Two hours and 28 minutes. That’s how much the average person spends on social media every day, according to Hootsuite’s Global State of Digital 2022 Report. When my phone told me that, shockingly, I was clocking in at around four hours daily (little bursts throughout the day add up!), I started a social media detox. After I drastically cut back the time I spent scrolling to one hour a day, my stress and anxiety levels immediately went down, my overall happiness went up and I found myself with nearly a full extra day each week to try new activities and get out and explore my neighborhood.
If it feels hard to put down your phone, you aren’t alone. While social media can be engaging and useful, it can also be highly addictive and toxic. Apps are designed to keep us engaged by utilizing psychology to make it seem impossible to log off even as we watch the hours fly by and feel our energy draining. We get little hits of dopamine from likes and comments, and they feel so good that we’re always on the hunt for that high and end up scrolling our lives away.
After I drastically cut back the time I spent scrolling to one hour a day, my stress and anxiety levels immediately went down, my overall happiness went up and I found myself with nearly a full extra day each week to try new activities and get out and explore my neighborhood.
In addition to the expected mental impacts, hunching over my phone was taking a toll on my body. “You start to experience wrist, neck or back pain because of the amount of time you’re spending holding and looking at your phone,” explains Joy Pate, LCSW, of Therapy With Joy (joypatelcsw.com). Texting thumb, tendonitis, chronic neck pain and possibly even arthritis are serious risks of extended smartphone use.
There are so many things to do and see when you look up from your phone. Here are some ways to connect, discover new things and unwind that don’t involve scrolling on social media if you’re:
BOREDIf you find yourself with a gap in your schedule, it’s easy to pick up your phone to pass the time. Instead of mindlessly scrolling:
- Listen to a new podcast. There are literally millions of podcasts out there just waiting to be discovered. Check out some new voices and hear some new perspectives.
- Play with your pets. Your pets love you and are eager to spend more time with you. Teach them a new trick or spoil them with affection.
- Cook a meal. Find a tasty recipe or video online and practice preparing a meal until you feel like a pro. (Then invite someone over for dinner!)
- Do a puzzle or play a game alone, or with family.
- Go on a solo date. Take yourself out for a night on the town. Spending time alone doing what you love can be very self-affirming, and doing things alone can be empowering.
Social media makes it easier than ever to keep in touch with friends and family and lets us feel connected with strangers sharing photos and videos we enjoy, but there can be a downside. “Social media often gives us the illusion that we’re tapped in with people, but in reality, we’re just onlookers to the content they want us to see,” says Pate. “Cutting down on social media can encourage you to plan more intentional ways of connecting with people in person, or even by phone, to build deeper and more authentic connection.”
Quality relationships are crucial to a happy life, and while you might send a message or like a photo from time to time, there’s nothing like actually having a conversation with a friend or loved one. Instead of saying hi digitally:
- Call up a friend.
- Spend some extra time with the family to create memories to look back on later.
- Invite people over. Whether it’s a girls night in, a BBQ or a full-out bash, have some fun with friends.
- Get together somewhere new. If you don’t want people coming over to your place, meet them somewhere else! Bonus points if it’s somewhere none of you have been before.
- Join a club to meet other people who love the same things you do. Connect and grow your interest with like-minded folks.
- Plan a girls trip or a solo trip Planning a getaway will keep you focused on exciting future activities instead of feeling like you’re missing out on anything online.
Sometimes we scroll hoping that what we’ll see will perk us up, or we just don’t have the energy to do much else. Unfortunately, it can end up making us feel worse. “You find yourself constantly comparing yourself to the things you see on social media,” explains Pate. Combat feeling drained by prioritizing self-care. Instead of continuously spiraling:
- Journal. Writing and reflecting on things can help you stay present and focused on your life.
- Write a letter to a friend you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while. Putting pen to paper encourages you to slow down and be intentional and fully present.
- Spend time giving back to your community. There are plenty of people and causes who need a little extra assistance, so check and see how you can lend a hand where you live. Volunteering often puts things in perspective, and helping others makes us feel good too.
- Join a local adventure group and discover the magic of the outdoors.
- Get a full night’s sleep. Night scrolling eats away at rest time, and even the color of the screen can ruin our slumber. Instead of scrolling, put your phone away and try getting a full seven to nine hours.
- Treat yourself. Have a bubble bath, get a massage or a facial, or even take an uninterrupted nap.
- Do some deep stretches. Stretching keeps your joints limber, improves balance and coordination, and can provide mental relief from stress.
“Doomscrolling has become popular and is defined as obsessively scrolling through bad news despite it having a negative impact on your mood,” explains Pate. “Honor what your mind and emotions are telling you and give social media a break.” When you feel restless, put your phone down and try:
- Meditation. It has a plethora of mental health and physical benefits, including reducing stress, improving sleep, lowering blood pressure and reducing anxiety.
- Decluttering. Clutter can make us feel anxious or stressed, so take some time to see what’s hanging around your home that doesn’t bring you joy anymore. The same goes for your digital dwellings, too; clear out those old emails that you’ve been meaning to delete.
- Move your body. Physical exercise can reduce stress, improve endurance and reduce the risk of major health issues like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Plus, the endorphins make you feel great afterwards, so it’s a win-win!
- Take a walk around your neighborhood. Meet your neighbors, or just get some fresh air walking around your block.
- Explore your city. There’s probably a long list of places near your home that you haven’t had a chance to visit. Stop by a new museum, restaurant or attraction and get to know where you live.
Social media is a great place to discover and learn new things, but there are other ways to find something to be excited about. Try:
- Reading. It keeps our brains sharp, and with so many engaging books to choose from, you’ll never run out of titles to check out.
- Watching an educational video or documentary. Instead of racking up hours on Instagram and TikTok, learn something new in a longer format.
- Take a class and meet new people in your area, or check online for a class where you can learn from home.
- Learn a new language. Whether you use an app or take a full course, learning a language is an excellent way to grow and connect with someone from a different background.
- Try a new hobby. Learning how to sew, play an instrument or make something boosts your brain function and keeps your mind occupied.
When you’re ready to dip your toes back into the world of social media, be intentional about the way you use it. “Social media can be extremely helpful and communal when used in a healthy way,” says Pate. “Work towards building boundaries around your use, such as engaging time limits, avoiding social media for the first two hours of your morning and intentionally following content that makes you feel good.”