You might have read my previous post where I talked about taking a break from social media for 30 days. In that post, I focused on what motivated me to do so. It’s different for everyone, but for me, it came down to the fact that spending so much time consuming was hindering my ability to create. If I cut back, I figured, it would do wonders for my well-being and mental health.
Whatever your reasons are, a digital detox could be worth considering. Whether you’re struggling with social media addiction, spend too much time on Snapchat and Facebook, or simply need a break, you’d be wise to step back and take a break from the digital world.
Of course, it’s easier said than done. Casting social media out of your life, even temporarily, requires a great deal of motivation and even more discipline. Curbing your use of technology is very hard if you live life relying on it.
It’ll definitely be a challenge at first. In the first days of my digital detox, I seriously considered re-downloading all the apps I deleted. “What’s the point?” I thought, not knowing what to do with all this extra time I now had. Technology use had become so important to me that I felt lost without the pillars of my cell phone.
Thankfully, I stuck to my principles and turned that extra time into time well spent. Looking back, I’m so glad I did.
If you’re considering a digital detox, it’s tempting to want to set your own boundaries and make exceptions to your rules. If you’re going to be successful, here are ten rules that can not be broken. Stick to them and you’ll be amazed with how quickly you can reap the stimulating benefits of a full-on, honest digital detox.
1. Pick A Realistic Period of Time
This is a big one.
Just like any commitment, you need to be realistic. If you’re too ambitious, you’ll end up overshooting and it will be much easier to break the promise you made for yourself. The harder the task at hand, the easier it is to make excuses when you fail.
That’s why it’s not a good idea to say you’re going to stop using social media “forever”. As Prince says, “forever is a mighty long time” and I’m here to tell you that it’s probably not the right period of time for you to swear off social media cold turkey…at least not yet.
Start small. There’s nothing wrong with your digital detox only being a day long. Especially if you’re just testing the waters, unplugging for a single day is enough to show you how little you need social media and how easily you can thrive without it. After that, you can set the bar a little bit higher.
Remember, the lengths you go should be reflective of what you’re trying to get out of your digital detox. The number you pick is arbitrary, but it should be something that you can see yourself sticking to, a reasonable period of time that won’t have you fighting withdrawal. That being said, quitting only gets easier the deeper you go.
2. Delete Everything
No, you can’t have a digital detox while keeping social media apps on your iPhone. Sorry.
It’s not that you can’t be trusted, but if you’re really dead-set on a digital detox, then why keep the apps accessible to you? Even if it’s only for a day, the trouble of re-downloading isn’t a legitimate excuse: these days, social media apps will download in seconds.
In fact, that additional barrier will make the process of redownloading and breaking the promise you made to yourself so much more of a hassle. If you need to go out of your way, you’ll have much more time to stop yourself.
Also, the behavior of opening certain social media apps is probably muscle memory at this point. You might catch yourself scrolling through Twitter or Instagram without ever trying, and then, ten minutes into the content binge, you’ll forget how you even got there.
Disconnecting isn’t automatic. You need to put a conscious effort into limiting your social media use to get anything out of your digital detox.
3. No Redownloading
Considering out last rule, this one is common sense. Do not, under any circumstances, redownload your social media apps.
Even if your favorite musician or best friend is having an episode on social media and you feel like you need to see for yourself, don’t do it! Even if you redownload it for “just one second” that second will turn into minutes of you engaging in the dopamine chase you’ve tried so hard to abstain from.
A digital detox must be absolute. If you start making exceptions, all the principles you set for yourself will go out the window. Even if you successfully curb your usage, the impact quitting has on your life will be small unless you keep yourself disciplined.
4. Don’t Forget About Your Computer
OK, so you’ve deleted social media from your phone. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t access it.
You’ve probably already thought about this loophole. Many social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, are readily accessible on your laptop or desktop computer.
So what? Well, you can actually block these sites from your web browser. If you don’t, you will find yourself craving the easy escape. Just because your scrolling binge happens on a bigger screen, doesn’t make it any less damaging.
Even browsing through Google can be destructive. Make sure you have a broad definition of social media, so you don’t just fall victim to other ways of wasting time on your digital device.
