Social media is a tool. Whether it helps or hurts you depends on how you use it. Social media can connect us to the communities and world around us, but it can also have serious impacts on mental health and wellness, like increasing rates of depression and decreasing sleep.
The mental health issues linked to social media are so serious that governments around the world are trying to understand and regulate the impact of social media, especially on young people. New York City even recently declared social media a “public health threat.”1
Luckily, you don’t have to quit social media entirely if you don’t want to. A social media detox can help give you the space and time away from scrolling to process your relationship with social media and how you can improve it.
Do you want to gain the skills to coach your clients through wellness-promoting activities like a social media detox? Consider becoming a Certified Wellness Coach!
Table of Contents
- What Are the Benefits of Social Media Detox?
- How Do You Know If You Need A Social Media Detox?
- How To Detox From Social Media
What are the benefits of social media detox?
Recent studies have shown that constant exposure to social media can take a toll on mental health leading users to significant increases in symptoms of depression and anxiety. Social media use can also be highly addictive and take away huge amounts of time from in-person relationships and self-care (Ulvi et al., 2022). But just like any detox, taking a break and changing the way you consume social media can help.
A small study in 2023 showed that even a two-week social media detox for young adults helped to lessen the negative impacts of social media. After the detox, the participants reported improved sleep, decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression, enhanced social relationships, and an increased overall sense of well-being.
A social media detox can also result in:
- Stress reduction
- Improved ability to focus
- Better self-esteem
- Stronger in-person connections
- Better emotional resilience
- More free time
- Reduced anxiety and depression
Check out the Introduction to the Certified Wellness Coach certification with the NASM Master Instructor Roundtable’s look at the course.
How do you know if you need a social media detox?
It’s not always obvious that social media is the cause of mental distress. Take some time to honestly reflect and evaluate if social media is impacting your time and mental state.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Do you often find yourself doomscrolling? Doomscrolling is the practice of consuming lots of negative content at once until impacts your perspective. Do you find yourself seeing the world in a darker, more pessimistic way after looking at social media?
- Are you constantly comparing yourself to others on social media? One of the biggest increases in anxiety and depression from social media use stems from comparing yourself to seemingly perfect influencers with beautiful houses, families, and lives. If you feel less satisfied with yourself and your life after consuming social media, you might need a break.
- Has your self-esteem declined recently? Similar to the last point, does using social media make you feel bad about yourself? Have you experienced bullying or other things that can damage your self-esteem?
- Do you experience more anxiety and depression after using social media? Check out your feelings after you use social media. Did it make you feel better or worse?
- Do you feel an addictive pull to social media? Think about how many hours per day you spend on social media platforms. Would you find it difficult to cut down that time? If you find yourself opening social media apps every time you have your phone, you should think about a detox.
- Is social media interfering with your focus on school or work? If social media is distracting you from getting done what you need to or you’re using it to procrastinate, it might be time for a social media detox.
- Has social media affected your eating? Social media diet and beauty trends have been shown to increase eating disorders. If you’re finding yourself drastically changing or becoming obsessed with your eating or exercise habits in a disordered way, you might need a social media detox.
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you should honestly consider whether you would benefit from even a short hiatus from social media.
How to detox from social media
1. Find a buddy for your social media detox challenge.
Habits can be hard to break. Getting a friend or family member involved can help you stay accountable. Ask around to see if someone will join you on your social media vacation. You could even replace social media time with in-person activities together.
2. Set time limits for social media apps.
Time we spend on social media is highly correlated to unwanted mental health outcomes (Riehm et al., 2019). If you don’t want to take a break from all of social media at once, you can try setting some time limits. Even recognizing how much time you’re spending on these apps can help you adjust your behavior.
You can use apps like Screen Time, Moment, Quality Time, and Timely to track how much time you spend on social media apps and notify you when you’ve reached your daily limit.
3. Schedule social media time.
Along with setting time limits, scheduling times for social media use can help you reduce mindless scrolling and control time wasting. You can specifically schedule out your social media time and limit use to things like work or staying in touch with family.
4. Let people know about your detox.
You don’t always need to announce your detox on social media, but it’s a good idea to let your close friends and family members know that you are okay and aren’t avoiding them.
5. Delete social media apps off your phone.
Taking your social media apps off your devices until the end of your detox can keep you from accidentally checking your social media and help reduce the temptation to break your commitment.
6. Plan in-person activities you enjoy.
The detox period can be an excellent time to do things you love with people you love. Hobbies and having fun can lower your cortisol levels, help you stay active, lower your blood pressure, and improve your mental health (Pressman et al, 2009). Schedule fun activities like painting, skating, hiking, quilting, sculpting, photography, playing music, or whatever else you like to do.
7. Set aside time for mindfulness.
If you’re scrolling, you’re usually not present in moment or paying attention to the world around you. A social media detox isn’t just about cutting out things that are bad for you. It’s also about developing habits that will improve your overall mental health and wellbeing. Take some time during your detox to practice mindfulness, whether that’s through meditation, yoga, mindful eating, or general mindfulness practices.
8. Unfollow accounts that don’t benefit you.
Whether or not you can fully take a hiatus from social media entirely, you can always look through the accounts you follow and unfollow any that impact your well-being. For example, if you are comparing yourself to a certain influencer, unfollow them. Or if you have a loved one with cancer, unfollow accounts that will lead you down an unhelpful rabbit hole. Depending on the app, you can also sometimes unfollow or block hashtags or topics you want to avoid.
9. Turn your phone off before bedtime.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is critical to your health and well-being. Late-night scrolling can keep you from getting the rest you desperately need, and the light and stimulation can make it hard to fall asleep. Turning off your phone or putting it on do not disturb mode can get you to sleep faster, improve sleep quality, and leave you feeling much more rested in the morning (He et al., 2020).
10. Turn off your notifications.
Push notifications generated from apps are specifically designed to get your attention, and they’re good at it. In fact, research has shown that push notifications can impact your attention and memory. Turning off notifications is a simple way to help you focus on your life instead of your phone.
Become a Certified Wellness Coach!
Want to help others reduce stress and anxiety, improve their mental health, and live better, healthier lives? Consider becoming a Certified Wellness Coach.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Wellness Coach certification program will give you the educational background to be an effective wellness coach by optimizing brain health, social wellness, nutrition, cognitive performance, sleep hygiene, and emotional processing.