If you don’t remember the last time you spent a day away from your phone, you need a social media cleanse to reduce anxiety, increase presence, and build connection.
It was non stop.
- when I first woke up
- while brushing my teeth
- while going to the bathroom
- while waiting for breakfast to cook
- when I was sitting at the table with my kids
- when we were playing together
- while they tried to talk to me
- while I was at work
- when I was in the car
- when I was getting ready for bed
Social media was taking over my life.
It didn’t seem that way in the moment, but when I stopped to think about how often I checked Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram, it was pitiful.
And to what end?
I didn’t come out of 5 minutes of scrolling on my phone feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle my next task…
It left me feeling disappointed, overwhelmed, and honestly, kind of motion sick from all the scrolling!
The fact that my body automatically reached for, unlocked, and opened social media on my phone any spare minute that I got was a little bit shocking. So when I took on this pursuit of living more intentionally and practicing mindfulness, I knew I needed to set better boundaries with social media.
So I forced myself to take a break for a month, and it was MAGICAL.
If you’re considering creating a better relationship with your phone and hoping for more time in your day, deeper relationships with your friends, and more patience with your kids, this social media cleanse is for you!
Related post: 5 Strategies for Better Time Management
Step One: Craft your WHY
As with any goal, the first step to making a change or implementing something new is understanding exactly why this is worth your time and energy.
Your brain works hard to protect the status quo, so if you don’t have a strong sense of why this is important to you, your efforts won’t go very far.
You’ll be back to scrolling the next day with a million ways to justify it to yourself.
My WHY consisted of wanting to
- Prove to myself that I wasn’t addicted – and if I couldn’t stop for 30 days then what does that really say?
- See how much time I could get back in my day – to explore new hobbies and be more productive
- Build more meaningful relationships – with my kids, with my husband. If I am constantly staring at my phone, does that signal to the important people in my life that I have time for them and care to listen to them? Probably not.
Step Two: Figure out the specifics of your social media cleanse
You can’t just say you’re ditching social media and expect that to suffice. Our minds are very clever at using the ‘gray areas’ to get what they want.
You need to be very specific in setting the rules so that things are black and white in order to come out successful.
- How long are you taking a break for? I decided on 30 days.
- What are you taking a break from? For me it was Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
- Are there any exceptions? If you think ahead, you’re less likely to go down the slippery slope. For me, googling things (like recipes, or crafts) that led to a Pinterest post was acceptable (as these were things that allowed me to develop hobbies and spend quality time with my children), but going on Pinterest and scrolling for 30 minutes on “crafts for kids” instead of actually doing a craft with my kid was not okay.
- What will you do when the time is up? It’s unlikely that you’ll stay off of social media forever. Make sure you use the last day as a decision point to plan for future social media use. I was going to establish healthier social media consumption habits by defining what hours of the day I would check social media and where I want to have access to it.
Step Three: Eliminate social media from your environment
Where it’s become such an unconscious habit, you need to build a conscious decision back into the process.
The way to do this is by disrupting the sequence of events in some way that allows you enough time to stop and think (and refer back to your WHY).
It doesn’t need to be much, even just the action of having to log in to your account will be such a hindrance that you’ll be able to stop yourself. Do all of the following:
- Let your social media buddies know that you’ll be back in a while.
A simple post on why you’re taking a break and when you’ll be back will suffice. You don’t have to go into any details, but you’ll feel more comfortable during your break if you know others aren’t worrying about your sudden disappearance.
- Give them an alternative method of contacting you.
Text, phone number, or good old fashioned snail mail if you really want to take it back to basics. This way you won’t be worried that people have urgent things to tell you but are unable to reach you, which is almost never the case. The people that matter in your life are more than just on social media.
- Uninstall the apps from your phone.
Don’t just move them off your main screen, they need to be off your phone or your body will create a new pattern of getting to it by swiping a couple of extra times. Do you really think you can fool yourself by requesting an extra thumb swipe?
- Log out of the accounts on your computer.
Sometimes having to remember your password is enough to keep you off. If your habit is really bad and/or you’ve tried this before and it hasn’t gone according to plan, clear the history and passwords on your computer. This is a bit more of a nuisance because you’ll have to remember your passwords for other online sites as well, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Step Four: Be prepared for things to get uncomfortable during your social media cleanse
It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Like any addiction, you may suffer ‘withdrawal symptoms.’ You’ll get bored. You’ll start justifying it as educational. You’ll think up a million excuses why it was a bad idea in the first place. To prepare for those times:
- Make sure you can come back to your why
Write it down somewhere and refer back to it when you’re debating if scrolling on your phone is more important than spending time with your family.
