The power of technology. In a world where you can easily text your relative or friend who is miles away, where you can talk to them live on a video call at the cheapest costs ever, where you can keep track of anything happening in your favorite celebrity’s life without waiting for monthly magazines or radio news, communication has never been easier. We can socialize with our friends whenever we want for as long as we want.
Before social media emerged, we gave attention to more beneficial and important things like work, reading, sleep, etc. Interacting with friends was something we did at a set time.
It could be in a day, a month, or even a year. Because we all had work to do and time for friends was something planned for. For example, men would have to meet in a bar in the evening to meet their friends and talk about how the day went.
With work and other important things still very much available, we have more options of things to do on the table. When you wake up in the morning or are at work, you have a choice to focus on your work or get your phone and check if someone liked your picture or sent you a message on Facebook.
Checking your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter gives you a quicker dopamine fix than your finished work can. Dopamine is a feel-good hormone that stimulates feelings of satisfaction after doing something the body likes. For example, having sex, winning a game, taking a drug, etc.
Naturally, people are more inclined to things that bring instant gratification than those that take longer. When you check your socials and find a good comment on your profile picture, you feel good immediately because of dopamine.
However, the rise in the hormone doesn’t take long to fall which makes you not feel as good after a short time. So you check your social media again to feel better.
The more time you spend on social media the more dopamine gets stimulated. This results in a pattern of spending more time on social media every day. In turn, you start spending less time on important things like work leading to low productivity.
Before social media we spent more time doing more important things, now we spend less on them and more on social media. It is common to find a person spending more than 50% of their time awake on social media.
As of 2022 according to Statista global economy, people spend an average of 147minutes per day on social media. That’s at least two and a half hours. How much would you accomplish if you spent at least half of that time on learning or mastering a skill in a year? I am pretty sure it could be a lot.
Every day we get more distractions invented for our consumption which either do not positively impact our lives or partially do. We used to only have Tv and radio. Lately we have the TikTok addiction.
You couldn’t carry a Tv where ever you went. You could just focus, finish work and go home to watch your favorite show. Those that maybe had a Walkman could easily focus with music playing.
Today you have over 3 accounts on various social media platforms. You even have youtube and Netflix on your phone. Now we have TikTok where you plan to watch only one or two funny clips only to realize you have spent hours watching hundreds of clips. We have distractions everywhere.
Social media is one of the main ones. In this modern era, the ability to focus and concentrate on one thing is going to become a genius ability. When you can do a thing people can’t do, you are perceived as a genius. Many people won’t be able to focus and they will call you a genius.
What is a social media break?
Often called a social media detox, a social media break simply means taking time away from social media platforms. Social platforms are online sites that are instant and continuous in sharing messages and information in form of feeds.
We always take social media breaks when we get tired or do not find any more interesting stuff to see.
The intent here is to withdraw and return later when we are re-energized or hope that something like a message or feed will be found. That is not the social media break we are talking about.
The kind you are here for takes not less than 24hours. The intent is to draw attention from social media to other things in life like work or physical interaction with family. The intent is to break or weaken our vulnerability to the urges of checking our social media platforms every now and then.
Reasons or signs you should take a social media break.
Strong Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Remember when your cousins and other relatives would all come together for Thanksgiving or a birthday party. Everyone wanted to be where the conversation was not to miss out on any stories and experiences shared.
If your mother or father sent you for a glass of water, you felt like telling them off but went for it anyway and the few seconds seemed like an hour.
That is the fear of missing out. You just feel like a few minutes away from social media will make you miss out on something. Once you notice that you feel that way, it is time to take a social media break because the truth is, there isn’t much beneficial or productive staff to miss out on social media.
Separation anxiety from social media. To some people social media has become a part of them in that a few minutes away from it, their lives get into survival and panicky mode. They start to feel like they are missing a body part.
