How To Take A Break From Social Media – And Stick To It!

21 November 2023 |
Episode 22 |
22:23

Episode summary

Want to take a break from social media? Not sure exactly how to stick to it? In this episode, I share practical tips and suggestions to help you successfully take a break from social media, so that you can reap the benefits of a digital detox and make the most of the time you get back.
 

Episode notes

In this episode, I talk about:

  • Why everyone should consider doing a social media detox
  • The benefits of taking a break from social media for your mental and emotional wellbeing
  • How long a social media detox should be and how often you should take breaks from social platforms
  • 5 action steps to successfully take a break from social media, including
    • Choosing between a break from all social media or specific social media platforms/apps
    • Deciding how long your social media detox will last
    • Preparing yourself and your connections for your absence in advance
    • Deleting social media apps and disabling notifications
    • Finding alternative activities to occupy your time

Resources and tools mentioned:

 

Episode transcript

Expand to read a transcript of this episode

[00:00:34] Hey guys, welcome back to The Digital Diet Podcast. I hope you’re doing really, really well. I hope you’re having a great week. I am feeling really, really good and I’m ready to get stuck right into today’s episode, which is all about how to successfully take a break from social media and have yourself a little digital detox.

[00:00:55] If you’ve been listening along for a while, then you’ll know that we’ve been doing a little social media mini series for the last nine episodes. And this, I’m sad to say, is the penultimate one. So, if you’re new to the podcast and you want a little bit more context, or you’ve missed a couple of episodes here and there, and you’re scratching your head when I’m talking about dopamine-driven reward systems or about the attention economy, then don’t forget that you can always head back to episode 13 and listen from there to catch up or fill in the gaps.

[00:01:28] But today is going to be less about how we got to the place where we needed to take a break, and more about how, in practical terms, we can fight against our bad digital habits to take a step back from social media and take a break. Now, there are many reasons why you might want to do this. Maybe social media isn’t making you feel good, and it’s having a negative impact on your mental or emotional health, and you just need a break from feeling low or feeling overwhelmed.

[00:01:55] Maybe you feel that social media is distracting you too much when you’re trying to focus on something or someone important, and you need a chance to refocus so that you can finish up that project and hit a deadline, or just avoid arguments with your friends or your family, your partner, your kids about how much you’re online. Maybe you feel like, or you know, that you’ve been spending too much time on social media, either because your Screen Time app or your Digital Wellbeing app is telling you that that’s the case and you don’t like the numbers that you see, or because you intuitively feel like, or you know that, that’s where you’re spending most of your time these days, and that you’re being less sociable in real life and that’s not really sitting comfortably with you.

[00:02:39] Or maybe you just fancy a challenge and you want to prove to yourself that you can do it, and that you’re not hooked on social media. And a challenge it definitely is in this always on, 24/7, crazy digital age that we live in. But whatever your reasons, taking a break from social media can be so restorative for your wellbeing. It’s a bit like a circuit breaker and it allows you the chance to step back, breathe, reflect, and really become conscious of your social media habits and how they are, or they’re not, serving you. So that you can make deliberate choices that are better suited to who you want to be in your life and the role that you want social media to play in it. When you’re in the thick of things, it’s really hard to do that. You just can’t see the wood for the trees, and because so much of your behaviour is habitual, you’re not even truly conscious of it when it comes to social media.

[00:03:36] So a little social media detox can work wonders for getting your relationship with social media back to a place where you’re controlling it, rather than it controlling you. And there are loads of other benefits too. You’re likely to benefit from better sleep quality, less anxiety and stress, increased productivity, better mood, more creativity, and perhaps, counterintuitively, stronger personal relationships too. And the heavier your social media use is, the more pronounced these effects are likely to be, especially if you opt for a longer break rather than a shorter one. So, safe to say that there’s plenty to be gained from a little social media detox. But the big question is, how do you do it? So, here is my five tip take.

[00:04:29] Number one, decide if you’re going to take a break from all social media platforms or from specific platforms. This is going to be so personal. Obviously for the greatest benefit, step away from all the platforms. But, if one or two platforms are causing most of your problems, and the others aren’t really impacting your life too much, then even focusing on those one or two platforms will probably offer you the greatest benefit you could get anyway. Now that said, this can be a bit of a slippery slope, and maybe even a little bit controversial. But, I firmly believe that in order for a break or a detox to be successful, you have to be realistic, otherwise it’s just not going to work out. And so, you might find it easier to take a break from a specific platform the first time around, and then work up to taking a break from all the social media platforms at once, on the next time you try to take a detox.

