Several months ago, I felt in a weird slump. After settling into our beautiful new home and starting a new job, you would think that my life would feel… more put together. Better, in some way. Our home was bigger and brand new, my job paid significantly more than my previous position. But yet, I felt unsatisfied. I felt the withdrawal from reality and was escaping into my phone. After a long hard think about what could be wrong, I realized that my problem wasn’t my real life – it was my virtual one. So I did a social media detox for what was intended to be just a few weeks that is now going on over 90 days.
This isn’t a “how to” guide or how a social media detox works (you should visit my blog post HERE for that). This post is meant to be my push for you to think about how social media makes you feel. From ads, to influencers, to what your friends are posting. It all makes you feel something – whether that be good OR bad.
Read my experience and then take stock of your digital life. Are you spending too much time online and then too much time offline comparing your life to someone else’s?
Let’s dive into why social media makes me feel like garbage.
Ads, comparison, and other things.
Y’all, companies have done a great job marketing their products. They help you see problems you didn’t even know you had! Of course, they offer the perfect solution to that problem as well. It’s like their product was just made for it!
Oh, wait. This big company created a problem you didn’t know you had, or rather, didn’t have at all.
Social media influencers do the exact same thing no matter how large or small their audience is. They’re paid to market someone else’s or their own product. They have to convince you that you absolutely need whatever it is that they’re selling. But often, they’re showing you a problem that you didn’t even have.
Don’t get me wrong – Instagram has given me some great ideas! Like using a makeup brush to apply sunscreen (even that’s an affiliate link).
But every single day, I was bombarded with ads and videos showing me how to make my life like someone else’s life. How to make my home beautiful. How a drink mix will help me lose weight. Even how to get my child to behave with new supplement.
I was no longer content with my own life.
Instagram showed me what I wanted to see (beautifully decorated houses, healthy meals which unfortunately was corrupted by drink mixes and pills, and how to engage with my child in a more meaningful way which also took a bad turn). Left with a feeling of dissatisfaction, I needed to change the way I spent my time online. I was comparing my life to the probably-not-so-real life of others.
The social media detox.
Over the summer of 2022, I deleted Facebook from my phone – which doesn’t seem like much, but logging into Facebook from a web browser is not great! The groups I was a part of became negative and the women in those groups mostly took up space to complain about their children, their home, or their spouse. They would go on about how cluttered their home was and how they never had time because their family was so needy.
Facebook began to negatively effect my mood – even when I stuck to my home screen of just friends and family. I was still inundated with ads solving problems I didn’t know that I had or political articles posted by “friends” that were all around negative.
Once I decided that I no longer needed the app, I almost immediately started to feel space open up in my day. I hadn’t the foggiest idea that I was spending so much time on Facebook alone or how much it was dragging me down. My mood improved and I felt like I had less to do (because I didn’t have an app to tap on). Thus, my social media detox began.
So what would happen if I bid farewell to Instagram?
Instagram is like a slot machine. Instead of exclusively putting money into it, you put your time into it. You’re completely consumed and focused on watching 7 second videos. Coincidentally (or not), slot machine reels spin for approximately the same time (I timed them while in Vegas recently). Both immersing yourself in social media and gambling give you small hits of dopamine with each press of a button or scroll of the screen. You’re rewarded with new content or a small win.
Instagram was so hard to delete from my phone. I genuinely enjoyed following certain individuals. As I deleted it from my phone, I promised myself that I wouldn’t log into a web browser to look at it either. Over the last almost 100 days, I’ve only logged into Instagram one time. That was to get the coding for an embedded post for my blog post Extreme Couponer to Frugal Minimalist.
As soon as I deleted Instagram from my phone, I began compulsively checking my email. Rather than deleting the email app from my phone too, I removed the icon from my home screen and that solved my issue.
Go find something else to do.
The hardest part about a social media detox is finding something else to do instead of scrolling, liking, and posting. Even while on vacation, I felt the urge to post to Instagram because I thought a certain picture would garner likes and comments.
I thought maybe installing a new game would help – spoilers – it made the restless feeling worse.
What did help was finding my favorite creators on YouTube and through podcasts. Listening to something in long-form allowed my to consume their content in what has been a more meaningful way. I’ve learned more from listening to podcasts than I ever did watching them on Instagram.
Why? Because my attention was not immediately consumed again by someone/some company trying to sell me something. There’s ads on YouTube and podcast platforms, sure. But it’s so easy to skip through them because I’m focused on a singular piece of content.
My YouTube watch time hasn’t gone up that dramatically either. Which definitely surprised me! Because I’m more selective about what content I watch, I don’t waste time scrolling through just trying to find “whatever” to watch.
But during the day, I still feel restless or fidgety. Instead of checking social media, I get up and make a fun drink (non-alcoholic) or take a quick stretch break.
Social Media Detox – do it or pass?
If anyone tells you to try a social media detox – do it.
No if, ands, or buts – do it! If your job requires social media engagement – set a timer and solely focus on your job.
Benefits: More focus, more time to do what you actually want, more meaningful interactions in real life, slowing down, more self-evaluation.
Before you can say “but I could never give up following ___!”, just think about it. Are you so invested in a stranger’s life that you can’t go a day without missing their stories or reels?
It’s great that they share their life with you (their follower) but they don’t know you. You’re just a number, a follower. While you may be entertained by what they choose to post online, remember that far more important people exist in your life. They’re often right in front of you.
You don’t have to delete your accounts and go live under a rock. On the contrary, I think you should leave your social media accounts up BUT delete the app from your phone. Better yet, delete saved usernames and passwords.
Try a social media detox for a day, then a week, then a month, and then you might be like me – without social media for over two months and counting, not really caring what my “favorite” creators are doing. I have improved mental health and a more meaningful relationship with my family. All because I hopped off the hamster wheel of consuming social media.