How To Go on a Social Media Detox
If there’s ever been a better reason to step away from Social Media for a bit, 2020 has given us several of them. Although with social distancing guidelines and travel bans it’s a great tool for keeping in touch with other people, the platforms have become toxic; with so much controversy and brazen keyboard warriors, it might be good for your mental health to check out for a bit.
The original intent of technology was to make our lives easier. Whether that is by solving problems, automation, productivity benefits, or instant communication. Somewhere along the way, that purpose has been suborned and now technology hinders as much as it helps. Social media is a prime example of this.
In this article, we’ll review some helpful things that we’ve actually tried to help us detox from social media. It’s normal to feel like this is impossible, but there are a lot of ways to reach a balance with the interactive apps that work well for you.
The downsides of social media
Designed to help us stay in contact with friends, share our lives, and be more sociable, users are now more lonely and more unhappy than ever. Along with social proof came social comparison, the annoying habit of comparing ourselves to other people or other people comparing us to themselves or their own ideas. That’s fine if you come out on top but is not so good if you don’t.
Looking to be cheered up by friends? Need to throw off that mood? Don’t go on social media. A 2016 study has shown that the more time you spend on social media, the unhappier you become. The University of Pittsburgh asked 1,787 American adults about their social media habits. They found that the more people used social media, the more unhappy they were.
The benefits of a social media detox
Aside from depression, the feeling of inferiority, negative comparisons, and having wasted almost two hours per day doing nothing, what are the other benefits of a social media detox?
More free time
It’s easy to lose hours and hours scrolling through a newsfeed, commenting, and watching videos. But, once you come out of your social media stupor you’ll realize how much work still needs to be done. This constant scrolling and lack of productivity can actually exacerbate anxiety and depression.
Cutting out social media eliminates the mindless scrolling we’re so accustomed to. You’ll notice you have more free time to pursue your passions, talk on the phone with friends, or even take up yoga. Staying productive isn’t easy under normal circumstances (especially if you suffer from depression which is really common this year). So, putting the phone down and getting bored for a bit may help you to start reaching some goals and getting things done.
Our journey to contentment is almost as unending as our quest for enlightenment but no less meaningful. The path towards contentment begins when you stop comparing yourself to others and seeking validation from outside.
We all have a tendency to compare our lives or achievements to others. By removing as much of that as possible from our lives, we begin to value our lives for what they really are.
It also really helps to focus solely on the things that you can control, the things right in front of you, and only the things that affect you directly. Turning off social media will help you to let go of a lot of the problems that aren’t actually yours in the first place.
Social networks are incredibly invasive. You only realize just how much they know and want to know about you when you begin closing down accounts. They want to know everything about you, your life, your friends, habits and more. They don’t exactly protect that data either and will often share it between networks.
For example, did you know WhatsApp shares your data with Facebook? If you want a sense of privacy, shutting down your accounts is a great way to achieve that feeling.
Reconnection with the real world
It is all too easy to plug yourself into the internet and never go out except to work. Withdrawing from social media and looking out the window will show you the world outside. It’s a small thing but incredibly valuable.
With everything happening in the world today it may seem really difficult to connect with others. But, even a short walk in the sunshine can improve how you feel.
If there’s one thing we all love it’s that little notification icon. It lets us know that we did something good. A post, a comment, whatever, the notification icon is always there to help us feel better. Unfortunately, this also means that we’re relying on others to tell us we’re worthy, we did a good job, or reaffirm that our opinion is “right.”
So, this becomes a constant need for validation over time and eventually, you’ll become heavily addicted to the notification icon. So much so that you’re missing out on the good things right in front of you in search of it.
How to successfully detox from social media
Beginning any new venture is the easy part. Maintaining momentum and seeing it through is where the difficulty lies. Here are some sure-fire strategies to ensure your social media detox is successful. Use some or all of these tips to withdraw from social media and regain control over your own life.
Not all tips are going to work for everyone so build a strategy that will work for you. Good luck with it!
Recognize Your Triggers
If you’re serious about getting off of social media you’ll need to be in the right mindset. First, consider why you like a particular app. What makes you check it so often? What will you miss about it? How do you feel after you’ve opened it? And finally, does it actually do you any good?
One reason your detox will fail within hours is that you weren’t prepared to handle one of the aspects that kept you going back. Talking to friends, keeping up with hobbies and how-to videos, checking the news, etc. are all things you’ll need to address first.
Know what you’re up against
Social media has been likened to an addiction. Scientists believe that the same dopamine receptors that are aroused by other addictions are also aroused by social networks. So a social media detox really is a detox.
