src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2022/10/ankush-minda-FBL09HBLuWg-unsplash.jpg” alt=”How and Why to Take a Social Media Break (and what happened when I did it)”>
If you’re anything like me you may spend hours on social media. If you are, you probably know the TikTok infinite scroll and doomscrolling on Twitter early in the morning. However, excessive social media use has been linked with increased anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and other negative consequences.
Although it is not healthy to consume excessive amounts of anything, social media time is something that we often don’t stop to consider and review. We will be discussing the benefits and reasons behind taking a social media vacation, as well as what happens to a chronically online person (a.k.a. I decide to take one.
Why not take a break from social media?
Multiple studies have confirmed the negative effects of using social media. A cross-national survey was conducted in the U.S., U.K. and Australia in 2022. It found that people who used social media to entertain themselves or decrease loneliness during the pandemic had poorer mental health. ExpressVPN’s 2021 survey found that 86% of 1,500 Americans had reported negative effects of social media on happiness and self-image.
Addiction can also be caused by social media. Social media addiction can be defined as an “uncontrollable urge or desire to use social media and a commitment to so much time and effort that it interferes with other areas of your life.”
If you feel any of these resonates with you, then you might need a social media detox. Even if you are not yet at the point where you have an addiction or poor mental state, there could be other signs that you should take a break.
- Frequent frustration or annoyance with trendy posts or topics
- Comparing yourself with other people
- Trouble sleeping, and you check social media first thing when you wake up
- Feeling or seeing an increase in anxiety and/or depression symptoms
- Social media is a time-consuming activity.
- Feeling disappointed that you didn’t receive any engagement on a comment or post
- Focusing on the wrong things, missing deadlines, or neglecting chores can lead to a loss of focus.
- You may feel physical distress if your social media isn’t accessible for a certain time.
Social media is addictive. It’s no surprise that many people find it difficult to quit. If you feel that social media is negatively impacting your mental health and productivity, it may be time to take a break.
The potential benefits of taking a break from social media
Even if you are only able to stay away for a few minutes, there are many benefits to stepping away from social media. Many studies have been done on the effects that limiting social media use has on our lives, and some of these findings are quite interesting.
- The 2021 study showed that social media usage for one week was associated with improved well-being and prevented sleep problems.
- A 2021 study also found that students experienced a positive shift in mood, anxiety, and better sleep after taking a break from social networking.
- A 2020 study asked participants not to use social media for one week. After the abstinence , participants reported a significant improvement in mental well-being as well as social connectivity.
- In 2018, a study showed that social media abstinence for approximately a week reduces stress among both normal and extreme social media users, and that these effects are more prominent in the former group.
- This 2018 study also found that the limit of social media usage to 30 minutes per day significantly decreased feelings of loneliness and despair.
Many studies have shown positive correlations between social media breaks, better mental health, and other psychological factors. What does it look like to actually experience these breaks?
What did I do when I stopped using social media?
Statisticians and data can be great, but they are not real life experiences. To prepare for this article I took a week-long break from social media and recorded my feelings. The length and method I chose were realistic because social media is an important part of my job at Buffer. I also deleted all the apps that I used the most on my phone during the week.
We are now on the same page. Here is the complete data and highlights of my time off (henceforth referred to as Break Week) and the week following.
- Tumblr, Instagram, TikTok and Whatsapp were deleted (yes, I still use Tumblr).
- From Sunday to Saturday, for 7 days
- The hard data collected from the ScreenTime tracking feature of iPhone’s iPhone
- Notes taken in my Notes app
The Stats: Before and After
Total screen time: I spent more time on my smartphone during Break Week than on other apps, such as YouTube to watch videos and Chrome to read content. My Chrome time dropped nearly half a week after my Break.
Most Use Categories:Overall, I spent a lot of time on Social Media during Break Week. This was even taking into account the many times I had to redownload apps in order to take screenshots of articles. Despite the apparent decrease in screen time, I returned to my old habits after the Break ended. I spent a total 24 hours and 13 minutes on social media. I used Social Media apps for the following week, despite the apparent drop in screen time.
