It’s an easy decision to quit social media after weighing the growing list of negative effects against the positive benefits. To stop using it is simple and involves limiting your exposure gradually and setting aside breaks to browse your feeds during a social media detox.
Until the early 2000s, personal and professional relationships were nurtured the same way for thousands of years. In-person meetings, phone calls, and written messages directly between people reinforced a personal connection in previous generations. These real-life relationships migrated to new platforms as social media dominated the second decade of the internet revolution. With all the advantages of keeping tabs on your tribe, there are many negative side effects.
Let’s explore some reasons to quit a social network. I’ll guide you through detox and provide an action plan on how to move forward if you choose to use social media as a tool instead of a passive, entertainment addiction.
Table of Contents
When you quit social media, you’ll notice several mental and physical changes. Even your connection with technology evolves. But the largest transformation will occur in your social life. You will find a new view of your relationships and with yourself.
The first thing you gain without social media is more time in your day. We each have a million things we have to do each day. So if you’re an average user according to GlobalWebIndex’s survey, you’re using almost 10% of your day on social media. Without social media, I relieved my constant feeling of being rushed, behind, or running late.
Social network companies develop their social media app specifically to hold user attention. Using one or more of these apps robs you of your ability to give attention to things in the real world. App developers take tactics from the gambling machine playbook. The more time you spend at them, the more money they make feeding off your time and money.
Along with growing social media addiction, it’s well-documented that social networks present low-quality information. Even with awareness and skepticism of “fake news”, the quantity of content can also overload your ability to filter and keep facts straight. This is simply information overload.
Quitting social media restores your ability to retain information, critically think, and then make use of it. Freeing your mental bandwidth to focus on higher-quality news allows you to form logical decisions without emotionally-charged, herd-mentality sharing.
While researching sources for this article, the largest mental impact centered around preventing and not inflaming well-studied mental disorders. Each of the following conditions has ties to social media use:
- Depression: An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and that affects the way a person eats, sleeps, feels about himself or herself, and thinks about things.
Association Between Social Media Use and Depression Among U.S. Young Adults – Journal of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- Anxiety: A feeling of apprehension and fear, characterized by physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, and feelings of stress.
“Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults” – Journal of Affective Disorders
- Body Image Obsession: Excessive concern about one’s appearance.
Negative comparisons about one’s appearance mediate the relationship between Facebook usage and body image concerns – Body Image
- Loneliness: An abnormal and persistent fear of loneliness, of being alone.
No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression – Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Disclaimer: The reader should know the above journal articles are examples of the negative side effects of social media. As with all research, opposing scientific literature and consulting a trained mental health professional is advised.
Commonly referred to as “text neck”, forward head posture (FHP) refers to the incorrect position of the neck causing the head to be held forward of normal or neutral alignment.
The average adult human head weighs about 10 pounds or 5 kilograms. As it tilts downward to stare at a screen, the effective weight and stress on your neck increases to as high as 60 pounds or 25 kilograms. This is a 500-600% addition that over time can create a permanent misalignment in your posture.
Scrolling through your social media feeds for an extended period puts added stress on the neck muscles and vertebra leading to FHP.
The diagram below shows the wrong (left) and right (right) way to hold your smartphone to avoid or reduce FHP and related strain.
In this video (6m4s@2x), Jeremy Ethier digs deeper into the causes of poor posture and presents 3 home exercises to help reverse the effects.
Besides postural problems, other physical ailments arise from the extended use of a smartphone. Most western societies combat chronic obesity, heart disease, and diabetes due to sedentary lifestyles with a poor balance of exercise and nutrition. A smartphone always within reach can reduce the amount of physical activity contributing to the inability to fight these conditions.
Several studies link social media use by teens and adults to poor sleep from the use of social media during night hours. While most manufacturers have added blue light filters to their device offerings, adding light of any color contributes to lower melatonin levels. This is associated with poor sleep quality and a feeling of unrest in the morning which can lead to the use of caffeine and other stimulants to tackle the lack of quality sleep.
Sleep and physical ailments aren’t the only concerns of habitual social media use. Your personal security is easily a target. If you’ve ever posted a selfie to social media from the airport on your way to a dream vacation, your smartphone geotagged that picture. Your public and private followers now know that you’re not home and those watching you in the airport know you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. This neglect of attention can contribute to theft and reduced personal safety.
There are technological advantages when you stop using social media. When you use your phone less, your battery lasts longer. Your device’s screen on time is the top power consumer on your device. The second biggest drain on your phone’s battery is by data transmission. The fewer social media mobile apps and feed surfing, the less demand you place on your phone’s power cycles.
After a month or two of using less data by cutting out social media, examine your data usage. Can you downgrade your monthly data plan to save you money? As you use your phone less, you’re also wearing it out less. Your device will last longer before needing to be replaced or upgraded. A smartphone costs between $549.00 and $1449.00 and by delaying the purchase, you can save up your next phone.
