[Updated February 23, 2024]
If I told you that taking a social media break would change your life, would you believe me?
Hear me out.
It’s estimated that between 5 – 10% of Americans are addicted to social media, which the Addiction Center defines as:
…a behavioral addiction that is characterized as being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media, and devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas.
Clearly, social media is designed to keep us coming back again and again.
If you feel like you’re spending more time on it than you should, you aren’t alone. It’s also not your fault directly. Social media is engineered to keep you coming back for more, increasing your dependency on it over time.
But knowing you need to break away from social media and actually doing so are two different things.
Let’s talk about how to take a break from social media.
What Is A Social Media Detox?
A social media break (or detox as it’s often called) is when you take a period of time where you will use zero social media. This can be anywhere from 24 hours to a month.
If you don’t want to completely take a break from social media, but instead just want to reduce the amount of time you spend on it, consider using a tool like our Limit Chrome extension. It allows you to set strict limits for how long you can visit specific sites each day.
Now, to be clear, a social media detox won’t necessarily create a long-term change in social media habits, but it can give you a reset, of sorts. It can remove unnecessary noise and the negative emotional triggers often caused by social media.
There are a lot of reasons why you might consider taking a break from social media. You might feel overwhelmed by what’s going on in your feeds and want to disconnect for a little while. You might be experiencing information overload and need to dial things back. Or you might have a big project you need to work on and don’t want to be distracted. Or maybe you just want to be more intentional about how you use your time.
Signs You Definitely Need A Social Media Break
Social media is addicting, and you may not be consciously aware that you need a break. If you’re suffering from any of the following, then it’s time for you to undergo a social media detox.
Being Constantly Annoyed
Social media isn’t meant to add to your angst. If you find yourself constantly getting frustrated with people’s posts, comments, or the thoughts you see spread around social media, it’s time for a break. We’ve got enough aggravation in our lives — social media shouldn’t be adding to your frustration.
Parts of social media that may frustrate you can include people oversharing, highly political posts, posts from people that you find upsetting, and so on. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what the cause of your annoyance is, but that you’re in a state of consistent agitation. This inevitably spills over into other areas of your life, like relationships, work, etc.
One of the main reasons why social media is so unhealthy is because it’s generally a highlight reel. People almost never post their failures but consistently post their successes and best images. If you find yourself comparing your life, mental wellbeing, body, or anything else to others on socials, it’s time to step back.
Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others on social media, you’re going to be miserable most of the time.
Few things cause more wasted time than social media. You tell yourself you’ll quickly check Instagram…but two hours later, you’re still scrolling. Obviously, it’s not wrong to spend time on social media, but do you really want to spend that much time? Think of all the other things you could be doing that are ultimately more rewarding.
If you find yourself unable to break away from that, you need a healthy social media cleanse.
What Are The Benefits Of A Break From Social Media?
Remember how I said that taking a break from social media could change your life? Science backs that up.
Quitting social media for one week alone increased people’s moods. Those who eliminated social media for a week found their contentment levels rose from 7.12/10 to 8.12/10, whereas those who continued to use it had their happiness levels decrease.
Another study by Pew Research found that most social media users are dependent on the platforms, and being that way often causes people to be less open-minded.
There are a multitude of benefits to taking a social media break. Here are some of the highlights.
Your smartphone and social media accounts often become a substitute for real-life interactions. Far too many of us spend time with other people on our phones, rather than talking and catching up with friends and family in meaningful ways. And even when we’re physically with friends or family, we’re still often glued to our screens rather than deepening our relationships.
Without the allure of social media, conversations with people in our lives become more meaningful and involved. You also end up having more time to spend with them.
What’s more, you often end up becoming less judgemental. When you disengage from social media and actually spend time with people, you realize that everyone is human and that we’re all just trying to figure out the best way to make it through the world. You learn to not judge people just by what they post on social media.
FOMO, or fear of missing out, goes down when we stop using social media. One of the biggest harms in these platforms is their ability to make us feel like we aren’t doing enough, whether that be not enough exercise, vacations, rest, work, or anything else.
Social media makes us feel like we have to do it all. Without it, you can focus on the activities that bring you the most joy, rather than the ones that create the most likes. Instead of hopping on the latest TikTok trend, you can do things that actually enrich your life.
Since social media is people’s highlight reel, where they post photos of their biggest successes and most enthralling activities, we can often feel like we aren’t sufficient. Whether it be the way we look, our job, current relationship status, or anything else, social media can really hurt the way we view ourselves.
By taking a social media break, that pressure decreases, and we often realize our lives are wonderful enough as they are. We also are free to spend more time with people and on activities that make us feel good about ourselves.
