turned on gold iphone 6

How a Social Media Detox Can Improve Your Life

Have you ever found yourself checking your Instagram notifications before you even roll out of bed? Trying desperately to get the perfect family photo while on vacation rather than actually enjoying it? Feeling less worthy because you’re stuck comparing yourself to others on social media? I’ll be the first to admit, I have. And you know what, that’s ok! Because it’s exactly what I needed to prompt me to take a social media detox. 

There’s no doubt that social media has become a huge part of modern life. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok can help us stay connected with friends, discover new destinations, learn a new skill, or draw inspiration. However, it can also create a false sense of reality and leave you feeling anxious or dissatisfied. And with it being accessible at our fingertips 24/7, it can make it hard to disconnect. 

In fact, according to a research study in 2018, ‘68% of US adults obtained their news from social media’. [1] Crazy, right? And although it has a large influence on our lives, it’s important to recognize it’s merely a small, curated sample of the whole picture. 

person holding smartphone

How Do You Know if You Need a Social Media Detox?

Be honest and ask yourself, are you using it with purpose and intention? Is it provoking feelings of sadness or anxiety? Does it take it away from the things that make you happy? Upon reflection, if you can identify any negative effects or emotions then maybe it’s time to take a break. 

It’s worth noting there’s nothing wrong with spending time on social media, but if it’s negatively impacting your life, then you may want to find a healthier balance. 

Ready to take the plunge? Below I’m outlining the importance of and how to complete a social media detox as well as its benefits. Whether you’re ready to quit cold turkey or seeking a healthier relationship with social media, this post was written with you in mind. 

social media detox

Why It's Important to Take a Social Media Detox

1. Social Media Addiction is a Real Thing

According to Computer World, ‘social media is engineered to be as habit-forming as crack-cocaine.’ [2] Well, if that isn’t a truth bomb. Most people are checking notifications, scrolling their feed, and re-checking notifications throughout the day and yet they have no idea how much time they’re actually spending on these platforms.

Social media addiction is multi-factorial and is a bigger problem than most people realize. People want to be and stay connected for fear that they’ll miss something important. Another culprit is the network effect, where a network becomes more valuable as more people connect to that network. For example, everybody is on Facebook because everybody’s on Facebook, whether they want to be or not. And lastly, that pesky notification number alerting you that someone has mentioned or commented on your post further drives the addictive nature of social media. You don’t know exactly what or who said something about you so you unknowing check the alert to get that feel-good dopamine surge. Over time you crave more and more of this and it becomes addictive. 

2. Social Media Can Create a False Reality

These platforms only showcase a mere fraction of our lives and who we are as people. We can also choose to judge or be judged as we compare ourselves to others’ perfectly staged life. Whether the images are ‘real-life’ or curated to perfection, we have complete control over the image we portray ourselves. And by doing so, we can protect ourselves from failure.  Social media merely scratches the surface in showing the deep emotional life of a human. And unless you’re aware of your personal role, it’s easy to get caught up in this distorted reality.

3. Social Media Serves as an Echo Chamber

In news media, an echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system and insulates them from rebuttal. [3] With algorithms feeding us the information we already like and trust, it limits us from seeing other ideas and viewpoints. 

4. Social Media is a Timesuck

Do you ever wish you had more time to do the things you enjoy? Exercise? Learn a new skill? Or finally, tackle those DIY home projects? Well, good news, now you do! Studies show the average American spends 1 hour and 40 minutes a day on social media [5].  So, with nearly two extra hours in your day, you’ll have more time to dedicate to improving your overall well-being. You’ll feel less stressed and more fulfilled by dedicating your time to positive, healthier activities. It’s important we recognize our time as a valuable resource and protect from things that can take it away from us.

kids running on beach

5. Social Media Affects Your Mental Health

A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh revealed there is a direct correlation between time spent on social media and the risk of depression (i.e. The more time people spend on social media, the worse they feel.) [4]


Several factors explain why social media is linked to depression, including disconnection from the real world, comparison to others perfectly curated feed, as well as competition amongst friends and yourself. Mindlessly scrolling social media may induce feelings of emptiness and lack of purpose, moreover, perusing the highlight reel of your friend’s lives may make your self-esteem suffer. 

6. Social Media is a Privacy Risk

By sharing where you are and what you’re doing, all-day, every day you’re giving up a lot, if not most of your privacy. Social media is a great way to share photos and information, but with that, you’re also giving up a lot of your privacy. 

7. Social Media Brings Out Your Competitive Side

Whether you realize it or not, social media creates unhealthy competition. The more likes and comments a post receives, the seemingly ‘more popular it is’ and can make you strive to outdo others or even yourself. 

100 meter dash lane

What are the Benefits of a Social Media Detox?

1. Improve Relationships

Have your relationships suffered from your social media habits? Ever find yourself texting at dinner or checking your phone mid-conversation? We’ve all been there and likely picked up some bad habits. But by taking a break and reflecting on how social media affects our relationships we can learn to do better. And if you really want to seek the truth, ask your kids about your social media habits!

