Thinking about a social media detox?
Don’t get me wrong, social media is a great tool if we use it properly…
At its best, social media helps us keep track of friends and family, even from a distance. It strengthens our relationships and communication skills. It can be a wonderful way to stay in touch.
But, at its worst, social media eats up our time, causes us to experience FOMO, and damages our mental health with a constant stream of (often negative) information. It can put our privacy at risk and color our worldview, as well as our self-perception.
As I examined my relationship with social media, I realized it was another area of my life I needed to declutter and clean up. I decided a social media cleanse was in order to help me get on track.
After I simplified my digital life, a social media cleanse was the perfect way to follow up and continue to declutter my emotional life. After all, organizing and simplifying doesn’t only apply to our homes and belongings.
If you’re ready to cut back, here are 13 easy tips to help you take a social media detox.
1. Turn Off Notifications
To begin your social media detox, one of the simplest starter steps is to simply turn off your notifications!
When notifications constantly pop up on your phone, your Apple watch, your tablet, and your desktop, it’s very overwhelming. There’s so much pressure to check to see the latest message.
If you get notifications on your phone, it’s as simple as adjusting the settings on your social media apps.
Turn off notifications on all social media platforms like:
- Facebook…and any other platforms you use.
If you must receive notifications (perhaps because your social media is associated with your work), you may still cut back. Simply turn off your popup notifications but allow them to be sent to your email.
From there, if you use Gmail or a similar email client, set up a filter on your inbox so your notifications are routed directly to a folder. That way you can quickly sort through your messages during scheduled periods a few times per day.
2. Track Your Time
If you aren’t sure whether a social media detox is necessary, monitor the time you spend on social media.
Here are a few tools to track your social media time:
- Apple now has a Screen Time feature.
- Android has the Digital Wellbeing tool.
- Moment for iOS
- QualityTime for Android
And what do we learn from our screen time numbers?
Quite a lot, actually! Many of us wonder where our time goes and how we will fit in work, childcare, time at the gym, and more. Yet, the average adult spends around 45 minutes on social media per day and nearly half the day interacting with media in one form or another!
It may shock you to discover days where you spend hours on social media. I know I was certainly surprised to see how much time I was spending on Facebook, Instagram, and the other platforms.
Seeing those usage numbers in black in white will give you the motivation you need to take a social media detox. What activities you could do instead of spending time on your screen?
3. Move Your Social Media Apps
If you’re convinced you need a social media detox after viewing your screen time numbers, use this trick to shift your mindset: simply move your social media apps to a folder or a hidden spot on your phone.
Remove all social media from your bookmarks bar and start-up page in your internet browser as well.
It sounds silly, but human beings are creatures of habit and routine, so if we want to create new neural pathways in our brain and change our behavior, we must break our “triggers.” Opening social media apps on your phone becomes automatic: you pick up your phone and tap your favorite app without thinking.
Moving your apps and icons for social media requires a tiny additional moment of thought before you click. In that moment, you stop being mindless with social media usage and instead it becomes more mindful and deliberate. You start to build new habits.
4. Check Your Privacy Settings
Have you checked your social media privacy settings lately?
It seems almost daily we hear about a new privacy breach or concern about the information we share on social media. In addition to your personal security and the safety of your children, visiting your privacy settings is an important part of your social media detox.
How many times are you surprised (or annoyed) by:
- Too many reminders?
- Birthday notifications?
- Friend requests from strangers?
- Spam messages?
- Targeted ads?
It almost feels like they know what you’re thinking, right?!
Well, thanks to cookies and algorithmic tools, social media (and the internet in general) is getting smarter and better at showing you what it believes will catch your interest. While it’s not mindreading, it’s a bit unnerving.
Checking your privacy settings is also important on media like LinkedIn, so you maintain your professional relationships and build the targeted connections you want (but avoid those you don’t).
Many employers may even check social media on potential employees to ensure their image is in line with the company’s persona. Those wild college parties and political rants may come back to haunt you if your privacy isn’t carefully looked after.
