How to Take a Social Media Detox The Right Way

Reading Length: 10 minutes

Social media has become such a big impact on our lives. There’s just way too many platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more but so little time to keep up with everything. And it’s so easy to waste hours browsing through each app as the algorithm is designed to trap you into continuously scrolling. I’m not saying that social media is the devil. Although, it’s close to one. But if you’re reading this post here, you probably recognize that too much of it is considered an unhealthy addiction and you want to finally take a break. So here are 15 ways to get started with a social media detox:

1.Delete all your social media apps.

If you decide to do a complete detox, then the first and most painful step to the detox is deleting all your apps. Yes, say goodbye to your beloved apps – Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or whatever social media apps you have on your phone. It’s like deleting that toxic friend off your friends list for good. If those apps stay on your phone, it’ll be super tempting to just reach for your phone and open it up easily.

2.Control the websites.

Once you’ve removed the apps off your phone, it’ll be tempting to just log on your computer and use those sites. That’s why you should prevent this from happening by blocking those sites. Consider using Freedom or Cold Turkey to help with this.

Alternatively, you can also consider creating a separate profile on your Google Chrome browser. I have one account reserved for entertainment. And the other account reserved solely for my most valuable websites and work. I felt like I had two identities – productive Jean and procrastinator Jean.

My separate Google Chrome profiles. You can guess which one is for entertainment only.

3.Keep the apps you deeply value.

If you think a complete social media detox is way too extreme, then alternatively, you can consider just prioritizing and limiting the most important apps. According Cal Newport, author of “Digital Minimalism,” only keep the apps if it fits in this criteria:

  • Serve something you deeply value (offering some benefit is not enough);
  • Be the best way to use technology to serve this value (if it’s not, replace it with something better)
  • Have a role in your life that is constrained with a standard operating procedure that specifies when and how you use it.

For example, when I was analyzing and reflecting on all the apps I use, I wrote down the sole purpose of each app to figure out if it truly aligns with something I deeply value and plays a direct importance on my life. Here’s how I evaluated each one:

  • Twitter: Allows me to stay up to date with my favorite influencers (Not valuable).
  • Instagram and Facebook: Allows me to share my pictures and stay up to date on everyone’s posts (Not valuable).
  • Snapchat: Allows me to stay in touch with my closest friends. (Valuable).
  • WeChat and WhatsApp: Allows me to stay in touch with my long distance family members (Valuable).
  • Discord: Allows me to practice Spanish with my accountability partners (Valuable).

4.Plan the activities you will do instead.

Since you’ll stop wasting time on social media, you’ll have plenty of leftover time to do other activities. You need to figure out what types of activities you would like to do in replacement. Here are some suggestions:

  • Reading or listening to an audiobook.
  • Learning a new skill or hobby.
  • Exercising.
  • Spending quality time with friends and family.
  • Meditating.

5.Detox with someone.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who have been thinking of doing a detox. Find someone you know like a friend or family member to do this detox with! Or, you can find an accountability partner on this Reddit forum. When I was cutting out screen time, I set up a meeting once a week with my accountability partner to discuss our progress. It helped me tremendously because it kept me accountable. Plus, when I did fail to stick to my goal, I felt like I was letting us both down.

6.Tell your friends and family.

Telling people in your life will make sure you’re held accountable to your detox goals. It also lets them know that you didn’t suddenly disappear. I think I made the mistake of not properly letting my friends know about my social media detox goals. At some point, my friends named our group chat “where you at, Jean?” because I was always “missing.” So, please don’t make my mistake. Tell them straight up.

My friend hilariously named our group chat this after I “disappeared.”

7.Reflect and analyze your app usage.

This is the part where you need to be completely honest with yourself. Most of us probably think we use our phones and browse social media less than we actually do. In fact, check out these scary statistics:

“In a single day, we’ll touch our smartphones 2,617 times, check email 74 times, and receive 46 notifications, research firm Dscout found.”

Kerri Anne Renzulli, careers reporter of cnbc

“Americans spend around 5.4 hours a day using phones.”

– Damjan Jugovic Spajic, writer of KommandoTech

Yikes! 5.4 hours a day on the phone! That’s like the amount of sleep I used to get in college! So we need to start being real with ourselves and find out exactly how much time are we wasting on our phones and apps. Some apps that can help you track your usage are: Offtime , Moment and BreakFree.

8.Set visual reminders.

Set your lock screen to remind yourself to put down your phone again. Any hint of boredom makes us reach for our phone. But setting visual reminders can call us out for this. You can check out a list of lock screen ideas here. You can also place reminders through post-it notes, notification pop ups, computer desktop background etc…

9.Set a curfew for your phone.

Set a certain time where you don’t touch your phone at all. Charge your phone and move the phone far away from your bed if needed. For me, this is at 8:30pm. I have an alarm ring at 8:30pm which reminds me to stop using my phone and to pull myself together.