[00:05:28] Or maybe your choice might depend on if you need certain platforms to do certain things in your life. So if you’re job hunting, or you’re recruiting right now, you might need LinkedIn, for example. If you’re an influencer, a small business owner, or a content creator, and social media engagement is what puts a roof over your head and food on your plate, then obviously you need to be a bit strategic and think about which platforms you absolutely cannot step away from, and then prepare and schedule your content in advance, or even consider who might be able to manage your social media while you step away. Whether that’s a trusted friend, a family member, an employee, a colleague, a virtual assistant, or someone else. It’s not impossible, it just requires extra preparation. So really give some thought to what’s most likely to work for you, especially if this is the first time that you’re trying to do a social media detox. And just know that it’s okay, you don’t have to be superwoman and give up everything all at once. Just giving up Instagram, or TikTok, or X, or Facebook for a few days or weeks is a great start, and it’s already a step towards regaining control and balance.

[00:06:43] Tip number two is to decide how long your break is going to be for. And again, this is really up to you. Maybe it’s three days. Maybe it’s a week. Maybe it’s a month. Maybe it’s even three months. If you’re stepping away completely for the first time, maybe try three days and see how you get on. You can always extend it if it’s working really well for you or you can start a new break for a longer period, once you’re a bit more familiar with how taking that break impacts your life. Because don’t forget, you are now trying to break the habits of a lifetime. And the first day or so is often the most uncomfortable, because you’ll feel all those internal triggers and all those ingrained habits trying to lure you back to social media. But as the time goes on, you will start to feel more comfortable and, dare I say it, maybe even forget about social media completely.

[00:07:37] Another option, if whole big chunks of time feel like way too much, is to try setting daily boundaries and limits, like we talked about in episode 21. Maybe you don’t use social media before midday or after 9pm. Maybe you only use it, or you don’t use it, on certain days of the week. And obviously this isn’t going to have quite the same effect, but it can be a good stepping stone to taking a longer break, and it will definitely cut down the time that you spend on social media and help to reduce your exposure to all those things that might be causing you mental distress, or overwhelm, or distraction.

[00:08:13] And for an even smaller baby step, you could always try taking my #TechTimeout Challenge, which is a free 30 day digital detox plan that I created specifically for busy women. In the plan, which I’ve spoken about for a lot of the last few episodes, you step away from all things digital, including social media, once a day for 30 consecutive days. And during that time away, you do one simple offline activity instead. Now that daily time and that daily activity takes anywhere from five minutes to a few hours to complete. So while you’re not doing 30 solid days of complete cold turkey on social media, you’re still consciously creating time and space in your life away from social media on a daily basis over a pretty decent amount of time.

[00:08:59] So if you want to give it a try, you can start the challenge at any time. All you have to do is head to thedigitaldietcoach.com/techtimeout-challenge and sign up. I’ll put a link in the show notes, but once you’re there and you sign up, you get immediate access to a free step-by-step guide, which has all the instructions you need, and loads of free tools and resources to help you make the most of your digital detox. So, something to consider if the thought of not being on social media for three days or three weeks is slightly terrifying to you.

[00:09:33] Tip number three is to prepare yourself and your connections for the break. I strongly suggest that you don’t wake up one morning and decide to take a break, and then start that break immediately without telling anyone. For a break to be successful, a little bit of preparation is required both for you and for your connections. You need to have a think about whether there are certain tasks, or there’s specific information, or specific people that you rely on social media to complete, or access, or connect with. And then you need to find alternative ways of doing those tasks, or pull down the information that you know you’re going to need during your break and save it somewhere, or ask your connections for alternative contact details like an email or a phone number.

[00:10:18] If you cut yourself off without taking this very important preparation step, you’re only going to cause yourself anxiety and inner turmoil as you wrestle and reason with yourself about whether you can, or should, go back onto social media to access whatever it is that you need. And of course that’s the exact opposite of how a break is supposed to be making you feel. Let’s say that you’re part of a book club and all the details about the book club’s pick of the month, and the date, and the time, and the location of a face-to-face book club discussion are usually made in a Facebook group.

