How To Do a Quick Social Media Detox

This past year has been a tough one for social media. While a majority of Americans check at least one social media platform every day, the wave of ANTI-social media sentiment is clearly on the rise. Multiple books and articles have come out showing correlations between excessive social media use and anxiety, depression and low self-worth (particularly in kids); prompting many to stop and take a long hard look at their own relationship to these platforms.

Common Sense Media has even teamed up with the Center for Humane Technology creating a #TruthAboutTech campaign to not only educate the public about the exploitative nature of social media, but also in an attempt to change legislation and rethink tech design at it’s core. Just last week Katie Couric’s new show America Inside Out did an incredible exposé on the effects of all this tech on the human brain - using herself as a guinea pig - and it was pretty revealing.

So what does all of this mean for us and our kids? Well, maybe it’s worth considering a hiatus or at least a small curbing of our own social media use. If you hate it you can always go back, but who knows, you may find a sense of freedom from shackles you didn’t even realize you were wearing.

Here are some easy tips to help you on your social media detox:

  • Install MOMENT. Moment is a great app that tracks your phone use throughout the day. At the end of each day it gives you a breakdown of which apps you used, for how long and at what time of day. After about a week you should be able to see some clear patterns to help you discern which apps are sucking up most of your attention (these may end up being news apps, games or YouTube - something else to consider stepping back from).


  • *Do an honest inventory. Which social media platforms do you really enjoy and which ones are just serving as a time suck? Which platform adds something useful or positive to your life? Which ones leave you feeling anxious, bored, or “less than?” Do you need to have these on your phone and in your pocket or can it just live on your computer? Once you’ve taken a look at this pick one or two platforms that you can either ditch completely or at least remove from your phone. For me personally, I use Facebook and Instagram mainly for my work (it’s nice to have a space to share my message). I also like to be able to get periodic looks into people’s lives who I don’t get to see or talk to regularly. So last year I decided to take FB off my phone. I knew I would need to check in or post periodically, but didn’t need to have it on there filling every second of “in between” time in my day with mindless scrolling. Outcome: I’m on there A LOT less and don’t miss it one bit.


  • Turn OFF Notifications. This may be the most important thing you do. Notifications are designed to suck you right back in to a social media platform. Just think about it this way - Those notifications are lures set up by the app to get your clicks and make their advertisers happy. Your click = their profit. Don’t fall for it. Go into your app settings on your phone and turn notifications off for everything except the most important and necessary apps - eg. phone and text. That gives you back control which lessens the feeling of anxiety and compulsion.


  • Move social media apps off your home page. This may sound like it wouldn’t do much, but according to Tristan Harris of Center for Humane Technology, if you put only the most necessary apps on your home screen and move all the distracting apps to the following pages you’ll simply be less likely to use them as often and without thinking about it for a beat first.


  • **Schedule your social media check ins. Ok, so you’ve gotten rid of one or two Apps - good for you! Still, maybe you need some help with the compulsive checking for friend updates. You’re not alone. Social media apps are intentionally designed with what is called Persuasive Technology in order to keep you coming back for more. So what can you do? Make a pact to check your social media 1-3 times per day (at most!) at specified times. So for example: Maybe you do a 10 minute check in at 9am, another one at 3pm and your last one at 6pm. Eventually the goal is to get down to 1-2 quick check ins per day (or maybe none?) - get your fix and get out. No more mindless scrolling while time disappears.


  • Enjoy the time you’re saving and the feeling of control you have back! At first you may be left wondering, “ what do I do in these spare moments without social media?” Good question. I’d suggest letting your mind wander, enjoying the taste of your food, paying complete attention to the person you’re hanging out with, looking at the world around you, picking up a book, making a phone call - the list goes on. The point is to be more present and mindful of your real life. After all, if you’re not enjoying the real thing offline, what’s the point?


*Grab a friend or two (even your teen!) and make a pact to detox together - everything is easier with friends!

** If you’re really struggling with your own self-discipline, consider using an App like Anti-Social or Freedom to impose restrictions on your phone and computer for you.