Looking to detach yourself from social media but unsure where to start? Here's everything you need to know in our beginner's guide to a social media detox
So what does your perfect morning routine look like? A mindful coffee or hot water with lemon and then maybe a meditation or yoga practice? Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Reality can look a bit different though. We probably hit snooze a few times then reach for our phones and do some scrolling before our feet even touch the floor in the morning.
Social media has become a BIG part of our lives, it's hard to imagine a life without it these days. The benefits of the connectivity it brings are huge, we know that, but there are definite disadvantages to how far it has encroached on our lives. So is it time to take a break? We’re hearing lots about social media detoxes these days, but how do you go about detaching yourself from social media when our world seems to be so dependent on it?
Well, if you're looking to get started, here's our beginner's guide to a social media detox.
WHAT IS A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX?
Detoxing is a word that we most commonly hear connected with drugs and other addictive substances. For many of us it’s hard to imagine we’d really need to detox from technology and apps, but when you hear that nearly four in 10 university students are addicted to their smartphones alarm bells may start ringing.
A social media detox is a mindful elimination of social media use and consumption for a set period of time. It can be for as long or short as you like - some people do 7 days, a month or even a year (gulp!). But don’t panic. This doesn’t have to mean actually deleting our accounts, another version is to regularly cut it out for one or two days a week - often at the weekends. Just deleting apps for a day at a time can help us take a break.
DO YOU NEED A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX?
This is a good question to ask ourselves. Social media's fun, isn’t it? It’s become such a big part of our lives that we begin to think that it’s not just fun, rather we actually need it. Social media helps us stay connected with friends and what’s going on in the world, doesn’t it? Not only that, there are so many accounts that inspire and teach us.
But is that really the case? Take a moment to think about how you really interact with social media. What do you use it for and how does it make you feel? Are you really present when you’re online or is it just mindless scrolling?
Social media companies created their sites to be as addictive as possible and a consequence of this is that it’s become almost impossible for us to put down our phones and see what’s really going on in our lives. It’s a known fact that each like or swipe provides our brains with a hit of the pleasure-seeking reward neurotransmitter dopamine in a very similar way to drugs and other addictive substances. This high is very short lived and leaves us needing another fix almost immediately.
And if that wasn’t enough, we also need to think about exactly what we’re consuming when we pick up our phones. Do some feeds leave you feeling anxious and drained or dissatisfied and less worthy? It’s very telling that a study from 2019 has shown that young women have a lower perception of their body image due to the unrealistic beauty ideals in social media. And to be honest, this growing situation is no longer confined to young women.
In addition to the problems associated with comparing ourselves to the heavily filtered and photoshopped pictures on someone else's carefully curated feed, spending too much time on social media has been linked to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
THE BENEFITS OF A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX
That all sounds pretty depressing, doesn’t it? But the news isn’t all bad and personally, we don’t feel that we should ban social media completely. Our aim is to approach it in the same way we try to go through life: with Mindfulness. There’s nothing actually wrong with social media, the problem is more to do with how we use it. And a social media detox can allow us to push the reset button on our behaviour.
Social media is so entwined in our lives that the thought of taking a break from it might give you anxiety in itself. So let’s take a look at the benefits you can get from taking a break before you make the decision. It could be a great motivator for you. Here are just some of them:
- More free time
- Fewer feelings of anxiety
- Improved self-esteem
- Better mornings
- Increased mindfulness
- Reconnecting with people on a deeper level
- More clarity and calmness
- Better productivity
OUR GUIDE TO A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX: TOP 10 TIPS
So now you’ve seen the benefits of a social media detox how do you start? Take a look at our top 10 tips as a guide to a social media detox.
#1 Do a social media audit
This is a really good place to start as you’ll find out exactly how big a role social media plays in your life. There are lots of ways you can monitor how much time you spend on different social media platforms and you might be shocked when you add up the minutes. Start off by reviewing your daily usage and what your major time burns are. Which apps do you spend the most time on?
#2 Make a plan
Once you know how much time you spend on social media, it’s time to make a plan. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to go cold turkey or experiment a bit first? Are you going for a blanket ban of all apps or just one? There are different ways you can do this such as deleting apps for a period of time or you can put your phone on airplane mode for a morning or afternoon so you’re not tempted by any notifications.
#3 Tell people
This is an important one. If you’re not going to be online liking, answering and listening, you have to let people know. Many of us rely on social media to tell everyone what's going on in our lives, so you want the important people to know you’re going to be away but not ignoring them. See this as an opportunity to reconnect on a more personal level - use your phone to actually talk to people or catch up for a coffee.
#4 Turn off alerts
If our phones beep or we see a red notification badge of course we’re going to want to know what it’s going on. Turning off push notifications is a great place to start in nudging our attention away from social media. It allows us to become more focused on the present, bringing our attention to where we want it to be. It’s no surprise that the mere presence of our mobile phones can impact our productivity so this small step will really make a difference.
#5 Get an alarm clock
Do you use a mobile phone to wake you up in the morning? We know from experience that this can be problematic on two levels. Firstly, it means the phone’s always next to us and it’s SO hard to avoid something that’s sat there staring at us - even at 3am! The second problem here is that if our phone’s our alarm clock, it’s one of the first things we touch in the morning. It’s so tempting to then pick it up and just start scrolling. If you can, give your phone its own bedtime in the evening. Put it on charge in another room an hour before bed and leave it there until morning.
#6 Use your extra time mindfully
You’ll find out exactly how much time you spend on apps when you do your social media audit. The current average is 145mins per day. That’s a whopping 2 hours and 25 minutes! So why don’t you commit to giving this time to something special that you love and know gives you pleasure. It could be time spent around self-care, creativity, moving your body or really connecting with friends and loved ones.
Journaling really helps us connect with and learn about ourselves. Taking a break from social media will give you a chance to think about what you use it for. Are you searching for something? Could you be trying to fill a void or escape from something? Your journal entries might give you some insight into what you want social media to provide you with in the future and how you want to use it.
#8 Keep calm with meditation and breathwork
We’ve already said that taking a break from social media can leave many of us feeling anxious. Giving up something can be stress inducing and FOMO is real. It’s at these moments that we need to look after ourselves and self-soothe. Meditation and breathwork is hugely important in relieving this anxiety and stopping our thoughts from racing out of control. You’ll find some useful exercises in our blog Breathing Techniques for Anxiety.
#9 Go for a mindful walk
If we want to switch off and improve our mindfulness, a walk really hits the spot. As you’re walking, focus on the rhythm of your breath and see how it starts to match the rhythm of your strides. Leave your phone behind and really see and listen to what’s going on around you. You could take some art materials with you or, if photography’s your creative jam, put your phone on airplane mode so that it’s simply a camera. Take photos for the joy of it without thinking of posting them on social media later.
#10 Find inspiration elsewhere
We know how useful social media can be when it comes to finding inspiration and motivation. We both follow people and organisations that inspire and teach us. Of course, we don’t want to miss out on these but there are other ways we can engage and learn and podcasts are just one place you can do this. Why not use the extra time you’ve gained from taking time away from social media to have a coffee and read a book or magazine about a topic you find inspirational?
NOW IT’S OVER TO YOU!
So how does all this make you feel? The important thing to remember with this guide to a social media detox is that you should make it yours. We truly believe you don’t have to give up being part of the connected world completely, but curating and using your connection mindfully so that it becomes a place for empowerment, kindness and inspiration will definitely benefit your mental health and wellbeing.
Much love and positive vibes
Ali + Finn xx