The period of time I spent scrolling through social media last week added up to around 50 hours. That’s about seven hours a day where the time I spent on social media could be used to do something creative, get outside, or spend with family and friends. It’s clear that all of us, including me, are desperately in need of a social media detox.
The Problem With Social Media
It’s estimated that about half of the population of the world spends over two hours on social media every day. That’s billions of people staring into their screens. Social media use has continued to increase since 2012, with social media users on Instagram and Facebook averaging an hour spent every day on each app. Sounds fake, right? Unfortunately, it’s all too true.
If you're like me, chances are that you’re spending a lot of time on social media sites, scrolling through an avalanche of rich and famous influencers, celebrity TikToks, and ads. You’re probably also following the news on Twitter, liking photos of your friend’s seemingly perfect life on Facebook, or scrolling through a beautiful travel blogger’s Instagram. And let’s not forget the abundance of dog memes, cute animal posts, and drool-worthy food. While all this content can be fun to look at, social media can be debilitating to our mental health.
According to psychological studies, people who use social media more often are depressed and anxious. The reason? Constantly seeing everyone’s life packaged perfectly on social media sites create unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of what life is. Comparing yourself to others distracts you from all the good things in life. If you’ve ever felt jealous of a jet setting Instagram influencer, you’ll know the feeling. We also seek validation on social media through likes, friends, and comments. If something we post doesn’t get as many likes as we want, it often leaves us feeling bad, which can lead to low self-esteem.
What's the Alternative?
Because social media affects your mental health, and mental and physical health influence each other, it’s no surprise that healthier people are usually scrolling way, waaaay less. People who use social media less report feeling physically healthier. This makes sense since mental health influences directly our physical health. Plus, staring at your screen can lead to headaches, worse sleep outcomes, and vision problems.
It’s more than clear that being online 24/7 isn’t good for our happiness, our health, or our bodies. So what can we do about it?
It’s a surprisingly easy solution: try a one-week social media detox. It sounds hard at first, but we know you can do it! Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to stop spending hours scrolling on social media.
Step 1: Delete the Apps
You heard that first step right: quit cold turkey. Unless you monitor social media for work, delete Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook off of your phone. Deleting apps is the best thing to do because you won’t be able to scroll constantly every time you reach for your phone.
Don't forget to tell your friends and family before you quit, so they’ll have other ways of contacting you that isn’t an Instagram DM or Facebook comment. You don't want anyone worrying about you during your detox!
Look, I’m not going to lie: completing a social media detox, even if it’s for only a week, can be really hard. We spend so much of our time on social media that it’s hard to imagine daily life without it! But the truth is that there is a life outside your social networks. And there are so many amazing new skills and hobbies you can do instead of picking up your phone and watching cute pet videos.
Step 2: Stick to Your Plan
This is the hardest step. A social media detox sounds easy, right? Not as easy as you’d think. Holding yourself accountable is super, super hard.
Every time you pick up your phone and you desperately want to check Instagram or scroll through Twitter, remind yourself of why you’re on a detox. Remember the reasons why you’re on the detox, whether it’s to boost your mental health or because you want to focus on other hobbies. Then, distract yourself by doing something else to get your mind off the urge to scroll.
You can also ask someone to hold you accountable. That's what friends and family are for—to support you! Asking them to check in (in person if you live together, or over text) about your detox progress is a great way to commit to quitting social media.
If you know you need a break from social media but aren’t sure how to start, we hope this list has helped you figure out a plan! It’s also important to mention that your detox doesn’t have to last only one week! If you’ve found that you’re happier, healthier, and more satisfied with your life after one week, then, by all means, continue your social media detox. Good luck detoxing from social media. You’ve got this!
Step 3: Fill Your Day
There are so, so many other hobbies to pick up during your social media detox! I’m going to list a few of them here, but in truth the world is your oyster when it comes to discovering new things to do.
Read a book
In the past, when I’ve done a social media detox, I spent a lot of my time reading. Pick up a good book at your local Barnes & Noble and start reading. If reading isn’t your thing, buy up a bunch of magazines, cut them up, and make collages!