Since social media is notorious for being a time suck, the elimination of it means we can get more done and have more hours in our day. According to Learn Safe, teens and adults spend anywhere from two to nine hours per day on social media. Imagine what you could do with that time!
Additionally, social media acts as a disruptor when we’re working or studying. Without it, your flow state won’t be interrupted and you can get more done in less time.
How Long Should Your Social Media Break Be?
The answer to this question is highly individual. You can start small with a break of just a few hours and build your way up to more substantial breaks.
The typical social media break lasts anywhere from a few hours to one or more weeks. Don’t feel pressured to take a long break right off the bat; ease into it. That said, if you truly want to break a social media addiction, you may need three or more weeks.
The perfect time for a social media break can be when you’re about to head out of town and take a vacation anyway. Disable social media notifications and enjoy your time off.
How To Actually Make It Happen
Now that you know the benefits of a social media break, here are some practical strategies to get it done.
Perhaps you go onto your phone for a completely unrelated reason, maybe it’s to check your account balance on a financial app, but then you see Facebook’s logo right there and decide to click.
To avoid “accidentally” ending up on social media, delete the apps from your phone. That way, you don’t incidentally see the icons and get lured into using the platform. This also creates a higher barrier to entry, as in order to check social media on your phone, you’d have to re-download the app and sign back in.
Unfortunately, this alone won’t prevent you from opening up social media on your desktop, but never fear. We’ve got a solution for that, too.
Block the websites
In addition to deleting apps from your smartphone, use Freedom to block all the social media sites that might tempt you. If you really want to be sure that you don’t give into temptation, use Locked Mode, which prevents you from disabling Freedom.
If you’ve ever used the time limit setting on the iPhone, you know that it’s pretty useless when it comes to really keeping you off social media. All you have to do is tap a button and you can disable time limits for the entire day.
Using Locked Mode ensures that you don’t give into temptation.
Have a friend change your passwords
If you’re at your wit’s end and need help from someone else, asking a trusted friend to change the passwords to your most addictive social apps can do the trick. Make sure you trust them enough to give them access to your accounts, though. Be wary when using this approach.
However, if you do have a trusted friend or family member you can rely on, this can be a great way to force you to detox from social media. Make sure your person of choice is up to the task of denying you those passwords if you get desperate and start begging!
Tell this companion how long you want to remain off social media and ask them to give you your passwords once that time lapses. Again, be cautious with this method, and only ask people you really trust.
Replace social media with new activities
One of the biggest benefits of taking a break from social media is that you have much more time to invest in other activities that can enrich your life so much more.
First, determine how much time you spend on social media. iPhones and Macbooks have time trackers built in, so that’s an excellent way to start. If you spend three hours per day on social media, plan to schedule other activities to account for the time you’d usually be scrolling.
These activities can be anything, but consider the ones that get you away from screens altogether. You could plan to spend those hours with a friend, cooking, practicing a new hobby, training for a sport, or something else entirely.
When you set out on that new activity, consider leaving your phone behind or otherwise implementing strategies to keep you off social media such as deleting the apps. When you’re truly addicted to something, it’s easy to slip back into it. Leaving your phone behind is the best way to focus on the new activity you chose.
Find other ways to stay in the loop
Finding other ways to stay informed can be tricky, but it can be done. It also forces you to figure out which information actually matters versus what is just information overload.
You can ask friends and family to relay major life updates of themselves and others to you. Since you’re off social media, one excellent way to spend that time is with loved ones. You’ll also find an increased conversation quality. You can ask these people to share updates with you so you stay informed.
If there are people whose lives you care deeply about, you can schedule regular times to talk with or see them. This ensures you don’t miss any meaningful life updates. You can also simply ask people to text you and explain that you’ll be off socials.
In terms of things like news, consider signing up for a few select, high-quality newsletters that cover subjects you’re interested in. You can also use a news app, but be wary since they often function similar to social media apps, with endless scrolling.
Spend meaningful time with people
To build off the previous point, replacing time spent on social media with seeing loved ones is an excellent way to stay up-to-date with the lives of those who matter most. While social media gives you a window into hundreds, if not thousands of people’s lives, how many of those people do you care deeply about?
Instead, make a larger effort to spend quality time with the people who matter most. This can strengthen your relationship with them and improve your quality of life. You’ll also find that these are the people who include you in fun activities, so feelings of FOMO decrease.
Do You Need A Social Media Detox?
Although social media offers positive benefits to society, it can also be extremely detrimental when overused. Social media addiction isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s still one many people grapple with.
Start by taking small steps and implementing the suggestions in this article. Slowly, you’ll decrease your addiction to social media, and you’ll be surprised what impact that has on your quality of life.