Need assistance? There are many tutorials online to help you adjust to the latest privacy settings on Facebook and other social media outlets.
Don’t forget to set a reminder to revisit your privacy across all platforms every few months. Security and privacy settings are often changing, so it’s important to keep up on the latest updates.
5. Clean Up Your Social Media Groups
You may discover you belong to many social media groups you don’t even recall joining or want to belong to. Every time you look at your newsfeed, you’re inundated with a lot of information that no longer applies to your life.
Places to clean up your social media affiliations include:
It’s simple to opt out of groups, but it’s also a bit time consuming. If the objective of your social media detox is to spend less time on these platforms, then limit the time you spend cleaning up your groups to 15-20 minutes per platform to do a quick weeding.
Don’t feel bad about leaving groups that no longer serve your needs or interest you. Remember: your time is precious and you’re freeing it up so you can do more of what you love. (The folks in the groups won’t notice anyway—and if they do, they’ll get over it.)
6. Snooze Groups for 30 Days
Unsure if you really want to leave a Facebook group? Take a 30-day hiatus by snoozing the group in your newsfeed!
If you see a post from the group in your newsfeed, simply click the settings button on the message and select “snooze for 30 days” from the menu. Snooze messages from individuals or from the entire group.
This simple trick will allow you to avoid getting engaged in a group “commentroversy” during your social media detox. This is especially effective if there are groups you need to keep for professional reasons but find they take up too much time or emotional bandwidth as part of your regular newsfeed.
If after 30 days you find you aren’t missing the presence of these groups, consider leaving them altogether.
If you aren’t ready to say goodbye, you can always pause or “snooze” their comments again for another 30 days.
7. Hide or (if Possible) Unfriend
Are there relationships on social media you wish you could end, but aren’t sure how? It’s time to hide or unfriend those toxic relationships.
Some people are very comfortable with paring down their friends list on Facebook and unfollowing contacts on Twitter and Instagram. For others, the prospect is worrisome.
Of the social media outlets, Facebook has the most stigma attached to “unfriending” contacts. Fortunately, they’ve remedied this with the “unfollow” feature, which will eliminate them from your newsfeed unbeknownst to them.
This is especially important if you find yourself upset by certain posts, solicitations, or conversations. Take back your time and energy from social media!
You also have the option to limit the audience for your posts as well, to say goodbye to those commentators who bring you down.
On other platforms: Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, following is less personal than “friending” on Facebook. Most contacts on those platforms won’t notice or worry if you stop following them.
LinkedIn should generally be limited to professional contacts.
Keep in mind, the more you comment and like posts from contacts, the more their posts will appear in your newsfeed. Some platforms allow you to choose to see “fewer posts like these” which can also help. Algorithms curate your feed to bring you more of what you want to see, so don’t interact with the posts you don’t like.
If you’re feeling brave and really want to go all the way with your social media detox, start to downsize your friends list. Consider what contacts you want to keep:
- Only close friends?
- Close friends and family?
- What about acquaintances or more distant connections?
8. Log Out Each Time
After cleaning out your newsfeeds and limiting your friends and groups, what else can you do to keep yourself from spending too much time on social media? An easy trick is to completely log out of all platforms each time you stop using them.
This is especially effective if you find yourself mindlessly clicking on Pinterest or Instagram each time you get a free moment. If you feel you’re missing out (FOMO) when you don’t look at the platform for a few hours, then a social media cleanse will help you get past it.
Completely log out and close the browser each time you view social media. Like moving apps on your phone, logging in and out creates an extra step, giving you a moment’s pause before you scroll.
If you’re passing the time while waiting in line, for example, use an app like Evernote to virtually “clip and save” articles you want to read later. Your browsing time will become more productive and intentional.
9. Delete Apps from Your Phone
Ready for a real challenge?! Here’s a big one: Delete social media apps from your phone!
If you’re ready to take your social media detox to the next level, delete your most used social media apps and free yourself from constantly checking your phone.