Pickups I picked up my phone more during Break Week then the week before. This is probably because I instinctively open my phone to search for social media apps. When I was not being distracted by my usual distractions, I turned to my browser. There was a significant difference in the apps I used after I picked up the phone. Chrome was the most popular during Break Week while Twitter was my most frequently used the week following. Funny thing is how much time I spent using Farfetch, my favorite shopping app, during Break Week. Window shopping for self-soothe seems very in-brand to me.
What have I learned from this experience?
For me, social media is a distraction.
When I needed to distract myself, I found myself reaching for my smartphone a lot. I was able to find other ways to use my time without the apps on my smartphone. Although my screen time did not change, I spent more time listening to music, reading and watching videos than usual. My Friday log says, “I have consumed so many random YouTube videos this week that my recommendations will never be the same.”
I was hard hit by FOMO, but it wasn’t as bad as what I had hoped
Social media is the place that many people go to when they see breaking news headlines. It has also become the main source of information for many people, including myself. So without my apps, I felt like I was missing out on something, even though I was receiving my New York Times newsletters, and regular updates from Google News.
This was evident in my notes, where I repeatedly stated that I wasn’t aware of what was happening outside my bubble. It wasn’t news, but it was funny.
- 6:43 PM: FOMO is not as bad today. I have many things to distract me from social media.
- 7:06 PM: The FOMO is back! Burna Boy, a Nigerian artist, has released a new video LIVE. I miss the live tweet experience
It was my desire to share things I didn’t need to
I have become accustomed to sharing on a whim so it was strange not to be able to snap a photo or record a video, upload it anywhere, or write a tweet or LinkedIn post.
One note in my Wednesday log stated, “I bought my parents a few nights at a resort beach resort for their anniversary. But I cannot post the photos of how adorable they were taking all their photographs.” Sad.” A bit dramatic, if you ask me.
However, once I realized that I had deleted my social media accounts, the cycle of sharing and then feeling the urge to share ended, I found that I no longer felt the need to do so. Even though it’s almost a month later I haven’t updated my social media nearly as often as I used. Although I might eventually fall back to my old habits, I have definitely improved my ability to manage the urge to post when I feel inspired.
Even though I had to redownload apps for work, I was satisfied with the outcome. The week and time that I took off were very low-stakes. I didn’t experience anything particularly interesting, but it wasn’t enough to make me regret taking that week off.
This is all to say that even a short break every six months will not cause you any more discomfort than you might think. You may find it inspires you to be more creative in how you spend your online time. It will also force you to rethink how you interact with social media and establish healthier boundaries.
How to make a social media break
Let’s talk about how to take a break from social networking. These are some helpful tips:
Set a limit
Limiting your time on social media is one way to get rid of the addiction. To track your time, use an app or timer and keep to your limits. This will allow you to be more aware of how much time you are spending on social media, and help you reduce your overall time spent on it.
Apple devices have an automated screen time tracker, so you can use apps like Space or Forest for better management.
Eliminate the apps
If you are unable to set a limit, consider deleting social media apps from the phone. Although this is more drastic, it can help break the habit. If you feel the need, you can always redownload apps. I found myself often needing to access one or more apps to take screenshots or link. You would be amazed at how much you can do without boring Instagram deep dives into the account of your university professor’s niece.
You can take a break from certain platforms
You can also take a break on the social media platforms that you use most. You might consider taking a break from TikTok if you spend too much time on it. You can make it fun by creating a reward system that rewards you for opening the app every time.
You can find other things to do with your time
Try to find something to do when you feel the need to scroll through social networks. Take a walk, take a book or call a friend. There are many things you can do that don’t require you to be looking at a computer screen. You might even find a new hobby. I found more podcasts while on vacation.
Take time off Be realistic
If you spend a lot on social media, it’s important that you are realistic about how you will disconnect from it. It’s not possible for everyone to be away from social media for long periods of time.
You will see greater benefits to your mental and emotional well-being, whether you decide to quit cold turkey or take small breaks, such as one day per week or one week per month.
Did you know that you can track how much time you spend using social media? Tweet @buffer your stats! You can trust that it is a completely judgment-free area.
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