If your social media usage has shifted from fun and insightful to scary and anxiety-inducing, it may be time to do a social media detox. As a social media professional, I’m generally a major proponent of its use. I truly believe that social media, when used properly, can help us achieve our greatest desires. At the same time, I’d be ignorant to deny that social media can have a negative impact on our wellbeing if left out of check. When in balance, social media connects us, entertains us, and educates us. When out of balance, social media divides us, overwhelms us, and can even depress us.
In times of adversity and great change, whether that be through natural disaster, an election cycle, or a public health crisis, the double-edged sword of social media becomes magnified. For so many, turning to an online community during tough times provides connection, love, and support. For others, it may only add to the negative emotions you may be experiencing. Regardless of where your experience falls on the spectrum, there are plenty of ways to easily cleanse your mind and your content consumption on social media.
Just like there are many ways to detox the body, there are many ways to detox your social media. For individuals who have built careers and companies based online, fully disconnecting from social media likely isn’t an option. On the other hand, there are just as many individuals that may be well-suited to fully disconnect. With varying needs for technological connection in mind, here are three practical ways to implement a level of social media detoxing today.
Detox Level One- Clean up your Newsfeed
If you’re unable to take a full-blown break from social media, cleaning up your newsfeed is a great entry level detox solution. Whether you realize it or not, we curate the content that we consume. From the accounts we choose to follow to the posts we read and engage with via liking, commenting and sharing, all of these actions help inform what we see in the future. Further, each user’s newsfeed is completely individualized based on historical behavior. Why? Social media algorithms have been built to optimize for engagement, which means platforms like Facebook and Instagram serve up the content that they think you are most likely to enjoy, with the hope of earning your thumb taps. The good news here is that we have the full power to influence this algorithm at any time, by cleaning up the content we consume and engage.
If you’re ready to filter your newsfeed, start by making a Yes List. This is a list of things you want to consume and should ladder up to your ultimate purpose in using social media. Examples:
My Yes List
Friends and Family
Equally as important is outlining the things you don’t want to consume, or your No, Thanks List. Are there people or brands that make you feel bad about yourself? News sources that stress you out? People who are overly negative and detract from your state of positivity? It’s okay to say “no, thanks” and sever your digital ties. Examples:
My No, Thanks List
Once you’ve established your Yes and No, Thanks Lists, go through each of your social media accounts, and adjust your connections to align with what you ultimately want to consume. Similarly, be sure to engage with the content you’d like to see more of and avoid engaging with things that no longer serve you. Overall, cleaning up your newsfeed is a great entry level social detox, and can be done on a reoccurring basis to keep things in balance.
Detox Level Two- Limit Your Daily Screen Time
If you’ve cleaned up your newsfeed and you want to take your social media detox to the next level, look to limit your screen time. I know, I know, easier said than done. Start by limiting your screen time within a schedule that works best for you. Here are a few different ways to think about it.
Daily screen time limit
The average user spends about 28 minutes per day on Instagram alone. My daily average is much higher, around 1 hour and 45 minutes. Wondering how much time you spend on Instagram? Once logged in to Instagram, navigate to the menu bar, and click on “Your Activity” – this is where Instagram reports out your average daily use, and also offers up helpful tools including a daily reminder and notification setting preferences to help you curb your usage. I’d highly recommend setting a daily reminder, which will ping you once you’ve hit your daily maximum.
Day-part your consumption
Another way to think about limiting screen time is through day-parting your usage. Meaning, making an agreement or social media schedule for yourself where you allot certain hours of the day for social media usage. In the habit of scrolling first thing in the morning? Try to hold off until lunchtime. Does nighttime scrolling (and blue light) keep you up past your bedtime? Try cutting your social usage off two hours before bedtime. Ultimately, you may need to experiment with a couple of different day-parting schedules until you find one that works. Once you do find a day-parting solution that works for you, be sure to stick to it. Consistency over time will help create healthy habits.
Week-part your consumption
Alternatively, you could try week-parting your social media usage. What does week parting look like? Identifying certain days of the week to use social media, and certain days to go dark. Here are a couple of examples of week-parting schedules:
Social Media Schedule
Use Monday-Friday, detox Saturday-Sunday
Use Friday-Sunday, detox Monday-Thursday
Use Monday-Saturday, detox on Sunday
Whether you choose to set a daily usage limit or carve out certain times or days of the week to use social media, identifying a plan that works for your schedule is the quickest way to success. Don’t forget, it’s okay to start small and expand your detox days over time.
Detox Level Three- Take a Social Media Vacation
If you’re the zero or 100, all or nothing, go big or go home type, you may want to consider a full-blown social media vacation. What does this look like? Imagine flying to an exotic location for a 10-day retreat while leaving your phone, tablet, and laptop at home. That’s right, we’re talking about a complete disconnect. Are you up for the challenge? Before you head out for vacation, be sure to complete your check list with the following considerations:
Social Media Vacation Check List
Decide on the length of your break- whether that be 7, 14, 21, or 30 days
Publish your “Out of Office” reply by posting on your social channels. Let people know that you’ll be away and share when you plan to come back. This keeps you accountable and eases any worry you may cause in your community by otherwise dropping off suddenly.
Take care of unfinished business by cleaning up your inboxes. Respond to outstanding direct messages, finish the comments you want to leave, etc.
Log out of the social media apps on your devices
Delete the social media apps from your devices if logging out won’t be sufficient
Relax, recharge, and resist the urge to log back in before your chosen return date
Returning to the statistics on social usage, knowing that the average user spending 28 minutes per day on Instagram, a social media detox of one platform alone would free up 3.2 hours of time each week. On the higher end of the scale, a user spending upwards of 2 hours daily on Instagram would gain an additional 14 hours of time each week. With a significant amount of newfound time on your hands, the most exciting part of a social media detox is deciding which stops and day trips you’ll plan throughout the course of your social media vacation.
As much as social media is an integral part of our daily lives, taking the occasional break provides the opportunity to disconnect and reset. When in balance, social media connectivity educates and entertains. When out of balance, it has the ability to overwhelm and cause feelings of anxiety or fear. If you find yourself reaching the turning point, consider cleansing your newsfeed, limiting daily consumption, or taking a social media vacation. Utilizing any combination of these three levels of social media detoxification is a great way to bring your social media consumption back into balance. What’s more? Occasional, mindful breaks from social media infuse you with a renewed sense of energy for engaging with the people and brands you love most when you return. Safe travels.