Challenge yourself to go app-free for a day, a week, or even a month. You may find limiting certain social media platforms to desktop-time only will help you put down your phone and reengage with your life.
If the thought of deleting these apps worries you, examine why. Ask yourself:
- Are you truly afraid you will miss out?
- What will you miss the most?
- What would you gain from less time on your phone?
Remind yourself—you can always reinstall the apps (for free) when you’re ready. Your information will still remain as you left it.
10. Schedule Social Media Time
If you want to keep your commitment to the gym or remember work appointments, you need to add them to your agenda. Scheduling activities helps us reclaim our time and the same is true for scheduling social media use.
If you want to use social media, because you find it enhances your life and builds connections with friends, then create time for it. Determine which platforms are meaningful and important to you.
For example, you may find you prefer to check Facebook and Instagram daily, but would feel comfortable checking LinkedIn and Pinterest once or twice per month.
Schedule your social media time in 15-minute blocks. This way you’ll really engage with those you care about.
During the scheduled time, comment on posts and admire photos all you want. If there’s an article you want to read, add it to your file to read later. This saves you from getting pulled into hours of reading comments on an article or looking through pictures that don’t interest you.
Make your time on social media mindful, deliberate, and purposeful rather than wasted.
11. Block Social Media During Work Hours
Do you find yourself distracted by social media at the office? It’s amazing how much time we spend on social media, particularly if it’s part of our job.
Following all the above steps, should help you with your social media detox, but if you still find you’re clicking and scrolling when work is slow, you may want to use tools to help use social media less at work:
- The Google Extension StayFocused is a simple Chrome add-on.
- WasteNoTime is another helpful extension.
- Cold Turkey blocks websites, games, and apps.
- Forest is an app that helps you leave your phone alone while working.
Use these tools to limit your time for all distracting websites including Google News or YouTube—any site sidetracking your productivity.
If social media is part of your job, estimate how much time you need to stay productive and engaged for work and set it as your limit. If that seems too challenging (or the time requirements vary), commit to only using social media for work purposes while you’re at the office or during work time.
Use a separate login and account for work and your personal social media whenever possible.
12.Store Your Screens Away from Your Day-to-Day Living Activities
How many of us carry our phone with us all the time…
…To the restroom?
…The dinner table?
Not only is this quite unsanitary when you really think about it, but it also damages our relationships and mental health. Mindful eating and restful sleep are very important parts of nourishing self-care.
Studies show blue light suppresses melatonin production, a chemical that’s important to our sleep. That means screen time before bed is disruptive to getting a good night’s rest.
To limit screen time:
- Store your phone away from your bed.
- Keep your phone in another room during meals and tasks.
- If you use it as an alarm, consider an inexpensive clock instead.
- When you wake up, don’t make your phone and social media your first priority.
- Set a designated time in the morning to check your email notifications and social media.
- Ban your phone from the table, the restroom, and your bed.
13.Go Cold Turkey with a Total Social Media Detox
The last and most extreme step of a social media detox is taking a full social media break.
If you feel you’re ready for the plunge, consider going cold turkey for a set amount of time. Challenge yourself to a week, 10 day, or even 30 day total social media detox.
During your time away from the various platforms, jot down your thoughts:
- How does it feel to let go of social media?
- Do you feel more free?
- Do you feel more isolated?
Reflecting is important so you understand both the positive and negative impact social media is having on your life.
Reach out to your close friends during your social media detox. You may want to let them know ahead of time that you plan to take a break.
Instead of commenting on a post, deliberately contact the important people in your life by sending them a personal email, text, or better yet, a handwritten note. Give them a call and even set dates to catch up in person.
While social media has many benefits, including keeping us connected over long distances, it can also negatively impact our lives. Simplify your social media use and focus on making it more intentional and purpose-driven.
After your social media detox, you may even find yourself enjoying the platforms more, because you’ve adjusted your use to fit your lifestyle and not the other way around!