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And in other cases still, it represents far more. It symbolizes a relationship not only intentional but needed. Perhaps the presence of social media looms so largely in your life that time spent away from it causes adverse feelings such as anxiety, emptiness, or even depression.
Whatever your relationship with social media, there will likely come a time when you feel the need for a social media detox. And you certainly are not alone in that feeling. Of the three billion people worldwide that regularly use social media, a high enough number is already doing so on such a large scale that it’s become one of social media’s newest trends.
Yes, social media detox is a buzzy concept that has “gone viral,” and as a result, there is an enormous amount of easily accessible information covering the topic. Any search will show you that there are at least two schools of thought on the idea, with both schools offering thousands of suggestions, tips, how-tos, and whys. It would take weeks or longer to sift through all of the information and conduct thorough enough research to facilitate a decision.
The Only Guide You’ll Need
Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place because we’ve researched it all for you: what constitutes social media overuse, abuse, or “addiction”; how to determine if you’re overusing or abusing social media; the pros and cons of the two groups on either side of the social media detox debate; and the various methods and programs to follow to detox “efficiently,” “the right way,” or “mindfully.”
We will then present you with what is arguably the best and healthiest way to detox from social media. It is an exciting, life-changing movement that not only enables detoxification but simultaneously empowers you to find your unique joy through living a meaningful and connected life.
Because there are so many different approaches, it is crucial that we feel confident in the method we choose and that we believe in the philosophy behind it. To achieve this, we must first understand the different levels of overuse and how they might apply to us.
Social Media Overuse, Abuse & Addiction
There isn’t a firm, agreed-upon scale, but generally speaking, medical and technological professionals support the progression from overuse to addiction-level behavior as follows.
Note: Most professionals and experts have agreed that about 30 minutes per day is “normal” and healthy social media use.
Overuse: Exceeding 30-60 minutes per day. There isn’t too much cause for concern just yet, but the time could continue to increase in an unhealthy way if motivated by distorted thinking. The user must be aware that they are potentially on a slippery slope.
Abuse: Exceeding 60 – 120 minutes per day. It is not just the time alone that is indicative; the mindset and motives of the user are telling. The next section addresses this in more detail.
Addiction: Exceeding three hours per day is regarded as more severe than abuse and may indicate a compulsion to engage that displays some similarities to the addictive feelings experienced by drug and alcohol addicts. As with abuse, it’s critical to consider the reasons that drive and lead to excessive use.
Normal = 30 minutes per day
Overuse = exceeding 60 minutes per day and trending upwards
Abuse = exceeding 60-120 minutes per day, doing so out of feelings of fear or insecurity
Addiction-level = exceeding 3 hours per day, driven by distorted thinking, continuing the behavior despite negative effects on relationships and commitments
How to Determine if You’re Overusing or Abusing Social Media
The thoughts and behaviors described in the following sections are a good barometer by which you can determine your possible level of overuse.
Behaviors Indicative of Possible Overuse: You begin to lose track of time and have lost track of significant blocks of time. You are unable to keep from thinking about the next time you can engage with social media, to the point of not being able to enjoy what’s happening in your actual life. These examples are indicative of overuse and a negative progression.
Behaviors Indicative of Possible Abuse: You become unsatisfied with the length of time you spend on social media; what seemed sufficient before no longer is. You have tried to cut back on social media but have been unable to do so.
In the previous section, we started the scenario of investing two hours for work vs. investing that same time out of fear or insecurity. Looking deeper: someone may spend that amount of time on social media as part of conducting research or executing a marketing campaign for work.
On the other hand, someone else spends that same two hours online because they need to be the first to know when something happens, or they experience fear at the thought of something (anything) happening without them. A pattern of abusive behavior may be happening, as shown by the combination of excessive time and the unhealthy, irrational thoughts driving the actions.
If you are using social media as an escape or due to feelings of depression, inadequacy, or hopelessness, you are well on your way to addiction-level behavior. You might be engaging in self-medication, which is one of the hallmarks of an addict.
Behaviors Indicative of Possible Addiction: The science on this is inconclusive, and the medical community has not yet diagnosed this as an addiction; however, they have observed similar reward system-specific brain activity between drug addicts and social media “addicts.”
