthy.
How can we create a better future for ourselves when we’re focused on the past?
Recapping taking a break from social media:
Step 1: Pick a time frame. I recommend at least 7 days.
Step 2: Start using an actual alarm, not your phone. Here’s the alarm I use.
Step 3: Silence your social media notifications or uninstall the apps altogether.
Step 4: Find hobbies that don’t involve your phone. This is key to staying on track.
Step 5: Avoid all screen time 1.5 hours before bed. I learned this trick from the book Sleep Smarter.