10.Replace phone with a physical alarm clock.

The problem is that when we use our phones to shut off the alarm, we’re often bombarded with notifications in the morning. Afterwards, the endless social media scrolling occurs. So consider replacing your phone with an actual alarm clock. My friend had to resort to this method and it worked magically for her.

11.Set time limits on apps.

We’re notorious for spending way too much time on our apps. Too many times with me, one “harmless” glimpse of Instagram turned into hours of scrolling. I felt like someone had taken control of my thumb. So we need to start setting time limits for ourselves to know when to stop. There are plenty of apps that can assist with setting a time limit on using the apps on your phone. Here are a few suggestions: Freedom , ScreenTime and ZenScreen.

12.Create folders for your apps.

The only apps I check. I labeled the folder “Daily Socials.”

After doing a complete digital detox, I decided to just become a digital minimalist by only using and checking a few apps. I placed it all in one folder to make sure I wasn’t wandering around aimlessly through other apps. I also placed it in the folder to make sure I wasn’t tempted to continuously click on it if it was directly visible on my home screen. Try organizing your apps into folders instead of allowing it to lure you in the home screen.

“Digital Minimalism: A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

-cal newport, author of “digital minimalism”

13.Set consequences.

It’s easy to drop this goal and continue with this habit. But consequences can truly keep you accountable to make sure your detox is successful. My friend resorted to bringing money on the line by paying $10 for every time she gave into her social media addiction. Another friend did 15 squats every time he opened Instagram. You can get creative with the type of consequences you want to implement for yourself.

14.Unfollow and unsubscribe.

One of the problems I noticed was that I received a bunch of notifications and content from influencers, ads, and companies which hindered my productivity and attention. Consider unfollowing the influencers which you don’t feel aren’t helping with your productivity and are just wasting your time. Be more selective about the people and companies you choose to follow.

15.Address “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO).

One of the greatest problems we have is feeling left out of all the big things happening around us. I had this same exact fear in the beginning. I thought my friends and family would start to leave me out of everything and I’d practically be like a clueless caveman. But actually, this type of ignorance turned out to be blissful. No more petty drama, wasteful time and garbage content. If something really was urgent or an emergency, then my friends and family would actually keep me posted when we did meet up. If your feelings of FOMO are too strong, then consider just reserving 1-2 days a week of catching up on what’s going on around you.

“Minimalists don’t mind missing out on small things; what worries them much more is diminishing the large things they already know for sure make a good life good.”

-cal newport, author of “digital minimalism”

To Recap:

  • 1. Delete all your social media apps. Delete if you’re doing a complete detox. If those apps stay on your phone, it’s tempting to open it again during your detox.
  • 2. Control the websites. Block the websites of those apps. Or, create a separate profile on your Google Chrome browser. One for entertainment and the other for productive work.
  • 3. Keep the apps you deeply value. Reflect if the apps fit this criteria: It serves something you deeply value, it’s the best way to use it for that value and it has an important role in your life.
  • 4. Plan the activities you will do instead. Figure out what activities to replace the time such as reading, learning a new skill, exercising, spending time with friends and family and meditating.
  • 5. Detox with someone. Find a friend or family member. Or, find an accountability partner.
  • 6. Tell your friends and family. This holds you accountable and reassures them that you didn’t suddenly disappear.
  • 7. Reflect and analyze your app usage. Be honest about how much time you spend on your apps. Use apps to track your time.
  • 8. Set visual reminders. Set reminders through your lock screen, post- it notes, notification pop ups, computer desktop background and etc…
  • 9. Set a curfew for your phone. Set a time where you don’t touch your phone anymore.
  • 10. Replace phone with a physical alarm clock. This prevents morning phone use.
  • 11. Set time limits on apps. Use productivity apps to set time limits on your phone.
  • 12. Create folder for your apps. Organize your apps into folders to prevent it from luring you on the home screen.
  • 13. Set consequences. Get creative with what consequence to set for each time you use social media.
  • 14. Unfollow and unsubscribe. Unfollow influencers that are not helping your productivity and are wasting your time. Be selective about who you follow.
  • 15. Address “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO). Ignorance to useless content is blissful. If something is urgent, people will tell you. The worst case, set 1-2 days of catching up on everything.

In Conclusion…

Detoxing from social media is definitely not an easy process. It requires taking steps to go against usual social conventions and overcoming our addiction. I sincerely hope that some or all of these tips can make your process a little easier and that it encourages you to finally take the initiative to getting started with this detox.


Published by Jean Soo

My name is Jean Soo. I’m a physical therapy student and blogger. I’ve spent quarantine studying and reading over hundreds of self improvement content. I’ve personally faced my own life transformation through some of these books and articles which I will share with you. You can expect to receive valuable content about building better habits, enhancing productivity and promoting more happiness in life. Stay tuned!

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