[00:10:51] You can pull down the details before taking your break. You could ask the group admin to send you the details via email instead, if they’re going to be released during your break. Or you could ask another member of the group that you trust to send the details to you, or call or text you and let you know if there are any updates or changes to the meeting time or location. The key here is simply a bit of forward planning to anticipate anything that you think you might need social media for during your break. And this is actually how I believe that influencers, and small business owners, and content creators can navigate social media breaks too.

[00:11:28] If you’re one of these people, you may have been sat there thinking, “oh this is impossible, this is just not something that I could ever do.” But, you definitely can do it and, in fact, I would suggest that these people probably need the break from social media the most. You can create and schedule your content to be posted in advance. You can arrange for someone to manage your social media and respond to customer enquiries or issues while you step away. Whatever it is that you need to do, you can get it done. You just have to think about it and prepare for it in advance. And you need to do it to allow yourself to take that break. It’s so important.

[00:12:05] And once you’ve prepared yourself, whether you’re using social media in a personal capacity or for business, you also need to prepare your connections. Take the time to let people know that you’ll be taking a break and when you expect to return. It’s actually becoming very, very common for people to do this, which I think is a sign of the times, but there are loads of ways that you can do this. You can update your profile or your bio description, or you can make a post to announce that you’re taking a break. Just make sure that you include how long you expect to be off grid, and let people know the other ways that they can contact you during that time, if they need you.

[00:12:43] I know that some people do, but you don’t have to explain why you’re taking the break, unless you feel particularly compelled to. And by announcing it, this sets the expectation for your connections so that they don’t get worried that something sinister has occurred when they start to notice your absence. And it also means that you won’t miss anything that’s important or urgent, because you provided people with a way to reach you if they need to that doesn’t involve social media. And I always suggest, to be doubly sure, that you ask your friends and family, and your colleagues, not to forward you social media content or to send you links to social media content. Because this one often trips people up.

[00:13:23] An innocently shared TikTok link that’s sent via WhatsApp in a group chat will have you right back on TikTok within seconds from within a browser, even if you’re not in the app itself or you’re not logged in. And then it’s not long before you find yourself going back down that rabbit hole. So always take the time to let people know that you are taking a break. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. Actually, I think you should feel quite proud that you’re doing this incredible thing for your wellbeing. And I think it’s important that people know that this is something that you’re doing, so that they can respect it.

[00:13:56] Tip number four is to log out and delete the apps from your devices. Clearly, if you’re not going to be using them, then you don’t need to keep seeing them, because seeing them will only act as a constant reminder and a physical cue, or an environmental trigger, for going on social media. At an absolute minimum, log out of the apps. And that way, if you feel tempted to tap on an app and fire it up, you’re creating an extra hurdle for yourself to get through by requiring yourself to re-enter your username and password, which of course, most of us can’t remember anyway. So that’s a bare minimum, but ideally just delete the apps from your devices completely. Delete URLs from your browsing history, delete cookies and stored data that let you log in instantly. You could even consider one of the URL blocking apps or browser plugins that will stop you being able to access platforms through your computer.

[00:14:49] And in case you were worried, deleting apps doesn’t delete your accounts. You don’t need to worry. Everything that you’ve built up is not going to be lost. It’s all still there. It’s all still stored on the social media platform servers. It will be there when you end your break and you’re ready to re-engage and re-enter the world of social media. But deleting apps does put an end to all those pesky notifications that are associated with using social media. If the app ain’t there, it can’t notify you. So I always try to push for people to delete the apps, but if you only log out and you don’t delete the app, then at least make sure that you review your notification settings and turn off every notification related to social media apps, so that you’re not being tempted to return during your break.

[00:15:35] My fifth and final tip is to find something else to do or commit to doing something else during your social media digital detox break. When you shut down social media as a source of quick and cheap dopamine, you’re gonna get really uncomfortable, because your brain is so used to having dopamine on tap. And that desire to hop back on social media can be really, really strong. Much stronger than you might expect. And it’s asking a lot of your willpower to resist that temptation, especially at the start, and especially if you’re aiming to complete a longer detox break. So I always like to suggest having one or two go-to alternative activities that you can distract yourself with whenever you feel that urge, without having to give it too much thought.

[00:16:20] And this is particularly important for those of you whose main reason for going on social media is actually boredom, or trying to relax and unwind after a long day, or simply procrastination and distraction from something that you’re supposed to be doing. Those are all still very uncomfortable feelings, and you’re going to need to respond to those feelings and desires quickly with a replacement source of dopamine, or risk falling prey to the trappings of social media again. So you need something else to do. And it’s completely up to you what this is and what it looks like, but allow me to make some suggestions.

