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Social media is an integral part of many people’s lives. It has significantly changed the way we interact with each other and share information. We can use our various accounts to reconnect with middle school classmates, search for a new dessert recipe, and even find a job, all from the comfort of our couches. We’re always connected and constantly aware of what’s happening in the lives of people we know and even people we don’t.
Despite social media’s already strong presence in our everyday lives, its influence continues to grow. According to Statista, there were 2.46 billion social network users worldwide in 2017 alone, and it’s estimated that by the year 2021, around a third of Earth’s entire population will be active social media users.
But sometimes, the pressure to keep up with friends, trends, and current events becomes overwhelming. All too often, we find ourselves interrupting important tasks to check our phones. Additionally, many of us fight feelings of insecurity, jealousy, and even depression when scrolling through our news feeds. When those emotions become too prominent, we may decide that it’s time to log out for a while. As a result, what happens when we disengage from social media, either for a short time or permanently?
For many of us, checking social media is a habit, and when you don’t have the option to keep using it, you might be at a loss for what to do with yourself. For instance, if you usually navigate right to the Twitter homepage the second you get online, you won’t be entirely sure where to go when you’re not using Twitter anymore. But don’t worry; there are plenty of other great websites to fill the hole that social media leaves in your internet usage.
You might seize the opportunity to find a new hobby or to learn a new skill.
Maybe you’ll discover that you enjoy watching knitting tutorials, learning about cake decorating, or reading conspiracy theories. The entire internet is your oyster, and soon you’ll find just how many awesome websites you’ve been missing out on while you were scrolling through your news feeds.
Quitting anything cold turkey—even if you’re only quitting temporarily—can be a challenge, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not immediately successful. While relapses are discouraging and can make you feel like a failure, they are a normal part of any quitting endeavor.
A good way to avoid relapsing is to keep yourself occupied. Boredom is dangerous, as it can prompt us to act on our immediate impulses without considering the consequences.
It often causes us to make short-sighted decisions in an attempt to fill the time. One way to combat this is to make a list of activities to refer to when you feel boredom start to set in so you don’t leave yourself without something to do.
If you still feel like you can’t resist the siren’s call of your accounts, try deleting the apps from your phone. Alternatively, ask a friend or family member to change your passwords to something that only they know. And, if all else fails, you can always temporarily deactivate—or even permanently close—your accounts as a last resort. If you choose to close rather than deactivate, however, make sure to save your photos and other important information so they’re not deleted along with your accounts.
At first, you’ll probably feel pretty out of touch with the world. Since social media is one of the first places that people post news, share vacation photos, and catch up with each other, you might feel like you’re missing out by not being a part of it. You’ll feel like you’re the last one to find out about engagements or births, and you may miss live updates on breaking news stories.
It will also be harder to connect with people. You won’t be able to friend the classmate you hit it off with or follow your favorite celebrity on Instagram. You’ll also have to work harder at remembering birthdays or event dates since Facebook won’t be there to remind you about them.
But, this can turn out to be positive. Having limited opportunities to connect with people can actually help you focus more on the relationships that are most important to you.
The fact that you’ll know less about what your family and friends are doing will lead you to go out of your way to find out and vice versa. This means that you’ll have more opportunities to experience moments of human connection. While social media can be a great way to keep in touch with people, it can never quite replace the feeling of looking someone in the eye, hugging them, smiling at them, or laughing with them. It’s hard to achieve such moments of closeness over the internet, so communicating with loved ones in person often allows for more satisfying interactions.
You’ll also learn to have faith in those relationships because you’ll be reassured that your friendship with someone is just as strong as when you’re not liking their photos on Instagram or messaging them on Facebook. Luckily, there are still many other ways to communicate and connect with people: you can text them, call them, meet up with them in person, or, if you’re feeling really nostalgic, write them a letter.
Even if the only time you spend on social media is just checking your notifications throughout the day, those minutes add up. Without social media, you can use the extra time to do other things. You’ll be surprised at the extra activities you can fit into your day just by cutting out social media.
You’ll also experience increased concentration because your phone won’t intrude by buzzing with new notifications.
It’s hard to ignore a notification once we hear it go off, which means we often check our phones immediately, even when we’re in the middle of something. And while liking a photo or posting a quick status update doesn’t take more than a few seconds, it takes us longer to refocus on what we were doing before. Without social media, you’ll have fewer excuses to procrastinate and will be forced to give your full attention to the task at hand.
Social media is a highlight reel, not a way to accurately depict “real life.” Our news feeds are flooded with beautiful people taking glamorous vacations and sharing impressive accomplishments. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it can give the impression that everyone’s lives are perfect and that they have it all together. Unfortunately, it’s tempting to compare our lives with what we see on social media and then dwell on our shortcomings.
Spending time away from social media and watching life happen in real time reminds us that there’s more to life than just the Instagrammable moments.
We’re only human, after all. We have bad hair days, our kids have meltdowns in the middle of the grocery store, we have awkward encounters with waiters or cashiers, and we walk around without noticing the food that’s stuck in our teeth. However, social media can cause us to forget that these things are normal and happen to everyone. Ultimately, when you take a social media break, you’ll be less worried about measuring up to others and more willing to simply live in the moment.
We’ve all had those moments where we log onto Facebook to quickly check our messages before bed, but one thing leads to another, and before we know it, it’s 2 a.m., and we’re watching funny videos of laughing babies or talking dogs.
Staring at engaging content on a glowing screen before falling asleep can stimulate your brain, making it harder to become calm enough to sleep.
Without the distraction of social media or the pressure to catch up on new posts and messages before bed, you’ll feel more relaxed and will be able to fall asleep more quickly. Consequently, rather than dragging yourself out of bed with bloodshot eyes after hitting the snooze button several times, feeling like you barely got any sleep, you’ll wake up feeling rested and ready to face the day ahead.
If a social media detox sounds like something you’d like to try, but you’re not quite sure where to begin, start small: turn off your phone and computer for one night and do something that doesn’t involve technology. Maybe that’s catching up on the book you bought a while ago but haven’t had time to read. Maybe it’s lighting some scented candles and enjoying a nice hot bath. Maybe it’s unearthing your good casserole dish and treating yourself to a home-cooked meal.
No matter who we are or where we are in life, we can all benefit from logging out of our accounts, turning off our notifications, and taking time to breathe. This is not easy to do, especially since social media is central to many parts of our everyday lives. However, if you’re willing to put in the effort, you might be surprised at the results.
A social media detox may improve your life in small ways, like simply giving you more time to do things you love. It might also prompt bigger insights, such as improved mental health or increased clarity and focus. Alternatively, you may decide that going without social media is not for you—but that short break may increase your appreciation for your accounts. Either way, attempting a social media detox is definitely a worthwhile endeavor and one that we should all try at some point in our lives.
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