Take their phone or computer away and see them restless and all worried. Bring the phone back and see them look like an addict that has received his dose. If you notice yourself getting anxious for not being on social media consider taking a break.
Separation anxiety is different from the fear of missing out even though they are somehow similar. With separation anxiety, you just want to be on social media whether something is interesting or not which results in hours and hours online. With the fear of missing out, you take short time online but often check if there is anything new.
Involuntary browsing or scrolling on social media. When scrolling through your social media feeds or messages becomes a reflex then there is a sure sign you need to take a break from social media.
You open your Facebook or Twitter and your thumb just keeps scrolling without you consciously commanding it. Then you reach somewhere and just realize that you have been scrolling for a while. Social media has at this level taken power from you. Instead of you being in control of it, it is now in control of you.
High irritability. This means being easily irritated or annoyed by everything. When we open our social media, we see a lot of things that we don’t like. For example, politicians, war stories in Palestine, hungry kids in Africa, bullied kids committing suicide in America, etc.
These things trigger negative emotions and the production of the stress hormone cortisol which makes us irritated.
The more we get exposed to these triggers the more we easily become vulnerable to them. In the end, we become always irritated, and things that don’t even irritate us start to do so.
You will look at your friend smiling at a picture and get irritated for no reason. If you realize you are always or easily irritated, it is high time you took time off to reset your mind.
Excessive time on social media. How much time is too much time on social media? Well, I have no problem with myself being on Twitter or Facebook the whole day on Sunday. It’s my rest day to do anything I like. However, I have a problem spending more than an hour on Facebook on a Monday, a day I have a lot of work to do.
Compare the time you spend on social media to the time you spend doing other things you have to do in a day. If you spend more than 20% of your productive time on social media, you need a social media break my dear. If you find yourself choosing social media over a very important task like gym or work, consider taking a break.
Comparison. As cliché as it sounds, it is super true. Comparison is a thief of joy. People rarely post the side of their life they do not want people to see unless they have run out of options and need help.
Your friend will not show you a picture of her eviction notice, but will gladly take a picture of herself in the latest dress in front of her house and a car with unpaid parking tickets or insurance.
You will look at that picture and compare yourself to her then conclude that your life is a mess. Social media is way more superficial than it looks. If you realize you are comparing yourself or your life to what you see on social media. Please take a break, you won’t miss anything.
Before and after bed ritual. Your morning or after bed ritual and your evening or before bed ritual should be a positive and self-improvement activity like meditating, praying, visualization, or exercise.
If it is one of those, you are giving yourself control over the kind of energy you are starting or ending the day with. If it is social media, you have no control of what energy you will start or end the day with.
If the first thing you do when you open your eyes is social media then you can’t set the pace or energy to start your day with. The first post you may see will be of your ex in Hawaii with the new girl or guy and then have your whole day ruminating over that.
The same applies to going to bed. You wouldn’t want to go to bed with negative energy. If you notice social media is the first or last thing you do every day, take a break.
Benefits of a social media break
Boosted and balanced mood. A break from social media takes you away from triggers that stimulate negative emotions. This gives way for positive emotions like joy, gratitude, compassion, etc to enter your life.
Opportunity to enjoy the little, simple yet priceless things in life. You can enjoy a heart-to-heart interaction with your environment. You get a real experience with people through deep conversations that stimulate positive feelings of belonging and love.
Mindfulness. When online, you are thinking from without. Your thoughts are being influenced by externalities only. A social media break gives you time to influence your thoughts from within becoming self-aware and aware of your environment. This way, you can be able to clean your mind and life.
Self-discovery. With all the distractions in life-like video games, Netflix, youtube, social media, etc. It’s had to pay attention to ourselves. Our time gets consumed by these distractions leaving us with little or no time to explore our true potentials and abilities or who we are and our life purpose.
Withdrawing from social media gives us time to think about our lives and become intentional about getting the best out of ourselves.