- List other things you’d like to spend your time on.
If you’re like most people, you’re going to need to figure out what to do with the extra 1-2 hours a day.
What are some things you’ve wanted to try? Painting, writing, reading, exercising, building something, catching up with friends, actually eating a good breakfast in the morning. So many options with so many more benefits than scrolling social media.
- Be okay with the discomfort you feel.
It’s part of the process of rediscovering who you are and what you like to do.
Day 1 will be easy because you’ve got that motivation. Days 2-5 will probably be the hardest because you’ll be questioning why you started this in the first place. Just know that this is normal and you will come out on the other side living more intentionally.
For me, it took about a week before I had kicked the habit of reaching for my phone.
So what was the point of doing a social media cleanse?
Doing a month long social media cleanse was liberating, to say the least.
My days no longer got away from me, I spent my time intentionally and reaped the rewards of crushing my to do list and developing new hobbies (like watercolor painting!)
Here are a few of my biggest takeaways and lessons learned from this social media cleanse.
Your absence doesn’t stop the world from turning
This seems like common sense now, but before I started I was worried about missing out on something! I
wouldn’t know what my friends were up to, people would try to reach me and not be able to tell me something important, I’d miss out on really fun events that were happening around me, I’d be oblivious to some major news.
None of this was true.
Social media didn’t blow up because I wasn’t on there – the same people were still posting the same things and it was mostly funny cat videos. The people that did want to reach me contacted me in other ways and I was still connected with the lives of people who mattered most.
I still got together with friends — but they were real life 3D friends. Any events that did occur I heard about in other ways, and I still didn’t go, just like I didn’t when I was on social media, because I prioritized my time for other things.
The little things are the big things
I started to notice so many things when my nose wasn’t pointed down at my phone!
During my social media cleanse, I realized my daughter could do things I hadn’t quite paid attention to before. My son was asking questions that were really inquisitive that used to get met with ‘mmhmm’ but now we looked things up and learned together, forming a stronger relationship.
All of these little things that I used to disregard as trivial are actually really important! They make up the big things and gave me a significant boost in my happiness!
There are so many hours in a day
This one baffled me a bit because I expected to get my time back in 5 minute chunks, which don’t really add up to 2 hours straight that I could go out and do something fun. This was simply not the case. It is actually more like 10-20 minute chunks, and there is a lot you can accomplish in that time!
By doing the dishes in 10, folding the laundry in 10, getting supper prepped in 20, and plowing through my office work without getting distracted, I actually saved an hour of continuous time a day, at least!
I could then go out for an hour long hike, or bust out my painting supplies because I had done everything else that needed to be completed earlier.
Social media management is something that I dive deeper into in my time management e course, which teaches you everything you need to know in order to
- increase your focus
- optimize your environment
- boost your motivation
- increase your productivity
- prioritize effectively, and
- get ahead
I do have hobbies
Working, owning a house, and raising 2 children + a dog left little time at the end of my day and I didn’t really feel that I had any hobbies (unless you counted scrolling through Pinterest). Turns out I do!
I read a book a week now, I started calligraphy and watercolor painting, I’m loving bellydancing classes, my favorite thing to do with the kids is crafts – so many crafts! – and my husband and I actually have our own hobby (which is no longer watching TV while playing on our phones), it’s mountain biking!
By committing to a social media cleanse and cutting down my screen time, I discovered new things that I love to do.
Real life people are fun
When you think you’re busy, you don’t get a chance to get together with friends as often as you’d like.
This lack is tempered with Instagram stories and Facebook posts so you feel as if you are still in tune with the lives of others.
However, that’s like 10% of the real deal.
It’s just enough to make you feel like you have a social life, but not enough to give you that social structure and support system that you need in life.
When you quit social media (whether temporarily as part of a social media cleanse, or permanently as a philosophy of life), you get uncomfortable with how little you talk to others and you make friendships a priority.
Evenings are spent having a blast with old friends and building stronger connections than scrolling over their profile ever could.
In the end, I didn’t realize how much of a bad habit my social media consumption was until I had kicked it.
Seeing people still grappling with the balance between living and scrolling makes me realize how dependent we’ve become on our phones. Completing a social media cleanse taught me that it’s entirely possible to set healthy boundaries and live an intentional, amazing life.
If this is something that is important to you and you would like extra guidance on completing this goal, I would love to work with you one on one. As a life coach, I challenge people to get rid of their excuses and build a life they love.
I aim to be intentional with how I spend my time, and I want to live a happy life where I can spend time with people who matter, travel the world, and make an impact.
Taking the time to do a social media cleanse helped me get closer to achieving that goal.
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How long have you gone without social media before? Let me know in the comments below!