There’s nothing wrong with a little social media, but when seconds-long TikToks turn into hourlong binges, Instagram Stories into mental scoreboards of who-liked-what, and Facebook feeds into not-so-fun grounds for discovering your uncle’s political views, it’s time to take a little break.
Just a break, because quitting completely isn’t really an option or desire for many. There’s still much to be gained from the apps that dominate our screen times. But there’s also much to lose when scrolling takes up too much of our time, headspace, and energy.
A successful social media break will look different for everybody. Some people might want to deactivate all their social media profiles for a certain amount of time, while others might only want to limit some social media features. What matters most is to take from social media what benefits you and leave what doesn’t.
In other words: Figure out what you like, find the right settings, and follow the tips below.
Figure out what’s bothering you
Are you overwhelmed by seeing too much of other people’s lives? Is your like count feeding your toxic need for validation? Are you going broke from online shopping? There are many reasons that might lead you to want a break. It’s important to figure out what those reasons are because doing so will help you decide how to design your break.
Pick and choose specific social media features and activities
Once you know what the problem is, you can pick and choose which social media apps you want to take a break from and which features in each you want to stop or continue.
For example, you might decide to still use TikTok but only watch the videos your friends send to you. Or maybe you still want to scroll through your Instagram feed but not post your own content. While those changes don’t stop your social media use completely, they do cut your usage.
Set a minimum
It’s also helpful to decide the minimum amount of time you want your social media break to last. This gives you a goal. If you know exactly how many days you have left, then getting through each day should be a little easier. You can also treat it as a challenge against yourself. But don’t just dive head first into a binge when the time comes—observe how you feel and decide if you want or need a few extra days.
Don’t post. Do reach out.
Much of social media is about connecting, eliciting reactions, or wanting to be seen. All that can be done without social media.
Instead of posting a “memory” on Facebook, call the people you made that memory with and reminisce together. Instead of posting another zoomed-in photo of your food on your Instagram Story, send it to your mom to let her know you’re alive. Instead of posting another thirst trap for everyone to see and crossing your fingers that a specific person sees it, just go right ahead and send it to that one person.
Delete apps and ask a friend to keep your passwords
The desire to go on a social media break comes easy but actually fighting the compulsion to use social media is hard. To help with this, delete the apps you don’t want to use from your devices. If they’re not there, you can’t use them. Unless you open their websites on a browser. To prevent that, too, ask a trusted friend to change your passwords and agree on when you can log into your accounts again.
Go on holiday or find literally anything else to do
This is a bit counterintuitive, because what’s better to post about than a holiday? But doing other things aside from staring at your screen reminds you that there are other things to do aside from staring at your screen.
If a holiday’s not in the cards, pick up something you can do when you have the compulsion to pick up your phone. Read a book, stretch, solve a Rubik’s Cube.
Remember: nobody cares
Everyone is the main character of their own lives and likely an extra at best in the lives of most of their social media followers. Few people watch you as closely as you watch yourself, so your social media break will probably matter most to you. Take all the time you want or need.
But also remember: Distance makes the heart grow fonder
That said, there must be some people who genuinely enjoy seeing you around social media, and they’ll be elated when you get back from your break. Hopefully, you’ll be happier, too.
Follow Romano Santos on Instagram.