Sufficient rest. Often times we check out our socials before sleep. You log in to get online for maybe ten minutes only to realize it’s 2am yet you have to be up by 6am. A break from social media enables you to get enough rest of at least 7hours of sleep as recommended by health experts. Restricting use of your phone is one of the ways to get sleep easily.
You get to live in the moment. Imagine having dinner with all family members eating with one hand and another browsing through their socials. Instead of enjoying dinner with family, we put our minds miles away and only be present physically.
Wherever your body is, be there. A break from social media enables us to be in the present moment. It is pointless to chat with your boyfriend when at dinner with your siblings and then chat with your siblings when hanging out with your boyfriend.
Dopamine balance. Unhealthy stimulation of dopamine causes dopamine imbalance in the body. This results in the inability to be interested in things that you initially enjoyed. For example, if you enjoyed going out on a Friday night to catch up with friends, you start to prefer staying home and being online.
Other consequences of a dopamine imbalance include low productivity, procrastination, weight gain, weight loss, etc. A social media break gives you a dopamine detox that balances dopamine in the body.
Plenty of more time. When I was addicted to social media, I often noticed that I was busy all day yet with nothing productive to present. Then I would keep wondering why I had no time to do the things I had to do. Taking a break from social media, I became much more productive.
How to take a social media break
Step 1: State the reason why you are taking a break.
Write down at least three reasons why you are taking a break. Pin them somewhere you can see them every day for example near your bed or in your bathroom. The reasons will keep you on track whenever you are tempted to break your social media break.
The reasons also give a cause and make your mind understand why you are doing these changes. Otherwise, without a reason, you will easily give up the fight.
Step2: Plan your break.
Before you take a social media break, it is important to plan. With your reasons already in place, set your break strategy. Will it be a full break or a partial break? Set how long your break will last.
Download all information you might need from your social media during the break to avoid logging in when the need for the information arises. Inform all concerned individuals like family if you have to. This will enable them to call you instead of sending you messages on Facebook when they need you.
Step3: Take action
With the ‘’WHY’’ and the ‘’PLAN’’ in place, it is time for you to walk the talk.
Take the social media break as soon as you planned. The break can either be partial or full.
With a partial break, you set a time of the day to check your social media accounts for at least 20 to 40minutes. After that, you log out and do not return until the next day.
This is very much helpful for those that take excess time online. It softly reduces your addiction and dependability to social media. If you are a social media addict, you should start with this. A full break will get you to experience withdrawal symptoms like anxieties which might result in health issues.
A full break requires you to deactivate your social media sites or applications and stay completely offline for a specific period that is at least a few days to a year or more. It’s a cold turkey attempt that will take you a lot of commitment and willpower.
The type of break you choose should depend on how much you depend on social media, how long the break will be, the opportunity cost of being offline, the impact of social media on you, and other perhaps personal reasons like staying away from checking your ex’s pictures.
Step4: Return with a strategy.
I very much understand that in the modern era, social media has become one of the necessities for interaction, communication, business, and learning. These make it impossible to avoid. However, there is a reason you want to take a break. A reason whose consequences you might experience again if you do not plan well on return.
Set a plan for your return after the break. Plan for how long you will be spending online per day. Which social media sites should you cut out. These days people have over 4 accounts on different platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok, etc yet interact with the same people on those accounts.
Why not just keep one or two? Also, plan for the kind of stimulus you need on your socials. Delete friends, pages, groups, and other things that give you a negative experience online. Befriend people, join pages and groups that are in line with your energy, dreams, and ambitions.
Conclusion: Being in control of distractions is one powerful ability many people wish to have but lack. A lot of people on earth operate on autopilot like robots. Vulnerable to urges, stimuli, and distractions. One of those is social media, if you have control over how you use social media platforms, you have power that over 70% of users dream of. If you don’t have that power, it is time to take it back. I wish you a very productive and fruitful social media break. Most of all may you discover more abilities within you during your break.