A few months ago, I decided to “soft quit” social media. What this means was I deactivated everything I could and deleted all of my social media apps, with the intention to eventually come back, but with a less toxic relationship to it. Within a few weeks, I noticed a few important changes, and I think sharing them with my fellow Gen-Z internet addicts could maybe help someone out. So, here are four things I noticed after I quit social media:
- Reclaimed Wasted Time
When I deleted my social media (my main addiction was Instagram), I found that I was bored. A lot. I felt like I was just sitting around waiting for something to do, unable to find the drive to do anything but sit there. I realized that the time I was sitting waiting to find something to do would normally be the time I spent scrolling through Instagram – filling my would-be-productive time with meaningless content. Honestly, taking the time to just sit there by myself and be with my own thoughts for a few days helped me become less demotivated and find things to do. When you can’t just reach for your phone and start looking at videos, your brain starts to generate a lot of great ideas to entertain itself. I found that I wanted to take more walks, draw, write, anything. Being away from social media forced my brain to find things to do, and I started to indulge more in my creative hobbies that I had been neglecting.
- More Realistic Worldview
We all know how social media distorts our worldview, but it’s easy to just let it happen and keep scrolling. When I first quit, I didn’t immediately notice a change in the way I thought, but within a few weeks I knew that my worldview was drastically changed. Some of the takes I once thought were reasonable were now clearly extremely disconnected from reality, and some normalized behaviors were now obviously toxic. Social media tends to normalize lots of things that aren’t really normal, and forcing myself to be in the real world re-centered my thoughts and brought me back to reality. Personally, for me, this meant remembering what the average person looks like (we’re not supermodels like we see online), finding that not all people were as toxic as posts online make behaviors seem, and that a lot of problems I saw on social media aren’t really problems in real life.
- Less Negativity
Even before quitting social media, I knew that it made me feel bad. Not necessarily about myself, but just in general. I would sit there on my phone for hours, just scrolling through content, and I wouldn’t even enjoy it. It made me lethargic, distracted, and unmotivated. After quitting, I found I had more energy and didn’t care as much about the endlessly negative things I was looking at online.
- Better Attention Span
When I was addicted to social media, my attention span was a wreck. I couldn’t focus on anything as long as a movie, and had trouble doing activities for extended periods of time. When I first quit social media, I started to engage in some longer-form content, like TV shows, movies, and books. At first, it was really hard, and I could barely focus on an entire 25-minute episode of a show. I started with getting used to shorter content and moving to longer content, like long books. Now, I can easily focus on all sorts of things, it was just a matter of being accustomed to not receiving constant dopamine hits and having to wait a little bit longer for them.
So, I discussed the benefits I found to taking a break, but how do you go about breaking your addiction? Well, I’ve attempted to put together a short guide on that, too!
- Make Social Media Boring
Since social media is addictive, we have to work to make it less appealing for ourselves. I knew that it would be easy to get sucked back in right as soon as I reactivated my accounts, so I had to make my feed as boring as possible before leaving so I could return safely later. To do this, it depends on the app, but you can start unliking posts that are really interesting to you. On a lot of apps, you can view all of your likes, and then delete them from there. This will confuse the algorithm a bit and make it forget some of your interests. From there, go through your follows and purge everything you don’t care about or find addicting to clear your feed. I ended up only following my friends, and my feed no longer was filled with addicting memes and reels. And while you’re at it, why not remove some of your own followers? You really don’t need to have that toxic friend from your freshman year of high school following you.
- Deactivate Your Accounts When You Can
Now that you’ve detoxed your accounts, it’s time to deactivate everything you can. Some apps won’t let you deactivate your account, but a lot will. Be sure to review the terms of deactivation for accounts on different platforms. Once you’ve done that, you can go ahead and deactivate. If you’re anxious about friends wondering what happened to you, you can post something letting people know you’ll be taking a break about a day or two before leaving. If you can’t deactivate or have already done so, the next step is to delete your apps so they’re not taking up space on your phone in the meantime.
- Deal with Withdrawals Accordingly
Depending on how engaged you were with social media, you may have withdrawals or feel really bored sometimes. In preparation for when you feel that way, prepare a short list of activities to do. For me, I decided to start reading everything on my huge reading list I never got to. Every time you feel tempted to redownload social media, look at your list and get started on something on there.
- Return Responsibly
You should only return to social media after you feel like you’re sufficient without it. This might take days, it might take months. It depends on your relationship with social media. When you feel confident in returning, you can redownload apps and reactivate your accounts. Hopefully, you don’t feel so inclined to use them all of the time. When I redownloaded Instagram after a few months, I better realized how boring it really is, and now I only use it for DMs and school-related announcements. Social media can be a useful tool, and it should be used as such, but not to the point of addiction.
I hope that if you feel like you need a break from social media you find these tips useful!