An addiction may be present if social media takes priority over family, friends, and work, or if it harms relationships or commitments. This possibility is more likely if the user is aware of the harm and continues to engage in the same amount of social media despite that.
Behaviors include compulsive, excessive “checking” of the device for new interactions, a constant preoccupation with being online, lying about the amount of time spent doing social media, and difficulties controlling behavior while engaged in social media. The feeling of “withdrawals” is also an indicator – feeling restless, moody, angry, or irritable when not online.
To Detox or Not to Detox
The two schools of thought about detoxing from social media are very straightforward: one says they work, the other says they don’t.
Here are some reasons both sides give for their assertion.
They Work Because…
The most commonly extolled benefits of social media detox are:
Reconnect with the real world (and regain the ability to be present in the moment)
Refocus on and reprioritization of personal relationships
Free time to revisit a neglected hobby or start a new one
Stop the constant comparisons of ourselves to everyone else
Stop engaging in approval-seeking behavior
Reduces stress and increases feelings of happiness
Protection of privacy
Whether or not these benefits come to fruition, and if they do, if they are permanent or temporary changes, depends entirely on the individual.
They Don’t Work Because…
While it may initially seem counterintuitive, there are just as many who dismiss the detox practice as there are those who swear by it. It’s hard to argue with the validity and truth of the reasons they give.
Periods of abstinence from social media can set the stage for a later binge or cause withdrawals
Not using social media will not alleviate feelings of depression or anxiety because it’s not the true, original cause of them
If social media is the only way you remain connected to certain people, removing the connection is likely to make you feel worse, not better
When used in moderation, social media can elicit laughter (which has positive psycho- and physiological benefits)
You never actually figure out the cause of the overuse, abuse, or addiction and, when the detox is over, you return to using in the same manner as before
It’s an unrealistic expectation; to expect to ignore such a prominent and pervasive part of life is a set up for sure failure
These cons are all valid and likely to be true for many people. But no more or less so than the pros are for others.
Areas to Avoid
It is worth noting that some users of social media have made the conscious decision to go against what it was originally created for and use it for something else altogether.
These people and the spaces they occupy have a built-in toxicity due to the nature of their activities. If you know what to look for you might be able to completely avoid any exposure whatsoever.
Be wary of:
Social Media Influencers
For anyone who may not know a social media “influencer” is someone who posts and shares about their personal life and gets paid to do so. Whether or not they are viable marketing tools is not the issue or question.
What is the issue is that they have unfortunately taken a medium created to connect people and turned it into a cold, commercialized tool they use to push their agenda. The content they produce is designed specifically to elicit certain reactions. It’s cyber-manipulation.
It’s also a 10 billion dollar industry so it likely will not change or stop anytime soon. Common social media influencers are mommies, doctors, and beauty tipsters. They initially seem to be offering free information and advice for the sheer satisfaction of helping people. But their content is staged, scripted, and sponsored.
Monetization of Facebook
It’s no secret that Facebook’s membership has been declining. But as the membership numbers continue to decrease, the ad revenue figures have enjoyed a steady increase.
With the seemingly single-minded goal of making money, Facebook continues to acquire smaller social networks instead of making the changes to Facebook that might re-engage lost account holders.
Social status linked to Facebook “likes”
Facebook knowingly maintains a format that uses a sort of anti- psychology to keep subscribers locked in an endless loop of editing and perfecting their Facebook persona. It has given birth to another phenomenon known as “Facebook envy.” Facebook envy is the leading cause of the practice of buying followers for social media platforms.
This has made a commodity out of perceived popularity and is just an ongoing cycle of buying followers and Facebook envy.
Facebook is notorious for using third-party apps to collect private information on its subscribers, and then selling that information for exorbitant amounts of money.
They get away with it because most of us don’t read the terms & conditions we’re forced to acknowledge and accept to set up an account.
Security breaches also happen a lot more often than we realize, during which copious amounts of personal data are released to data firms.
Rewarding sensationalized content
Social media platforms have a practice of highlighting and featuring heavily liked posts more prominently. In search of this validation, there is more and more attention-seeking behavior resulting in posts that feature things like ingesting Tide Pods.
These things are evidence of a social media system that is not only broken but dangerous. Those who know about such things are optimistic that the next wave of social media networks will be able to avoid toxic influences.
