If you’ve ever found yourself scrolling through social media and completely losing any sense of time and being left wondering “where did the last hour of my life go?” you’re not alone. A lot people – some with substantial followings – are opting to take a social media break for a short period of time.
While it’s nice to see what friends and family are up to in your feed, consuming that much content to the point where you’re not even really paying attention anymore can feel overwhelming.
There are conflicting studies on how social media, in general, affects mental health. But if you’re not enjoying the experience of using social media, a short break can have some mental health benefits.
Signs you may need a break from social media
It’s impossible to not compare yourself to people you see on social media. Whether it’s the new promotion of a friend from high school that you don’t even talk to anymore, or an influencer bragging about dropping three pants sizes thanks to a trend or “miracle product,” it’s human nature to compare yourself to those around you – even if you’re only watching their highlight reel.
- If you find yourself comparing yourself to everyone you’re seeing and feeling bad about it, it may be time to consider taking a social media break.
- If you end up on social media without even realizing you’re on it, that is a good indication. Social media apps are designed to do one thing – keep you on the platform. And they’re really good at it. If you find yourself clicking on the app instinctually instead of intentionally, you may be getting too engrossed.
- If the content you’re consuming is leaving you feeling worse than before you started, you may be “doomscrolling.”
- If you can’t enjoy anything without posting about it. Can you try a new restaurant without snapping a pic before digging in? Can you meet up with some friends without a group selfie? Ask yourself “Would I still be enjoying this experience even if people didn’t know I was?”
- If social media stops being fun and enjoyable. Bottom line, if your social media habits leave you feeling anxious, sad, depressed or even angry – it’s probably a good time to consider stepping away from social media for a bit.
Why a social media break is important
If you feel like it may be time to take a break from social media, there are a few benefits to doing so. The biggest reason people do it is to improve their mental health. It can give a boost to your overall mood, help reduce anxiety and even improve your sleep.
Taking a break from social media isn’t necessarily an easy task. A fringe bonus of the break is the feeling of accomplishment when you set a goal and work to achieve or stick to it.
How to take a social media break
There are plenty of ways you can limit time spent on social media, but they depend on how much and what kind of break you’re hoping to take. Whether you’re just feeling like it may be time to step away, or you feel like you have a social media addiction, here are a few starting points to consider:
Sometimes it’s as simple as setting aside 30 minutes a day (or a few 30-minute sessions throughout the day) as your allotted “social media time.” Then when it’s done, it’s done.
Set a time limit on your smartphone
Many newer cellphones have features built into the settings that allow you to set time limits for apps. Go in and set an aspirational but achievable limit for the day or week (start with 30 minutes and go from there) to help if you find yourself endlessly scrolling.
Delete the apps
This may sound extreme, but remember, you’re just deleting the one-click nature of social media. Using your browser or logging in on a desktop adds an additional barrier to just opening your phone and hitting the app as a muscle memory reflex.
Replace the time
It’s easy to say, “instead of scrolling through social media on your break, go for a walk instead,” but come on. Taking a walk is a great activity to do in place of checking your feed, but it’s not always realistic. Try to find other activities you find equally as enjoyable – or even equally as mindless – to fill the time otherwise spent on social media. Check out a new podcast, listen to an audiobook, watch a cooking video – anything to keep your mind off of social media.
Again, if you feel like you need a social media detox or you find yourself in a place where you’re not enjoying the social media experience anymore – it’s OK to take a break for a while. The break doesn’t have to be permanent, but you may feel better and maybe even find some other activities you like as well. Remember to be kind to yourself during the process – like quitting anything, taking the break is hard, and if you slip up, that’s totally fine.
However, if you take a break from checking social media sites and still feel anxious or depressed, or that those feelings are overwhelming, speaking to your primary care physician or a mental health professional can help you identify other causes and begin to resolve them.