The popular belief right now is that it takes around 100 days to break the dopamine dependency cycle. Therefore, you need to plan for at least that long in order to truly kick the habit. You should also not underestimate just how difficult it will be at times.
Delete the apps and bookmarks
You need to start as you mean to go on. Remove social media apps from your phone, tablet, laptop, computer, and wherever else you access them from. Remove their bookmarks from your browser and make sure there are no easy ways to access the networks.
You don’t yet have to delete your accounts, that comes later. By removing the apps, you have now made it difficult to access social media and it will now take a conscious effort to log on, which gives you the opportunity to exercise willpower.
Once you remove the apps and bookmarks you may notice that you unlock your phone just tap the Facebook icon (or Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). Creating this awareness means you can really see how mindlessly you access social media.
Get a little help if you need it
If you find willpower fading or keep being tempted to log onto social media, use software tools to help. Browser extensions or web filters can help block social media access if you find it difficult. Web apps such as Self Control or Focus can help you remain productive without being tempted to check your social networks.
Be prepared to fulfill your boredom
One of the most difficult things about addiction is the feeling of missing the activity you are withdrawing from. To help avoid this as much as possible, fill the same amount of time you spent on social media with something more enjoyable. For example, allow yourself two extra hours of gaming, socializing, walking, running, cycling, or whatever.
If you replace that downtime with something more positive it will be easier to cope. Rather than feeling as though you are missing out and nothing else, you may still feel as though you are missing out but the feeling of being able to do something positive instead will help take the edge off.
Track your progress
There is a good reason why support groups give coins or medals to celebrate a person’s progress. They help show us how far we have come and reaffirm our ability to succeed. Marking time is about moving forward and celebrating achievements. Tracking progress on a calendar or other display shows you progress. It helps you focus on moving forward while also celebrating what you have achieved.
Rewarding yourself for staying the course is a very effective way to overcome addiction. Break it down into manageable chunks. A small reward for a day, a slightly larger reward for a week, something nice for making a month, and so on. Exactly what form that reward takes is entirely up to your likes and dislikes.
Of course, the rewards will also come naturally when you begin to feel better after taking a step so give yourself time to reap them.
One key aspect of social media detoxing is the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). This is a powerful psychological motivator that tricks us into valuing things that are really not that important purely because other people seem to be enjoying them. One way to overcome FOMO is to take stock of what is really important to you and whether many aspects of social media matter at all in the great scheme of life.
Chances are you will have asked yourself these questions already to reach this point so taking it further shouldn’t be an issue. If you find yourself suffering from FOMO, this article from Psychology Today has some useful coping mechanisms you can use.
You Can Have a Healthy Relationship with Social Media
One thing we noticed when detoxing is how much we actually need (yes, genuinely NEED) social media. Whether you’re using it for work, school, shopping, or interacting with groups, you’ll fail miserably once you realize you actually have to have that app.
Fortunately, we’ve uncovered a few things to help those who need to cut back without completely cutting the ties.
Both Android and iOS give you the ability to set time limits on apps. Set your time for 15 minutes a day and the app will alert you and close when you’ve reached that time limit. Unfortunately this time limit is really simple to bypass so it may not work for someone who is really determined to keep scrolling.
Use Another Device
If you have to check in periodically (you have a group project, you’re an admin in a group, or you have a family member who is sick) delete the apps off of your mobile device but stay logged in on a desktop computer.
Doing this means you can still stay connected but it’s inconvenient enough that you won’t mindlessly start scrolling.
There are a few ways to have your cake and eat it too. You can start having a better relationship with social media by unfollowing anything toxic. Following news pages, friends, and even groups that make you feel anxious all need to go.
Next, choose which social media apps are actually good for you then customize them. Both Pinterest and Reddit are great for learning new things while giving you the option to minimize anything negative. If you’re really addicted to scrolling, try an app that will help you stay productive without feeling the need to constantly refresh, scroll, and engage.
Keep In Touch
Once you break your social media addiction you’ll be amazed at how many more genuine interactions you have with people you were once really close to. You can create a group message with family, or just send more texts and make more phone calls than you once did.
Social media detox
I’m not going to pretend that a social media detox is going to be easy. I know first-hand how difficult it can be at first to stop checking your phone every five minutes or refreshing your browser to see if you have any notifications. However, I am going to tell you that it is possible, that many people have done it and that it is almost universally regarded as a positive thing by those who have successfully detoxed. I count myself as one of them.
Nothing worthwhile is easy but sometimes that harder road really is the one worth taking.