It is best to avoid these situations entirely, if possible. If you know or even suspect that you have wandered into an environment where these things are going on, it’s best to simply not engage and return to a trusted safe space.
FOMO: the Short Term Solution
FOMO is the fear of missing out, and it is the phenomena behind much of the social media overuse that is happening today. Even if you’re strictly a user for work, there’s still a small element of fear that may motivate you to act – fear of disappointing or angering your boss, fear of letting down your client, or fear of hurting a reputation you’ve worked hard to establish.
It is this fear – not the actual social media platform itself – that makes a detox appealing. Fear is a negative emotion and generally brings with it undesired psycho- and physiological effects. Social media is merely the medium we use to indulge that fear, but most people aren’t able to recognize that distinction, so social media retains the blame.
There are quick, actionable things you can do right away to distance yourself from social media and whatever negative feelings are associated with it. If you are interested in short term solutions and plan to return to regular social media use without changing any aspect of it, then these ideas are perfect for you.
Assign a time frame to whatever social media detox measures you plan to implement, and adhere to the time frame. Whether it’s for a day, week, month, or year, know the time frame and honor it.
Go through all social media accounts and unsubscribe or unfollow the accounts that are not work-related or belonging to close family or friends. Delete anything, regardless of whose it is, that is mean, petty, spiteful, verbally abusive, or negative at all.
Delete some or all social media apps from your phone for the duration of your detox.
Realize and appreciate the value of silent reflection done in solitude.
Get into the habit of not photo-documenting every event. You made the memories in the first place for you, right? Keep them private, and enjoy them privately.
Set a daily schedule for social media and stick to it, but do not make it the thing you do first when you get out of bed. Use any free time you have in the morning to do activities that enrich your soul. Don’t allow social media time until the afternoon. Remember to observe the appropriate time limits.
Once a week, or once every two weeks, take a 24-hour break. Don’t engage in any digital communication at all for this period. Only allow communications that can be had face to face. An option for those who cannot get through longer lengths of time.
Install an app on all your devices that automatically tracks and logs your social media screen time. Use the timer, which will lock you out of social media when the timer goes off.
Use the time to call a loved one, make something for someone, or be of service to someone else (including volunteer work).
Make plans to do something face to face with family or friends.
If you desire a rewarding and purposeful long term solution with the power to improve many if not all aspects of your life, read on.
JOMO: the Long Term Solution
The best and most conscientious method to detox from social media is JOMO: The Joy of Missing Out. Spearheaded by author and podcaster Christina Crook, JOMO is a movement that focuses on digital wellness. It is the human response to FOMO and is guided by strong beliefs in the importance of human connections, the willingness to be vulnerable even in the face of pain, and above all else the life-giving power of finding and living in a joy that is ours alone and that can only be found in missing out on the right things.
It is far more than a detox plan. It is a complete way of life. It is a mindset, a philosophy, and a system of beliefs that teach you how to replace fear with joy – your joy. A joy that is beautifully, humanly, and uniquely yours.
It partially accomplishes this by teaching how to peacefully and harmoniously co-exist with social media and other forms of digital communication. It respects the fact that complete avoidance or abstinence is unrealistic. Plus, let’s not forget or overlook the things about social media that have made it a powerful tool for good. JOMO aims to ensure these experiences are still had.
Remember when these things happened?
When social media simultaneously introduced the world to Captain “Sully” (the pilot who landed his jet on the Hudson River shortly after losing both engines after take off) and changed the way breaking news is spread and received. That event turned Twitter into a viable news source. We were given a front row seat to the entire unfolding of the amazing events of that day.
Social media gave us “viral” videos, the first of which happened in 2005. It was the catalyst that launched YouTube into the used-by-everyone entertainment hub stratosphere that it lives in today (and also made YouTube a verb, i.e. Looking for a certain video? Just YouTube it).
The inside look we were given into a #yearinspace, thanks to a NASA/Twitter partnership. It was an amazing look at outer space, and our planet from outer space. More importantly, it was an even more amazing look at the human condition. If even for a moment, it united all of us by our humanity.
Social media makes it possible to achieve impactful charitable donations… their sheer size means they actually work. An incredibly rewarding return on investment is made possible. Since it first went viral in 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than $115 million for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, thanks in large part to the involvement of people like President Obama and Bill Gates, who heard of it via social media.
