A social media cleanse lets you press pause on social media platforms. It may also help boost your mood in the real world.
Whether it’s Twitter or TikTok, you may have noticed endless scrolling leaves you feeling more on edge than entertained, more imperfect than informed, and def more crummy than chill.
So, if you’re considering a social media cleanse — taking a deliberate break from all social media channels — you’re in the right place! Logging out can help clear your head, dial down anxiety, and get better sleep.
Here’s your ultimate guide to starting a social media detox.
If scrolling is taking over your mood and life, a social media cleanse allows you to break free of online platforms for a certain period of time. Some folks log out for a day, while others escape for a week or month to detox from their internet habits.
Why do we need a break from selfies and cute dog videos? When it comes to social media, addiction is often a feature, not a bug.
Licensed professional counselor Leah Rockwell, LPC, LCPC, explains that these platforms activate the same part of the brain as other addictive behaviors. You get “little dopamine jolts” when you feel validated through likes, views, follows, and comments.
It’s no secret, but research also notes social media isn’t great for your mental health. Envy and FOMO, in particular, have been linked to anxiety and depression.
Experts still don’t know how much social media affects us or if it impacts some folks more than others. But stepping away can help you reset and reflect on how the apps you take to bed, the bathroom, and literally everywhere are affecting your physical and mental health.
Rockwell also says that if social media is bringing you down, you might benefit from reducing social media use to set times (lunch break, anyone?) rather than slashing it entirely.
Signs it’s time for a social media detox
Rockwell says she’d recommend a social media cleanse to anyone noticing negative mood shifts related to checking their feeds.
Some signs that it’s time to step back:
- You’re feeling “less than.” You need to log out if your scroll triggers comparisonitis — envy, FOMO, insecurity, etc.
- You’re doomscrolling. Do you need a new reason to feel more hopeless about the world? No, you do not.
- You’re feeling angry and anxious AF. Another day, another Twitterstorm. If you feel more enraged, jittery, or fearful after checking your feeds, it’s time to take a break.
- You could use more sleep. Uh, checking social media literally keeps you up at night.
- You can’t stop checking your phone. If your fingers are twitching for your phone for no reason, it’s time for a reset.
- You’re annoying your friends. Do the folks you love IRL complain about how often you’re on your phone? Does your boo hate how many snaps you take for the ‘gram? Social media shouldn’t trump your actual social life.
A social media detox might sound like a slog, but odds are you’ll feel better pretty much immediately. In a study of 68 college students, most reported mental health benefits from cutting out social media — and only 25 percent of them avoided social media for more than 1 day.
Let’s dive into the potential physical and mental health perks.
- Mood = boosted. Research is still limited, but most studies on social media “cleanses” suggest that people feel better when they take a break.
- Less anxiety. Both the studies above and Rockwell say that one of the clearest benefits of a social media detox is dialed down anxiety.
- Clearer focus. “I often see people reach for their phones when they don’t know what to do,” says Rockwell. “But the aimlessness of scrolling actually can make you MORE unfocused.” Stepping away from social = clearing mental clutter.
- Boosted creativity. Rockwell says nixing social media can help boost creativity. It also frees your time, leaving you with more opportunities to try new hobbies.
- FOMO no mo’. A social media detox takes the focus away from what everyone else is doing and squarely back on your own daily life. Control what you can control, friend.
- Stronger social connections. Disconnecting from social channels means you’re more likely to seek connection IRL. Research backs this up.
- Solid sleep. Science says that sleep quality goes down when social media use goes up. The inverse could be true too! Rockwell says better sleep is one of the many benefits of dialing down screen time.
- Reduced eyestrain. Time spent scrolling social feeds = time spent staring at a screen. It’s reasonable to assume that deleting the apps will benefit your eyes and dial down any strain-related headaches.
- Better posture. This one’s a little iffy, but you *might* notice an improvement in posture and neck pain if slashing social media = less time on your phone.
There’s no right or wrong way to break free from the Twitterverse (or any other social channel).
Whether you want to “detox” for a day or a week, here are some tips from Rockwell on easing into a social media cleanse:
- Don’t go cold turkey. Rockwell says you’re more likely to be successful if you pare back gradually. Research backs this up, suggesting that the more hours you spend on social media per day, the more difficult it is to complete a social media cleanse.
- Turn off notifications. “I’ve had clients do this first step of a ‘cleanse’ alone,” says Rockwell. “This can be enough to reduce the compulsive checking.”
- Pick your poison. If you’ve decided to ease into a social media cleanse rather than full-on withdrawal, start by picking just one platform to continue using. Delete the other social apps from your phone.
- Create designated “social media use” times. Again, this is for those easing into the detox. Rockwell suggests picking 2 times per day when you allow yourself to check in with your preferred platform. This keeps you from scrolling at random times throughout the day.
- Reflect, reflect, reflect. As you gradually taper your time on social media, reflect on how you feel at the end of each day. When did you mindlessly reach for your phone? When did you forget about social media entirely? Rockwell and research suggest that self-reflection is key to any behavior change.
- Now step back fully for a week. Rockwell says sometimes cutting back is enough. But if you want to do a full cleanse, that includes time without *any* social media. One study suggests that a 7-day digital detox is enough to increase mental well-being.
If you want to go back to social media, do it on your own terms.
Before you dive back in, take a beat to reflect on your experience.
- What parts of life felt better without social media?
- What parts got more challenging?
Maybe you’ll realize that Twitter just fuels your personal rage machine. Or maybe you missed following some of your favorite coworkers. Maybe you didn’t miss Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook. Maybe you really did. Knowledge is power, so use it!
Rockwell’s suggestion for designating certain times of day for social media works during and after reincorporating your favorite platforms. She says constraining your use to, say, your morning coffee hour and your lunch break can help you maintain focus and balance moving forward.
- A social media cleanse is a buzzy way of saying that you’re taking a break from social media.
- There’s no set timeline for a social media detox. Yours can last a day, week, month, or more.
- Stepping back from social media helps dial down anxiety and FOMO. It can also boost your mood, focus, and social connections.
- A social media cleanse can also lead to better sleep, less eyestrain, and even better posture.
- If you want to try a social media cleanse, know that you don’t have to quit cold turkey. Rockwell says you’re more likely to meet your goal (be it a week or month) if you wean yourself slowly first.