2. Improve Sleep

Social media sleep disturbance is more of a correlation than causation, however, social media is linked to the two largest contributors to insomnia, stress and depression [6]. Social Media use in itself can be used as a predictor of poor sleep. In other words, the more time you spend on social media, the more likely you’ll be to have disturbed sleep. In fact, a large study of undergraduate students in China observed the use of social media use and while half reported sleep disturbances, those who used social media 30-120 minutes before bed were more likely to report poorer sleep.

baby sleeping on vacation

3. Be More Productive

Not only will you now have nearly two extra hours in your day, but you’ll also be more focused without the pull to stay connected. Take this time to finally cross off those to-do’s, or simply enjoy your presence in the real world.

4. Improve Happiness

As mentioned above, studies have shown how social impacts the risk of depression, particularly in young adults. Disconnecting from social media can allow you to eliminate feelings of isolation, as well as break the cycle of comparing yourself to others

5. Increase Presence

Taking a detox from social media will allow you to be fully present in the moment you’re in. Whether it be a movie, work, or your family, you’ll no longer be dividing your attention.

family on beach

6. Connect to the Real World

We all need human connection, even introverts, and without it, we can feel lonely and isolated. Think about it. Have you felt more down and depressed as a result of the recent COVID-19 social distancing guidelines? Chances are the answer is yes.

When you take a break from social media you’ll be forced to focus on real relationships, not the superficial ones of Facebook or Instagram.  

7. Decrease FOMO

FOMO, or fear of missing out can affect the best of us. And upon disconnecting from social media we may be concerned that we’ll miss out on important news or updates from the digital world. News flash, you won’t miss a thing! Those constant notifications really aren’t that important and if anything pertinent does occur it’s likely that close friends or family will reach out.  

How to Complete a Social Media Detox

1. Delete Your Social Media Apps

Before you go into a full-blown panic, remember this is only temporary and the apps can be easily reinstalled. By deleting the apps you’ll be less likely to feel tempted to innocently ‘check-in’. Out of sight out of mind, right? 

2. Have an Accountability Partner

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, kick that sugar habit, or detox from social media, it’s always easier to accomplish a goal when you have someone else holding you accountable. Grab a loved one or friend who’s also interested in taking a break from social media and detox together. Not only will you be more likely to stick with it, but by having a friend to lean on you’ll also feel less discouraged if you fall off the wagon. Create a game plan of how you’ll detox, check-in periodically, and hold each other accountable!

social media detox

3. Plan How You'll Spend Your Time

You may be surprised how much free time you have in your day without social media in the picture. So, in order to curb boredom, it’s a good idea to map out how you’ll fill that void. Ideally, you’ll replace your social media habit with something that doesn’t involve technology. Ideas include reading, journaling, meditating/breathing, learning a new skill, trying new recipes, spending time with family, or simply doing nothing and giving your body and mind the rest it deserves! 

fearrington spa

4. Identify What Apps You're Using Most

 If you have an iOS, make use of the built-in ‘Screen Time’ feature under Settings to see where you’re spending most of your time. Instead of looking at weekly averages, dig deeper into your daily activity to see where and how much of your time is being spent on certain apps. These will be the places you want to take a break from. You may be surprised how much time you spend on YouTube or mindlessly checking emails.

5. Set Parameters

OK, so you’ve deleted all your social media apps but unless you’ve thrown your phone in the garbage, email and web browsing are still at your fingertips. Set parameters for when and how much you’ll use your phone. For example, try checking your email only twice a day, once in the morning and once at bedtime. (Nothing is that dire it can’t wait a few hours!)

If you still can’t resist, download  Freedom, an app that allows you to block certain apps during certain hours and won’t let you unlock it so matter how much you plead. Keep a log of your screen time and challenge yourself to see that it’s going down each week. 

6. Get a Real Alarm Clock

By replacing your phone alarm with a real alarm clock, you can dedicate those first moments to intention setting, breathing, journaling, exercise, or whatever it is that gets you in a positive space for the day. The beginning of your day should be spent filling your cup, not giving away your energy to others. 

white and silver analog alarm clock on white couch

7. Give Your Phone a Bedtime

Much like setting parameters for email and other app use, it’s imperative your phone has a curfew. Staring at a bright screen before bed not only disturbs sleep but it can also leave your brain feeling wired and unable to wind down.

**Pro-tip: Challenge yourself to move your charging station outside of the bedroom so that the temptation is eliminated altogether. 

8. Put Apps Into Folders

By making your favorite (time-sucking) apps less accessible you’ll be less likely to use them so often. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference that extra step can make! 

9. Breath

You can and will get through this! Remember it’s only temporary and chances are it’s for the good! You may find that you don’t actually need social media as much as thought you did.

Have you taken, or are you in need of a social media detox? How did it go? 

Please post in the comments below! I’d love to hear how your life has improved after taking a break from social media. 

XO, Stephanie 

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