[00:16:55] It could be going for a walk. It could be doing 10 star jumps. It could be reading a book, or drawing, or colouring in. It could be calling a friend for a chat. It could be committing to learning something new, like a new instrument or a new language, or even playing an instrument and practicing an instrument that you already know how to play. It could be journalling your thoughts and your feelings. You get the drift. This isn’t about being busy for busy’s sake and filling up your time. It’s about managing those urges and channelling your desire for a dopamine fix into something that’s more meaningful to you and better for your overall wellbeing.

[00:17:37] And it’s also about being careful that you’re not transferring your “addictions.” And you can’t see me, but I’m using air quotes when I say that. The goal is not to swap your Instagram habit for a Netflix one, or to swap your TikTok binge for a YouTube one instead. So thinking about these activity swaps in advance is a little bit more important than you probably think. If anyone’s a Sex and the City fan, then you might remember there’s an episode where Carrie dates a recovering alcoholic. And usually alcoholics and addicts are advised not to start new relationships during the first year or so of recovery. And this guy tries really hard not to get involved with Carrie but, Carrie being Carrie, she keeps pushing him and pushing him, and challenging him until eventually he gives in and he says, “fuck it, I’m gonna do it anyway!” He ends up transferring his alcohol addiction to Carrie, and he becomes addicted to having sex with her. And inevitably, this all becomes way too much for her, the relationship is too stifling, he’s too needy, he’s always wanting to be with her, and she ends it. And when she does end it, this guy ends up drinking again and he turns up late at night outside her window completely smashed, blaming her for everything.

[00:18:50] Now, as I said, I was using air quotes. Obviously, you’re not an addict and finding yourself back on social media, if you’re not an addict, is not going to be as problematic. It’s not going to be totally disastrous, but you get the picture. It’s really easy to transfer your bad habits from one device or one platform or one app, into another device, another platform, another activity that is still not really serving you in the way that it could. So, be careful that you’re not swapping one set of bad habits for another.

[00:19:23] So, there you have it. Those are my five practical tips to help you take a break from social media, whatever your reasons for doing so may be. And I’d recommend everyone try it at least once. It’s incredibly refreshing and restorative to not have to think about or focus on social media for a couple of days. And you can even think about doing a regular social media detox. You can think about doing it once a month, or once a quarter, or even once a year, just to give yourself that break and the opportunity to check in with yourself. As far as I see, there can only be positive benefits.

[00:19:59] That’s it for today’s episode, and once again there’s no official challenge this week, but obviously if taking a digital detox from social media is something that you’ve decided to do, then I hope that you found these tips helpful and you’re feeling inspired to start preparing for your break this week.

[00:20:15] Next week is the final installment in our social media mini series, and I’m going to be breaking down how to go nuclear and break up with social media for good. If you know that you’ve had enough and you want to get off the social media rollercoaster, or if you’ve tried curating and reducing your time on social media but it’s just not cutting it, or if you’ve taken a break from social media and you want to make the arrangements more permanent, then that episode will be right up your street. So make sure that you subscribe to the podcast wherever you’re listening, so that you automatically get notified when that episode and all the future episodes drop. I don’t want you to miss anything.

[00:20:54] And, as always, I’m curious to know how you get on if you do decide to take a break. What did you do to prepare? How did you find the experience? What did you learn about yourself and your digital habits? And crucially, would you take a social media break again? Are you planning to make them a regular thing? The place to let me know and to discuss this episode is in The Digital Diet Lounge, which is my dedicated community space for all things digital wellness. I will put a link to it in the show notes, and you can find the show notes over on my website at thedigitaldietcoach.com/022.

[00:21:34] I’ve really enjoyed this episode and I hope that you’ve enjoyed it too. I know you are busy and your time is incredibly valuable. So, as always, I thank you for choosing to spend a little of your day with me, and I’ll see you next time.

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Marisha Pink

Meet Marisha

Marisha Pink is a Certified Digital Wellness Coach who is on a mission to empower women everywhere to live life more intentionally in an age of digital distractions. She helps women create healthier digital habits that better balance the technology in their lives, so that they can take back control of their time, reclaim their happiness, and live their best lives offline.

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