Why it’s good to do a social media detox

And steps on how to do it.

According to a study by marketing agency Mediakix, the average person spends almost two hours a day on social media. That’s more than 5 years on social media over your lifetime, or enough time to run more than 10,000 marathons. We spend more time on social media than we do on eating and drinking, grooming, or socializing. This can’t be good for us, can it?

Reasons to cut back on social media

Social media isn’t bad. It’s just that too much of it can negatively affect our mental and physical wellbeing. If you find yourself spending precious hours of your day scrolling through posts, here’s a few reasons you might want to take a step back.

Social media can make you depressed. Research shows people feel depressed after spending too much time on Facebook as the result of comparing themselves to others. This “social comparison” used to only happen to us at weddings and high school class reunions, now we are constantly judging ourselves based on how our lives compare to the lives we see presented on the screen. It’s hard not to as we scroll through everyone’s highlights – holiday travel, weddings, graduations, births – and quickly feel like our lives pale in comparison to our those of our friends and family.

It disrupts your sleep. A study of over 5,000 Canadian students found that the more students used social media during the day the less sleep they got at night. Researchers found similar results for adults aged 19 – 32, with greater social media use associated with disturbed sleep. Although it’s unclear exactly why this is the case, we do know that using tablets, phones and even e-readers too close to bedtime suppresses melatonin production, which makes it harder for us to fall asleep and less alert in the morning.

It makes you less productive. Seven out of ten workers in the US check their social media while on the job. Of these, twenty percent reported spending an hour a day on social media during work hours, while ten percent said they spent more than two hours of their workday on social media. This means a lot of us are wasting our time on social media instead of focusing on more important tasks.

It might actually make you feel lonelier. The whole idea behind social media is about feeling more connected, but a study at University of Pittsburgh suggests that too much social media is actually making us feel more alone. Participants in the study with the highest social media usage also reported feeling the most isolated. It’s not clear which came first, the loneliness or the heavy social media usage, but it makes sense that the more time we spend online, the less time we have to spend with others face-to-face. Apparently one third of Americans would rather give up sex for six months than give up the Internet. Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with loved ones, but it shouldn’t be a replacement for genuine connection and interaction with others.

How to detox from social media

If you think you need a social media detox, here’s some tips for cutting back without going cold turkey.

Limit the number of social media sites you belong to. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google +, Pinterest, Vine… and the list goes on. Decide on which sites are most important to you and get rid of the rest. Be brutal. Keep only the ones that you really get something out of and get rid of the rest.

Set limits on your social media time. You don’t have to abandon social media entirely, you’re just looking for more balanced usage. If you need some help, use an app or website blocker like Freedom to keep you focused and limit your time on social media.

Leave your phone out of the bedroom. I can already hear you screaming, “But it’s my alarm!” So go old school and get yourself an alarm clock to use during your detox. Keep your tablet and laptop out as well. Your bedroom should be for sleeping and sex, not checking the latest posts.

Turn off your notifications. Each time we hear that “ping” of a notification we get a little hit of dopamine, our brain’s reward chemical. That’s why we’re addicted to the feeling we get when we see that “like” on our most recent picture. But as with all addictive behaviors we crave more and more to get the same fix. So turn off your notifications for a while and see if you’re better able to concentrate on whatever you’re doing. 

Use your extra time productively. With your newly found time you could go to the gym, have coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in ages, or start that novel you keep talking about writing. One of the best things about spending less time on social media is that you’ll have spare time for the things that matter more to you. 

Social Media, Health and Wellness, Digital Wellbeing

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!