During my social media detox, I wasn’t signing up new services based on recommendations or ads. I reduced the amount of data I was spreading around the internet and fewer number of accounts to track in my password manager.
The truth is when you reduce or quit social media the largest impact is on your social life. No more oversharing your personal information or loss of privacy. No more accidental damage to your professional reputation. No more fake news or inaccurate information shared via your social feed. A lot less tracking your online habits.
When you slow or stop using social media, you change your relationship with those you follow and who follow you. You really determine which friends are truly close to you and that you care most about.
The average user has between 150 and 300 friends on Facebook. But these are not close friends. You prioritize interpersonal interaction outside social media with a higher social value.
Social media impairs the joy of sharing life with your closest friends. Without the constant drip of dopamine, as you passively observe people’s lives through a sterilized social feed, you will discover that connecting with your closest relationships offline more meaningful.
As you cut back the use of social networks, your focus shifts from what everyone else is doing to attend to your own life. You’ll find you care less about petty social currency and social comparison culture leading to a more meaningful relationship with yourself and higher life satisfaction. You end up living life for yourself instead of worrying about how to shape it into what looks good online.
More people are aware of the negative impacts of using social media. Doing a digital detox or completely cutting out social networking attracts fewer criticisms now that more people are aware of this addiction and impact in real life.
These 10 simple detox steps will show you how to stop using social media:
- Commit to a Monday through Friday digital detox this Sunday.
- Choose a nice, offline, real-world reward for Saturday after your detox.
- Post to all your social accounts a status update saying that you’ll be temporarily offline starting Monday to curb your social media usage.
- Silence all notifications in the settings of each social media account, including texts and email summaries.
- Remove all social media apps from your smartphone.
- YouTube (Disable on Android),
- Blogger, and
- Keep messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, etc.
- Remove bookmarks to all social media websites from your desktop and mobile browsers.
- Wipe each browser’s cookies and history.
- Create a 30-minute timer in your clock app and label it “Logout of Social.”
- Use this weekday schedule and start your 30-minutes timer. READ your social media feeds through the social media website. NO posting, NO liking, NO status updates, NO commenting, NO interactions. SCROLLING ONLY.
a. Monday: Session 1 – At Breakfast. Session 2 – At Lunch. Session 3 – At Dinner no later.
b. Tuesday: Session 1 – At Breakfast. Session 2 – At Lunch. No Dinner session.
c. Wednesday: Session 1 – At Lunch. Session 2 – At Dinner.
d. Thursday: Session 1 – At Dinner Only.
e. Friday: No Sessions, No Social. You can do it!
- Distract yourself if you feel the urge to use social media.
a. Call or text with your closest friend via phone, WhatsApp, Signal, Snapchat, or other more-secure messaging apps.
b Staying busy at work or by picking a new hobby.
c. Watch regular TV or a movie.
d. Go for a walk.
e. Listen to an audiobook.
You did it! You went a full day without any social media. It’s tempting to put it all back on your phone and slip back into the old addicted you. You’re stronger than that.
I’ve got a sustainable plan. Here are your next steps:
- Make one or two 30-minute appointments in your day and block these for social media. Uninterrupted free time is the best e.g.
a. in your parked car before work.
b. on the train during your commute.
c. during some toilet time.
d. lunch break, etc.
- Set your 30-minute timer and enjoy putting real life in time out. It’s time to treat yourself.
- Continue your non-social-media distractions (#10 above) outside of your 30-minute appointments.
- Leave the social media apps off your phone. Your battery will last longer when apps aren’t broadcasting your social media presence continuously 😉
- Forgive yourself if you slip up.
You’ve done a social media dopamine detox. For an in-depth look at how social media is affecting our brains, check out this video (1m37s@2x) from AsapSCIENCE:
But What If…
I need it for my job?
This is even more reason not to use social media for your personal needs.
Yes, social media marketing is needed in some professions to keep apprised of industry trends, help in marketing a business, and providing useful collaboration with colleagues.
The easy solution is to create an account specifically for work. I use dedicated social profiles as a blogger which keeps me focused on using social media as a tool to accomplish related tasks for my business without distracting scrolling on a personal account.
I need it for my personal life?
Do a gut check, but if you indeed want to hop back on a particular social media platform in your personal life, consider opening a new account. Close the old account. This gives you a reset and lets you connect and use the platform in a manner that benefits you.
Limit the amount of information, photos, and engagement you under the new account. Social media gains its power over you only through the personal information you provide it and how much you participate.
We also detailed safer social media alternatives to the big-tech, data-stealing companies. Check these out as an option.
Social media is addictive. It eats your time and your ability to focus. If it’s not serving or solving an immediate goal in your life, stop using it. If a social media service can serve a purpose and provide value to you, then limit it. Change your view of social media as a tool to bring you value instead of the other way around.
Even a dumpster fire can keep you warm. Just don’t hang around it all the time wondering who has more value in the relationship.