It’s OK to Take a Break from Social Media and How to Detox

When’s the last time you took a social media break?

Social media breaks, what some people call social media detox, can be a great idea. Have you taken a social media break?

I’m Jennifer van Alstyne, and this is my blog The Social Academic. I write about managing your online identity and building your scholarly community. I share interviews with academics about their social media lives.

This blog post is all about social media detoxes.

What are social media breaks? And, how they can help you.

And at the end of this post, get the details about my tips for a great social media break

  • Turn off notifications
  • Delete your app(s)
  • Let people know you’ll be gone

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What is a social media detox?

A social media detox is a planned break from your social networks. While the term has a negative connotation, it refers to any break from social media. And I’m all for that.

Social media has many benefits. Social media can help you build meaningful connections, find new readers for your publications, and reach the public.

It also takes up time and energy.

I love that social media makes me feel connected. I reach hundreds of thousands of people each month. And I have amazing conversations.

This week, I took a bit of a break from social media. Because I’m like you. And, we all need a break from being social on occasion. There are many reasons you might need time away from social media.

For all of us, social media can be stressful. Though there are ways we can have a better social media life.

In academia, a break from social media can help everyone, from student to faculty to staff.

A UK university recognized the benefits it could have for its students. De Montford University encouraged taking a break from social media by turning off its own channels for a few days.

Sunday, June 30th is Social Media Day. It’s a day people come together to consider and celebrate social media in our lives. The connections and friends we’ve made.

I’m celebrating with this post, to tell you it’s OK to take a break when you need it. As often as you need it.

Let’s talk about some of the benefits you get from taking a break from social media.

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4 benefits of taking a break from social media

Relax, refresh, recharge

Benefit #1 | Stepping away doesn’t have consequences

Academics, grad students, and researchers like you need a break from social media because your lives are busy.

There is debate over how much academics work on average. One study at Boise State showed an average of 61 hours per week for full-time faculty. Now in Phase 3, you can participate in The Time Allocation Workload Knowledge Study (TAWKS).

One thing for certain is that as an academic or researcher you have a lot of roles and responsibilities.

It’s always great to be able to drop a spinning plate without consequences.

Stepping away from social media for a bit, is totally OK.

Your audience is understanding of your need for digital detox.

Your audience understands, especially if you communicate with them. So, there are few consequences for taking a social media break.

Communication is key, which I’ll talk more about in the tips section.

Benefit #2 | More time for your projects

Because social media takes time and energy, taking a break from it leaves you more time for work. If you find you’re too busy for social media all the time, you need to reevaluate how you’re using it.

If you have an upcoming deadline, or heavy workload, taking a break is a great idea.

Social media can benefit your job. It can help disseminate research, share teaching resources, and get advice.

But it can also be a distraction.

It’s all about how you use social media and how often. Psst…! I train people like you on the best ways to use social media efficiently and effectively.

Taking a break gives you more energy to get things done.

Benefit #3 | Connect with people in person

Social media is an amazing way to make meaningful connections, meet potential collaborators, and share your work with the world.

Taking a break means you have more energy to connect with people in person.

While I spend a lot of time chatting people each week, I’m actually quite introverted. I need time to recharge after big events.

So my social media breaks tend to come when I’ve just met a bunch of people and don’t have a lot of energy for socialization.

Whether you attend an on-campus event, or head to lunch with your colleagues, you have more time for the people around you.

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Get started for in this virtual choose your own adventure workshop for professors, researchers, and graduate students.

Benefit #4 | Time to consider what you enjoy about social media

Stepping away from social media also helps you gauge how you feel about it.

On her blog, science communicator Soph talks about how stepping back from social media helped her reevaluate her message and purpose. “I felt a huge pressure to be posting daily…I was feeling completely swamped…”

Recognizing these feelings helped her redefine her message and path moving forward.

Ask yourself these questions.

  • Why are you taking a break?
  • Was something or someone making you anxious?
  • Did you feel like you were having to keep up?
  • How much time are you spending on social media per week?
  • What about it was tiring, stressful, or too much?

Be sure to check out my 10 ways to enjoy your social media life more.

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When academics need a break from Twitter

Time for a break

This week I took a bit of a break from social media. But what a break looks like for me and what a break looks like for you may be different.

People spend 2-3 hours on social media per day. Does that surprise you?

The traditional social media break is a full-stop. Like “I’m off Facebook for the summer” type stops. This type of break may be just what you need.

But it’s not the only way. Let me tell you a bit about me.

My social media life has 3 major components: planning, content creation, and engagement.

When I take a social media break, I stop planning, content creation, and daily engagement.

I still check my apps every day. Why? I really enjoy my time on social media, and seeing what people are up to.

Unless something bad has happened (i.e. I’ve been trolled, or read a Twitter thread that upset me) I don’t avoid social media altogether.

For me, seeing what people are up to is fun. And not anxiety-provoking. So I keep that on during my breaks.

But I don’t engage with the posts I see unless something awesome happens (i.e. one of my best childhood friends just got engaged).

My social media breaks are flexible, to fit my interests and needs.

A social media break can be how you want it.

I asked Twitter about their social media breaks.

Social media can get overwhelming. Taking a break can help. But so can reducing components of your social media life, like engagement.

If you’re on Instagram daily (and posting content daily) like Cee, deleting the app can be so helpful.

For some, understanding how social media fits into your life changes your perspective. Anna recently joined Twitter, and says “social media detox was almost my entire life.”

Whatever type of social media break works for you, I have a few tips.

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Tips for planning a break from social media

Turn off notifications

If you’re taking a break, turn off your app notifications.

A push message, notification counter, or blinking light — these are designed to capture your attention.

If you’re taking a break, you don’t want to have to say no to something every day.

Turn off the distractions by turning off your notifications.

This works especially well for people who don’t feel the need to check social media often. Or for people who take breaks that allow them to check their apps like I do.

And, don’t forget to turn off social media notifications on your desktop if you have them.

Delete your app(s)

For some people, a better option is uninstalling social media apps from your phone.

If you find yourself opening the app during your break (when you don’t want to), it’s time to delete the app from your phone.

Don’t worry, you can reinstall it after your break is over.

I highly suggest this for people wanting to take a full social media break.

People ask me if I recommend deleting their account or profile. The answer is no. Unless you are 100% sure you will not return to the platform, it’s a better idea to take an extended break.

Let people know you’ll be gone, and how long for

When taking a social media break, communication with your audience is key.

If your break is longer than a few days, it’s a good idea to tell your audience you’re leaving.

I suggest doing so 1-2 days in advance.

It’s helpful if you let them know

  • You are taking a break from social media
  • How long you’ll be gone
  • Optional: other ways to get in touch

When you come back from your break, be sure to let people know by saying hi.

Sometimes time away from social media isn’t enough

Updated for 2022.

You may find that your social media break doesn’t leave you feeling refreshed. I read Dr. Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World (2019). It’s all about rethinking the technologies you use, including social media.

When you find you need a bigger change than time away from social media, pick up this book. I think you’ll enjoy it!

Virtual. Self-paced. Choose your own adventure.

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Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help professors, researchers, and graduate students manage their online presence. Jennifer’s goal is to help people share their work with the world.

Check out her personal site at https://jennifervanalstyne
or learn more about the services she offers at https://theacademicdesigner.com

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