The 5 Phases Of A Social Media Detox

by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist


Published in Lifestyle on 22nd January, 2019


Social media is great, it's full of family, friends, memes, opportunities and much much more. But we can't deny that it can get pretty addictive.

It's now estimated that most people will spend up to 10% of their life scrolling through social media, and that's kind of scary.

social detox how to do it

The perfect remedy to this social media addiction however, is a good ole social media detox. You don't have to delete every account you have, simply step back and allow space for other things in your life, with the overall aim that at the end of it you will have a clearer perspective.

If you've never done a social media detox before, welcome, it'll probably be harder than you think - but at the end of it, it will be worth it. Before you begin, it's worth getting acquainted with the common stages of a social media detox that you will probably be going through, and how to deal with them.

Stage 1: Constant Checking

What It Is: This is the first stage of a social media detox, but not commonly as difficult as many expect. We're pretty reliant on our phones nowadays, constantly picking them up and just checking.

Nothing more, just checking. Who's liked my post, who's responded to my comment, who's tagged me, who's messaged me, who's updated their story? We're so entwined in the constant hubbub of our online lives that when we cut ourselves off from it, our brains are still expecting to need to check, constantly. So if you find yourself picking up your phone every five minutes only to put it back down in confusion, don't worry, it's totally normal.

How To Deal With It: If you find yourself constantly picking up your phone to look for notifications that aren't there, don't get too frustrated. This habit of checking can quickly get annoying, so it's best to try to distract yourself as much as possible.

Get some work done, do something creative, call a friend, go out for lunch, go to the gym. Anything to get your mind off your phone. Even better, turn your phone off completely - that way, when you pick it up, you won't even be able to turn it on easily, and your habit will likely be kicked much faster.

Stage 2: Anxiety & FOMO

What It Is: Anxiety and FOMO (fear of missing out) are a toxic combo that often arrive during a social media blackout, especially if you rely on social media to keep in contact with people and see what they're up to. When we abruptly cut ourselves off from this world of faux social interaction, feelings of anxiety, isolation and being left out quickly manifest.

In reality, nothing has changed. You're probably not going to see your friends any more or less, you're just not seeing their lives broadcast 24/7 online. This combination can be pretty difficult to deal with, especially if you already struggle with feelings of loneliness, but it is only a phase, and ultimately, plumbing yourself full of fake social interaction is not what is going to help you in the long run.

anxiety social detox

How To Deal With It: These feelings are totally normal as you start to detox from social media. Try to see this detox as an opportunity rather than something you're missing out on. You now have the opportunity to seek out real social interaction, and real fun, in your day to day life.

Social media will always be there to come back to one way or another, you'll always be able to catch up on what other people are doing once this detox is over. For now however, you're focusing on yourself. If you find that your anxiety is really bad, try relaxation techniques such as meditation, exercise and yoga to calm yourself down.

Stage 3: Boredom

What It Is: Clue's in the name really, boredom is a part of every social media detox, and is often the part that people dread the most. As a society, we've grown to fear boredom.

When was the last time you just sat around doing absolutely nothing huh? We tend to always be connected to some form of activity or entertainment at all times, whether it's other people, the TV, a phone or a task to complete. This isn't actually all that good for us however. Research has found that boredom can actually help to stimulate creativity and gives your mind a bit of time to rest rather than being on the move all the time.

So, instead of scrolling through social media next time you find yourself waiting for a delayed train, sink into the boredom and embrace it instead - it might do you some good.

How To Deal With It: Boredom certainly isn't easy to deal with, especially for a beginner. It can feel very foreign to just sit and be bored. However, it can be very good for you, so try to use the times when you would usually scroll through social media as "thinking time". Instead of scrolling through facebook while you eat your breakfast, focus solely on eating your breakfast.

Instead of jumping onto twitter next time you're in a taxi, just stare out the window. Use your social media detox as a time to think, and be creative.

Stage 4: Giving In And Looking

What It Is: This stage is inevitable, so it's important not to beat yourself up too much about it. If you've been using social media every day, probably for years, you're not likely to be able to just give it up at the drop of a hat. At some point you will get too bored or too curious and just quickly re-download instagram to see what's going on.

social media detox

How To Deal With It: Don't worry, don't beat yourself up. Re-delete those apps, remind yourself why you're doing this and come back with even more conviction than before.

Stage 5: Increased Productivity

What It Is: Once you've moved past the stages where you're constantly checking your phone, feeling anxious or bored to only ultimately fall of the wagon and get back on again, you'll probably start to notice a change in your behaviour.

Productivity increases dramatically. If you were already a very productive person who could easily withstand the allure of social media, then this might not apply to you as much, but let's be real - if you're considering a complete social media detox, you're probably not one of those people. Most of us struggle with letting social media get in the way of our productivity, whether it be at work, on our own projects or even just getting menial chores around the house done.

Once we remove social media and start to detox it out of our systems, it becomes a lot easier to focus on what you actually want to do with your day, without the distraction of so-and-so's new baby.

How To Deal With It: Embrace it fully. This is your time to shine, put your phone down, put some music on and get to work / play.

By the End Of It All

Slowly, as your brain starts to reprogram itself to life without social media, you will begin to accept this new reality and begin to find more pleasure in other pursuits, such as reading, spending time with family and so on so forth. The anxiety and constant checking you probably experienced at the beginning of the detox has mostly faded, and you begin to understand that there is plenty to enjoy in life, with or without your phone.

By the end of a social media detox you should be able to fully enjoy and experience life, without feeling the need to share it online or be online at all, have a new sense of perspective, more time and productivity and hopefully a better self image. Once you feel like you've got to this place, you can either choose to continue and live a life without social media, or reintegrate it back into your life. Most people choose to monitor and adjust their relationship to social media after a detox to keep it healthy and balanced.

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