5. Find Something Better to Do
This is the most exciting part. Once you’ve cut social media out of your life, you’ll find yourself with all this time that you didn’t know you had. Take advantage of it! Time is a blessing.
In order to make the most out of your detox, you’ll need to take this newfound time and put it towards something productive, something you are passionate about that brings you fulfillment. Don’t forget: there are other ways to waste time other than social media.
My suggestion? Spend the time you’ve earned from your digital detox being creative. Whether your outlet is writing, painting, making music, fleshing out business ideas…there’s so much opportunity for you to make something great out of your life.
However, you can’t just sit and wait for it to come. You have to grab life by the horns! If you find something you truly love doing, you’ll forget why you got sucked into the social media cycle in the first place.
6. Make A Rule About Texting Or Email
Sure, there are limits to your detox. After all, technology has developed to this point for a reason. Detoxing doesn’t mean you have to go back to the day where you couldn’t easily contact people from a smartphone, the days where if you wanted to reach out to someone you had to hit up their landline or fax machine or (*gasp*) send them a letter!
This means you’ll probably have to text. However, if you’re an avid texter and you feel like that takes away from your life, you might need to set some boundaries there as well.
For example, you could tell your friends to only text you if it’s extremely important. Or, you could turn off your phone for hours at a time and turn it back on just to check if something has come up.
If you’re a professional, you probably can’t let-go of email or LinkedIn either. However, try to unsubscribe from pesky newsletters or corporate mailing lists that clutter your inbox and suck away your time. Make sure the time you spend on professional social networks is purposeful and not just a pretty way of feeding your cravings. Heck, even money transfer apps like Venmo can be addictive!
7. Limit Your Screen Time
This seems obvious, but it’s another principle you need to clearly define before you can move forward with your digital detox.
As mentioned in the last rule, you’ll probably need to use your phone for certain things. However, if you set no rules for yourself other than deleting social media apps, you’re not making much better use of your time.
Most smartphones let you keep track of screen time, so use this feature to your advantage. Set a realistic limit for yourself–an hour a day is a good place to start–and make sure you’re only using your phone for things that add to your life.
Remember, detoxing is all about finding a new way to spend time. Once you bend the rules, you risk undermining the entire point of doing this.
8. Try New Things
Now that you’re free from the suffocating grasp of social media, it’s a great time to get acquainted with passions you didn’t even know you had. Once you’ve unplugged, you can get acquainted with real life.
Honestly, what better time to explore new interests than when you’re free of the distractions that once weighed down on you. Maybe you’ve never gotten into cooking, but you’ve always wanted to try. Maybe you’ve never thought you were one for the outdoors. Well, now is the time to buy the recipe book or join your friends on that hike you’ve always avoided.
You never know how much you love something until you try it.
9. Don’t Look For Another Vice
Sure, you’ve abandoned social media, but here’s a quick news flash: social media is not the only addictive force that can eat away at your time and hinder your creativity.
There are plenty of other things that function in the same way social media does, things that get you hooked and take away from more fulfilling alternatives. Video games, drinking, smoking, gambling, and even drugs can all present themselves as options to fill the void left behind by social media.
Don’t give in! Pivoting to another addiction is just as damaging, and some things can hurt you even more than social media. If unplugging makes you pivot to another destructive force, you’re doing it wrong.
Instead, focus on your social interactions. Don’t spend too much time alone because you will end up looking for distractions.
10. Remember Why You’re Doing This
Let’s face it. Any digital detox is going to be tough.
But in the times where you ask yourself why you even bother, where you question what you’re actually gaining from cutting a destructive force out of your life, remember how you go to this point.
If you’re reading this article, you probably have a very legitimate reason to let go of social media. For me, it was a need to focus my energy on more creative outlets. And whenever I found myself fiening for the fix I got when I consumed content at the rapid, rewarding rate of social media, I remembered the promise I made. I remembered why I quit social media in the first place and how much happier I was without it.
If you find yourself questioning your decision to go on a digital detox, I implore you to do the same. Chances are you’ll remember exactly how you got to this point and in doing that, you’ll find the impetus to carry on.