Social and cultural movements are given a voice and a presence when they might otherwise not have one. It enables the raising of awareness on a scale that makes it possible to take real action and get real results. Example? #BlackLivesMatter, an online-only community before Twitter that is now a tangible entity thanks to being the third most-used Twitter handle involving a social cause (#LoveWins and #Ferguson being #2 and #1, respectively).
This is just a few examples from a very long list. Social media has indeed been instrumental in engineering change for good.
The reason it’s important to be reminded of these things here, in this context, is because of the underlying philosophy that JOMO (a digital well-being brand) and Twitter (the digital Swiss Army Knife of social media) have in common: we are at our best when we embrace our humanity, and when we work together, can accomplish what we never could on our own.
JOMO is all about having these authentic, human experiences. The joy is not in missing out on everything.
It is in missing out on the right things.
10 Actionable Ways to Follow the JOMO Movement and Find Your Joy
Embracing humanity, our own and our neighbor’s, is how we create strong connections that are the foundation for community. Living this way will organically cleanse you of the shallow and life-taking connections you used to have and realign you with the authentic and life-giving connections that foster joy.
It’s a way of living that, when adhered to, means you’ll never again have to worry about social media toxicity.
Having replaced your fear with joy, your resulting relationship with social media is no longer toxic to you.
Here it is, boiled down into ten uncluttered calls to action you can start doing right here, right now.
Look for a person before you look for a phone. Be present and pay attention to people, not things. If you see an opportunity to help or be of service, take it, no matter how small. These are the acts that give your life purpose and fulfill you, and upon which supportive communities are built and thrive.
Value human connections over electronic ones. Make a conscious decision and put conscious effort into living your life offline, not online. It’s OK to be aware of and acknowledge the value in our devices for they are capable of many amazing things. Understand we simply don’t need them as much or as often as we think. Fill the time you used to spend online with other humans. Make connections, for they will bring you joy.
Don’t be afraid to be real, and provide a safe space where your fellow humans can be real. Social media allows us to hide behind filters and edits that hide our truth and chip away at who we are at our core. We all struggle. We all have weaknesses. We all feel insecure or unloved or alone. We are all human. Embrace everything about each other: similarities, differences, strengths, weaknesses, rights, and wrongs. Be human together and love yourself and each other.
Embrace innate human emotionality. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and open yourself up to hurt in the pursuit of connecting. Go out of your way to make someone feel like an important part of your life. Do the “small things”, like make eye contact, give someone a ride, or smile at a stranger on the street. The smallest action can have the most meaningful impact. Appreciate and seek out the joy that is found in doing these things for others.
Stop comparing yourself to others, and don’t waste time on things you don’t need. Be truly happy for the successes of others, and in so doing, foster deep and meaningful connections. Nurture fewer connections with fewer people, focusing on quality over quantity.
Don’t be afraid of pain or getting hurt. It is a truthful and necessary part of life. Don’t use social media to run from or avoid feeling pain. Be thankful you feel pain instead of feeling nothing.
Never forget or underestimate the value of real human connections. Always be the most human version of you that you can be. It is in these real connections that we will experience a life of abundance.
Be brave enough to let go of the need for control. Don’t live a passive life that values consumption. Instead, use your energy and live life actively. Recognize the value of your own life and the importance of being reliable and faithful to yourself.
Be generous with your love and attention. Give both away like gifts to anyone who will take them. The unlimited giving of ourselves in such deep and personal ways opens us up to a level of vulnerability through which we can feel the natural rhythms of The Earth and experience spiritual joy.
Above all else, value people over devices at all times, in every situation. Conduct yourself and treat others in ways that make them feel appreciated and loved for their humanity. Allow yourself to receive the empowerment and joy that comes from living these values.
This system doesn’t get too weighed down in dictating the small details – it won’t tell you when to use social media, or for how long. There are certain decisions that will still be up to you. But they will start to happen naturally, and organically, and you will know when you make them that you are making the correct decision for you in that moment.
It may not always be the same. 30 minutes of social media today may be ten minutes tomorrow, or 45 the day after, or none at all the day after that.
The important thing to remember is that you are not missing out on anything when you are away from social media. Whatever it is will be there when you return, because all social media is is a replay of itself. It is there to fit into your narrative, not the other way around.
If you even want it. Who knows? Maybe someday soon you won’t.