Exercising is vital for our physical and mental well-being. There are so many ways to make exercising fun these days, too! Attend a social distant yoga class with a friend or partner, find a 30-minute yoga class online, or take a walk in nature. If you like to listen to something when you work out, try listening to an audiobook on Audible—they have a huge selection of books, and some are even read by famous actors!
For some more inspiration, read our article 7 At-Home Workouts You Can Do Right Now.
You don’t have to be the next great Virginia Woolf to make an excuse for writing! If you’ve been wanting to get into poetry or creative writing, your one-week social media detox is the perfect time to start! Start by starting a journal or a tab in Google Docs and writing whatever comes to mind. Set aside a 30-minute period every day during your detox week to write whatever creative thing your mind comes up with.
If you’re not really into the idea of creative writing, then write a friend or family member a hand-written letter! Send them a fun sticker or pressed flowers in their letter. This is a great way to be thoughtful and stay connected, even if it seems a little old fashioned. Bonus: You'll be supporting USPS!
Make Some Art
If you have chalk, paper, crayons, colored pencils, or paints, congratulations: you have everything you need to do art. It doesn’t have to be serious, and it doesn’t have to be masterful! Just pick up some art supplies and do whatever your mind tells you.
If you don’t want to draw freehand, pick up a coloring book or print out adult coloring pages from online. These coloring pages are often intricate and beautiful, and coloring them in can be super relaxing! You can even use them as fun wall decor, if that’s your thing.
Connect With Family & Friends in Other Ways
If you have a phone, a Zoom account, or Facetime, then you have a way to reach out to friends other than through social media. Scheduling a zoom happy hour or a quick call with a friend is way more meaningful than scrolling through friend’s photos on your Instagram feed.
Instead of seeing your friends perfectly packaging their life on social media, you’ll be connecting with them in real, meaningful ways. You can make it fun, too! Host a Netflix party night with your besties and watch something fun. Have a socially distant cookout one night with your family, or a dance party with your roommate(s). Create a murder mystery Zoom party and have your friends dress up and pretend characters.
The possibilities are endless! All you need is a good internet connection and a little creativity.
Learn Something New
Are you interested in The Middle Ages? Physics? Beluga whales? Take the time during your one-week social media detox to learn a little more about them! There are so many ways to learn about new things, whether that’s from a history book or a podcast or an online course.
There are so many free podcasts out there about basically anything you’d want to learn about. There are also tons of documentaries and docu-series on streaming sites like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon. And there are always books and magazines, teaming with information about history, science, math, fashion, art, and basically anything else you can think of.
If you want to learn a new skill, like cooking or woodworking, find a friend or online class or tutorial about how to do so. Connecting with people who have hobbies you’re also interested in is a great way to make new friends and learn new things. Reach out to your uncle who fixes old cars if you’ve always wanted to do that. Talk to your friend who wants to be a chef. Learn about government and democracy by phone-banking for a political candidate you’re passionate about.
Step 4: Focus On Mindfulness
Your social media detox wouldn’t be complete without practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of being in the moment, letting yourself think without judgment, and practicing gratitude. To master mindfulness, start incorporating mindful habits into your day. Plan for the future and practice positivity with The Five Minute Journal every day. Learn more about The Five Minute Journal here!
Listen to a guided mindfulness meditation every day. Try meditating before you go to bed every night, and when you wake up in the morning. Practice being in the moment when you take a walk, have a nice bath, or make a delicious meal.
Mindfulness increases happiness, gratitude, and allows you to appreciate being in the moment. In a world full of fast-paced news cycles, social media, and constant advertisements, it’s important to practice being mindful every day.
Step 5: Only Communicate Meaningfully With Friends
When you go on your one-week social media detox, it’s important to continue communicating with friends and family in meaningful ways. Social media isn’t the only way to reach out to friends and family, or keep up with them! It’s actually more meaningful to have a one-on-one conversation with them, whether it's by call or text or facetime.
During your #detox, be meaningful about scheduling times to talk with friends and family. Instead of sporadically checking your social media, you’ll be finding time in your day to actively listen and interact with them. Your phone is a great tool when it comes to catching up on the phone and continuing to make connections—just not through social media!