There's no doubt social media has changed the way we interact with people. Not only is it easier to keep up with friends and family, we now know what our elementary school acquaintances had for lunch and the intricacies of our distant cousins’ political views. But continually scrolling through our social feeds can have some not-so-great consequences.
“Several studies show that people who spend the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half-hour or less per day on social media sites,” says business coach and consultant Barbara Cox, Ph.D. So here’s how to take break without isolating yourself or alienating your nearest and dearest.
1. Make it a group effort.
Enlist friends and family members to take part in your digital detox, says Kevin J. Roberts, author of “Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap.” This way you’ll have accountability partners to keep you from checking your accounts, and you can share in the benefits of having less screen time together.
“A tech cleanse is an opportunity to build and enhance relationships,” he says. “Before you begin, take some time to brainstorm activities that you can do together. Go hiking or for an adventure bike ride.” If you collaborate before pulling the social plug, you’ll be more excited to embark on your detox — and more likely to stick with it.
2. Be realistic.
When you set parameters for your social media cleanse, make sure you aren’t creating insurmountable benchmarks. “Be realistic about cutting back. Going cold turkey can be difficult and isn’t necessarily something you want — or need — to do,” says therapist and friendship researcher Miriam Kirmayer. “Avoid setting hard rules. This can leave you feeling guilty if — or when — you slip up.”
Instead, commit to decreasing your usage across all sites or detaching from one at a time, she says. That way you can ease yourself into the detox. As far as how long your cleanse should last, Circa Interactive communication specialist George Bradley recommends two weeks. “This gives you enough time to make changes to your daily routine that will stick once your detox is over,” he says.
3. Warn your followers.
If your following and engagement is important to you (personally or professionally), you might want to think about warning your online community, therapist Miriam Kirmayer says. “Not only will this make it more likely people will stick around because they aren’t left wondering where you went, it can give you the chance to connect with others who might have questions about a social media detox or who are going through a similar experience,” she says.
Instead of just writing a typical status update, clinical psychologist Erika Martinez, Psy.D., suggests posting something visual. “Create or download an image that conveys that you’re on a social media detox and when you’ll be back, and then upload it as your profile picture,” she says. “Something like, ‘I’m on a Digital Detox until XX!’ works just fine.” Think of your post as an out-of-office message when you’re on vacation, but have a bit more fun with it.
4. Set yourself up for success.
After initiating your detox, Andrew Selepak, director of the graduate program in social media at University of Florida, suggests uninstalling social apps from your phone or at least turning off your notifications.
Business coach Barbara Cox adds that you might want to install an app like StayFocusd on your computer that allows you to block certain websites. “Whatever browser you are using, the results are the same: If you enter one of the forbidden URLs before the time is up, you’ll be told that the site is unavailable,” she says. This will help keep you on track when you’re using your laptop or work computer.
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5. Find other ways to connect.
To keep in touch with your friends and family sans social media, send loved ones texts just to say hi or ask to meet for a quick coffee, business coach Barbara Cox says. You could also schedule video chat dates with pals who live far away. “These simple activities have more mood-boosting and connection-boosting potential than being on social media,” Cox says. And you may not be in the habit of reaching out in these ways when sites like Facebook have provided you with an easier platform.
6. Purge your follows.
As your detox winds down and you prepare to jump back into your social media scene, clean up your friends and follows, says influencer and blogger Piotr Ryterski. “You should limit your list to people who you are close to,” he says. “This way you spend less time trying to keep up with whatever is being posted or thrown at you. You get to keep your sanity and stress levels in check.”
This ensures that you’ll only read about people you know personally or accounts you really care about, rather than seeing stories and photos that don’t have much meaning to you. The same goes for work or business accounts: Purge contacts and brands that lack true connection or collaboration so you can focus on the followers and friends who really matter.
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7. Keep it up.
After your hiatus ends, allow the spirit of the detox to remain. “You should have somewhat adapted to day-to-day life without social media,” communication specialist George Bradley says. “Keep up these practices even when you begin using social media once more.”
And business coach Barbara Cox also recommends easing back in slowly and aiming to keep your usage lean. “Since research has shown that social media can lead to addiction, loneliness and measurably affects productivity at school and work, continue to monitor your use,” she says. Ideally, she advises aiming for less than 30 minutes of scrolling your feeds a few times a week at most.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever done a social media detox? What was it like? Do you think you need a social media detox? Will you try any of the tips on this list? Is there anything else you’d add? Share your thoughts, questions and stories in the comments below!