Are Social Media Breaks Effective?


I am a big advocate of taking a break from social media.  As in, deleting the app from your phone for a set period of time.


Every December for the last couple years I have taken a break from social media.  Both times it has been a great reset, and I return refreshed and ready to set some boundaries.  However, if I’m honest, the effectiveness of those boundaries has varied.  Sometimes I set a rule or limit for myself that ends up being way too easy for me to cheat on, and I fall right back into old habits.  Sometimes my willpower lasts for a a couple months before those old, well-worn patterns start to re-emerge.  


It’s easy to dismiss slightly unhealthy social media habits as if they don’t matter - but they do matter.  Why else do we even feel a need to take social media breaks?  We know that social media can suck away at our time, at our lives.  That’s not really a small thing, is it?  It’s well worth the time to figure out how to combat the pull toward wasting time on social media.


Social media breaks can be so useful for clearing your mind.  There is a sense in which social media acts on our brains like a drug - we get a little dopamine hit every time we get a new notification on social media, and it keeps us coming back for more.  Social media breaks allow your brain to…for lack of a better word…detox from that loop, so that you can make decisions about your social media use with a clear head.


Did you get that last bit?  


You detox so you can make decisions.





Social media breaks by themselves are limited in their usefulness, in my opinion.  You might gain a little space during a period where you want that time back (new baby, the holiday season).  You might feel refreshed while you are off it - you lose that “yucky” feeling, you waste less time, you realize how nice it is to not have that opportunity for comparison constantly within reach.  But the second you upload that “I’m back!” post, you’ll be right back where you started.  UNLESS, you use your break to come up with a plan.  


This is how I handled my social media break last year.  I didn’t just take a break to get back a little time and attention for my family during Christmas (though that was a nice perk).  I read books about social media and found resources for creating digital boundaries.  I sat around and thought a lot about what I liked about social media, particularly Facebook, and what I didn’t like.  I made some really hard decisions and developed a plan, and when it was time to get back on, I followed through on those hard choices.


And I have to say, I’ve never been so satisfied with my Facebook use as I have been this past year.  I don’t feel sucked in by it like I used to, and the thought of giving it up for good isn’t even so crazy.  


But…that’s because I made some actual changes to my Facebook account that allowed me to be successful, and I kept the Facebook app off my phone.  If you take a social media break, but don’t use your break to be 100% honest with yourself about your social media use, how it’s negatively affecting your life, and how to change it - your break, in the long term, is probably going to get you exactly nowhere.


I know this because that’s what happened last year with Instagram and me.  With Facebook, I emerged from my break with some really clear ideas about what I wanted out of Facebook, and what specific steps I needed to take to make it what I wanted it to be.  I did not take the time to be so self-reflective about Instagram, and I have to say that this fall, I find myself right back where I was last year - hating how Instagram is sucking so much of my time, but unsure how to fix it.


You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to make some obvious adjustments right now (why wait until December?), and then I may very well take another social media break, this time focusing my attention on Instagram.  I need a game plan, and I need time to sort it out.  That’s the key to having an effective social media break - coming up with a plan while you’re away.


Have you taken breaks from social media?  How long were your breaks?  Were they useful for your habits longterm?


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Bekah said...

I have never taken a social media break. My current relationship with Facebook is that I visit more than I post, and if I find myself getting irritated with the topics, I just close out and come back later. If a particular person gets annoying, I snooze them. (Or unfollow...but usually just snooze.) Instagram is a much more pleasant space for me, but I have pretty much a zero tolerance for people on there. If they start heading in a direction I don't want to fill my mind with, I unfollow. (And that includes creating jealousy in my heart. That's not their fault, of course, but I choose not to fill my mind with things that are going to create jealousy.)

Also in fairness - social media is part of my job, so I can't completely close accounts and do what I have to do for work.

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