Social media is a cruel mistress. On the one hand, it helps us stay connected to love ones, keeps us updated on current events and exposes us to beautiful travel destinations. On the other, it helps us stay connected to people we hate, distorts our view of current events to devastating effect, and exposes us to beautiful travel destinations we can’t afford to visit without a sponsorship deal.
Even though popular documentaries like The Social Dilemma have brought to the public’s attention the ills of social media usership, it continues to thrive whether we like it or not. We’re going to open up the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al because… what else are we going to do? Social media isn’t some strange pastime of teenagers anymore. It’s the engine of modern life. Without it, not only do we sacrifice a lot of friendships, but job opportunities and other important updates, too.
A social media detox is the way to go if you’re feeling burnt out. While there’s nothing inherently wrong about using social media, it’s important to establish a purpose and intention. Whether it’s a day, a week, or a month, having a breaking is highly recommended by psychologists, and is scientifically proven to enhance mental performance and make you feel happier.
Thinking about a detox from social media but unsure how to do it? Unsure how to fill the time and gaps in your days without the instant hit of scrolling? Worry not, we’ve got you covered with a few choice tips below. From downloading meditation apps, to redesigning your lock screen to even putting rubber bands around your phone to make life harder for yourself. We’re not judging here. If these remedies work, they work.
Detox with a friend
First off, maybe consider detoxing with a friend. As with any detox, having some kind of support system will always go a long way. If you have another person to meet up and hang out doing non-social media things with, your break will go so much more smoothly.
“Let’s say you intend on leaving your phone at home while you run errands one week. Once the week is over, check in with your buddy and let them know how you did,” says Nancy Colier, a psychotherapist and author of The Power of Off. You’re more likely to stick to your goals and feel less discouraged if you fall short when you have someone to lean on. Quite literally if you’re truly strung out.
Check out what apps you’re using the most
Maybe it’s not all social media you find yourself hooked to but one in particular. You might spend only twenty minutes a day on something like Instagram, but spend four hours on Twitter and end up restricting them both. Even though poor old Instagram hasn’t done you much harm.
Download an app such as Moment, available on both iOS and Android, that helps you break down how much time you’re spending on different apps. For the iPhone users out there, you’re probably already familiar with your device’s built-in Screen Time feature. Look at your list of “Most Used” apps instead of your daily average (which’ll factor in email and non-toxic, work-related phone usage) and see how much time you’re wasting on specific social media platforms. The answer may shock you.
Put a rubber band around your phone
This option is one of the more drastic ones. Whereas most tips centre around improving willpower and exploring the benefits of being able to just say “no”, some are catered to those of you who honestly cannot prohibit yourself from touching your phone.
Enter: the rubber band. Placing a good few around your phone can stop you from mindlessly reaching for your device. When you go to pick up your phone, there will now be a physical obstacle that prevents you from doing so (at least for a few seconds) giving you the chance to reflect and consider what it is you’re really after and whether it will improve anything.
Redesign your lock screen
Catherine Price, author of How to Break up With Your Phone and founder of Screen/Life Balance created a lock screen that prompts phone users to ask themselves three questions: What for? Why now? What else? “Sometimes it’s a tick and sometimes you pick it up because you’re feeling lonely or bored. The point of this exercise isn’t to beat yourself up for checking your phone, but to understand your own habits,” Price says.
Also, create folders on your home screen. You’re more likely to click on those social media icons when they’re right there, one tap away. Putting social media apps into a separate folder creates one extra step you have to take to access them. It might not sound much but it’s another chance to make you consider your choices. Try titling the folder “Useless apps” or “STOP!” or “Have some self-respect!”
Part ways with your phone after a certain hour
This one’s in the same zone as the rubber band tip, though less hilariously drastic. Imagine it’s the mid-noughties again. You get home from school or wherever and log into MSN. You chat to your friends or maybe a girlfriend/boyfriend. It’s a marvel. Instant messaging, miles apart. Can life get any better? Then after a few hours you log out. You decide you’ve had your fix. Such a scenario is implausible today. Nobody logs out. Logging out, itself, logged out of common practice.
To combat this 24-hour online world we now find ourselves living in, make a curfew for your device. Let’s say 9pm. Take your phone upstairs or in another room and place it away until the morning. The less access you have to it, the less likely you are to galivant around social media until the early hours. Certainly don’t sleep with your phone next to the pillow.
Set time limits on your apps
If rubber bands and curfews aren’t working you should consider downloading an app like Freedom (available on iOS and Android). There you can set up blocks of time that you’d like Freedom to block social media apps. The hardcore detoxers out there can even enable a “Locked Mode” which won’t allow you to cancel those time limits no matter how much you plead.
A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found that reducing social media use to 30 minutes a day resulted in a huge reduction in levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, insomnia, and FOMO. But you don’t need to cut back on your social media use that much to improve your mental health. The same study concluded that just being more mindful of your social media use can have significant results on your mood and focus.
Not going on your phone may not be enough. You may be seeking out further mindfulness. A touch of spirituality. Meditation can help your decision making, including what you should and shouldn’t be doing for the sake of your mental health. Watch a few videos, download an app like Headspace. You could even just try it out with no assistance. See where it takes you.
Daily meditation can help you perform better at work, among other things. Research found that meditation helps increase your focus and attention and improves your ability to multitask. Meditation helps clear our minds and focus on the present moment and not what might be happening or might have happened on Instagram or Twitter. This gives you a huge productivity boost and lowers the risk of depression.
Create a new morning habit
What should you do in the morning? You’ve had a good rest from your phones since 9pm the previous night. Surely that warrants a reward via social media? If that works for you, sure. But why not keep the ball rolling? Why potentially depress yourself from the moment you wake up and ruin your entire day ahead when you could live in ignorant bliss, if at least for a couple of hours or minutes?
Choose instead to make the initial moments of your morning positive by adopting a ritual that doesn’t involve technology. Watch the sunrise from your garden, go for a walk, have a cold shower, buy a journal and write your objectives for the day in it.
Use your phone for other things
Ultimately, at some point we have to use phones. They’re too ubiquitous to avoid for your entire life. So let’s be real here and get down to all the stuff you could use your phone for in a practical sense. You could purchase apps such as Audible to listen to books, fiction or otherwise. Alternatively, you could get Kindle to read them. If you’re with friends, download an interactive game in the App Store or Google Play to turn phone usage into a positive, genuinely-social experience.
Consuming media and technology in ways other than spending time on social media can alter the way you view your down time, and help you find more balance in your everyday routine.