How to Take Social Media Breaks

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
March 22, 2023
How to Take Social Media Breaks

If you're feeling anxious or down, try taking a break from social media. Research suggests even just a week off can help you cut back when you return.

How much time do you spend on social media, such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook? Are you feeling anxious or depressed

Taking just seven days off could boost your mood. In one study, adults who used social media daily for eight hours a week, on average, reported less depression and anxiety after going cold turkey for seven days. When they returned from their break, they spent only 21 minutes a week on social media, freeing up hours for other activities.

It’s okay to take a break even if you know you’ll be coming back.


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“Of course, social media is a part of life and, for many people, it’s an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others. But if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps,” said lead researcher psychologist Jeff Lambert from the University of Bath, in Great Britain.

You’re not alone.

It’s standard for social media to have mixed effects. Survey results suggest that many people think social media is hurting them. In a survey of 1,500 Americans ages 16 to 24, half said they were envious of people who don’t use social media, and 61 percent said they were afraid of addiction. A third said that they use the “Hide Likes” features on Facebook and Instagram.

How to do a social media “detox”

One way to start: Go on a social media detox while you’re on vacation or have a friend in town or big work project. When your distraction ends, think of other ways to meet the needs that social media has filled. Ask yourself, when and why you start scrolling through apps or websites.

If you reach for your phone to help you wind down, you may have let other relaxation methods dwindle. Is there any activity you used to love that you’ve dropped? Try journaling, crafts, listening to music, playing with a pet, walking, meditation, knitting, or looking at old photos.

Do you always look at Instagram while waiting in lines or traveling? Set up your phone so music, news sites, or podcasts are easy to reach, but your social media apps are not. Turn off notifications for the apps that distract you the most.    

Especially if you work remotely or live alone, you may use social media to connect with other people. But, again, you may have let other social outlets decline.

Talk with your significant other and spend time with your children, since social media often reduces the amount of time we interact with them.

Some people tend to underestimate how much they’d enjoy a live conversation with a stranger and worry they’re not likable. In fact, just making the effort is likable. Aim for up to a half hour, some research suggests.

You can go to a local park or café and start a conversation with someone who looks friendly. If a neighbor smiles, make a point of following up “How are you?” with a real answer or question.   To meet new people, attend events posted on, volunteer, join a religious group, or take a class.

Friendships are an important part of happiness, and they need maintenance. Call friends or family members and set up a video or in-person visit. You can invite them to dinner or drinks or offer to host in your home.

Are you dating? Dating sites can be addictive and depressing. Put your profile on hold and go to in-person events instead.

Do you grab your phone when you’re bored at home? A book, home improvement project, or movie might stimulate you more. Make a new recipe. For the longer term, you may need to start planning entertainment. Buy tickets for live music, a play, or museum. You can also see what’s available that night.

Making social media work for you

When you return to social media after your break, monitor how it affects you and note when your anxiety, depression, or envy sets in.

Do you cringe when you see photos of yourself or an ex? Delete the photos.

Do some people’s feeds make you feel inferior, envious, or angry? Unfollow or mute them. Delete any spam, trolling, or otherwise unpleasant direct messages.

Set a good example. Post photos of messy moments. Post encouragement and applause for other people. Be authentic. Use the “hide likes” features if you tend to obsess over your likes.

If you’re dating online, try changing parameters like age or distance to shake things up. If you never write first, try it. Switch to video calls or meetings more quickly. Be honest with yourself: What are you actually looking for and is that goal realistic?    

Use social media to expand, developing new interests or reconnecting with old friends and family.


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March 22, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O'Dell, RN