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Is taking a break from social media a smart move?

Camryn Rabideau
Camryn Rabideau March, 04, 2020

Baker, green thumb, living well with anxiety

For many people, social media is a huge part of every day. We reach for our phones when we wake up, scroll through posts during our commutes and check in periodically throughout the day — just in case we missed anything.

While there are plenty of benefits to social media, staying connected 24/7 has undeniable downsides. If social media is slowly taking over your life — and especially if it's causing you to neglect the people and responsibilities in your life — it might be time to consider taking a break from social media. Planning a social media break can help you recharge, reassess your priorities and reconnect with what's important in life. Here's how to make it happen.

Look at your social media use
Woman using a smartphone

You probably realize you spend a lot of time on social media (and you're certainly not alone), but the actual numbers might still help put things into perspective. Here are some of the most eye-opening statistics:

  • The average user has profiles on nine social media sites.
  • The average user spends two hours and 16 minutes on social media each day — about 1/7 of their time awake.
  • Almost 75% of Facebook users visit the site several times a day.

These statistics are just an average, but you can find your exact phone and social media usage via apps like Screen Time on iOS or Digital Wellbeing on Android. If your daily usage is higher than expected, consider taking a social media break to look back on whether you devote your time to the things that really make you happy.

How to take a social media break

If you're thinking about taking a break from social media, think twice before going cold turkey. It may be more helpful to cut down your social media time gradually.

One of the best ways to start is by using the two apps mentioned above: Both allow you to set time limits for certain apps — so, once you hit your allotted time, the app will send you a notification or block you from using social media even more. For a solution that doesn't involve extra apps, try leaving your phone behind for specific times, such as when you go to work or meet up with friends.

Want to cut back even more? Delete the apps from your phone completely — don't worry, you can always download them again later. This will keep you from accessing social media sites unless you're at a computer. If you still find yourself peeking at Facebook on your work laptop, desktop programs like SelfControl allow you to block a custom list of websites for a set amount of time.

What to do without social media

Whether you're deleting social media for good or just cutting back on your usage, you're going to have extra time on your hands. Keeping yourself occupied is the best way to ensure you don't give up and cut your hiatus short.

But what should you do with this time? Experts say this is a key time for self-reflection and new experiences.

"Taking a break from anything can provide needed time for critical reflection," explains Dr. Jeremy Rezmovitz, a family physician at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. "We can enhance our lives and learning through real world experiences, and by taking the time to think and reflect on our feelings."

Try signing up for a fitness or yoga class or taking up meditation. Pick up a book you haven't read in years. You could also get friends in on your detox and set up a weekly outing, such as a hike or phone-free dinner.

Social media can be wonderful, but spending hours endlessly scrolling isn't always fulfilling. If you're used to spending your day staring at a screen, grounding yourself in the world around you shakes up your normal groove. Taking a break from social media creates opportunities for new experiences — maybe you'll even be inspired to extend your break!

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