Taking time off social media can be complicated when you need it to sustain your work. When you’re self-employed, a freelancer or an entrepreneur, taking a break from social media can be essential to your mental health. Social media, especially checking obsessively has been linked to high anxiety as well as depression. Interpreting these studies has one meaning for the casual user but a completely different meaning for those of us who may feel pressured to spend 6 hours or more per day engaging with social media. Even with small sample sizes, these studies confirm something we feel intuitively. Social media can be draining when you discuss emotionally sensitive subjects that bear very real weight in your life offline.
Taking lengthy breaks from social media is important not just to our well-being but to cultivate the realization that your self-worth, self-esteem, and value isn’t tied to social media. Here are five of my favorite ways to prepare for a social media detox and enforce a social media detox without sacrificing productivity, my long-term goals and my short-term anxiety regarding engagement on my social media platforms.
(1) Engagement is not conversion. If your social media account doesn’t yield sales conversions for your self-employment or small business, taking time off may not impact your work life as much as you think it will. Some social networks that I fuss about for work do not yield the highest conversions and I’ve realized that taking a break from these exhausting interactions is critical to maintaining positive mental health and energy for social media sites and interactions that do yield a high amount of engagement. If you do get a lot of conversions for your business from a specific social media site, you may consider a different solution like…
(2) Automate Social Media. I use Buffer to automate tweets for my businesses and other accounts when using social media. This enables me to completely detox without worrying that I am neglecting my audience or “leaving money on the table”. Since I rely on social media engagement for clicks, reviews, and buys of my various products, it can be difficult not to worry. Automation takes away the burden of keeping my finger on the pulse. Another method to automate is to hire a virtual assistant to help you post. I have little experience in hiring VAs but I use Upwork to find other freelancers and they do have virtual assistants willing to help you out (at a cost!)
(3) Delete apps from your cell phone. I have taken this a step further and I no longer use cellular data on my phone at all. Yes, this is largely because I haven’t gone to Digicel to claim my new LTE SIM card, but I’ve been forced to take stock of my cell phone usage in a whole new way. Deleting social media apps has the same effect. When you’re no longer carrying all these distracting notifications in your pocket, you better appreciate the beauty of the present moment. Once you’ve automated your social media, this step will do a lot to foster detachment from social media.
(4) Indulge in a hobby. Taking a break from social media is the perfect time to indulge in a creative hobby. I prefer creative hobbies to more passive hobbies because I can tap into the “source” of good ideas and explore. Playing in this space can be beneficial for mental health and serve as a reminder that life is more than interactions, engagement and obsessing over metrics and numbers. Great hobbies that replace social media include drawing, painting, photography, dancing, sewing, knitting, reading or more extroverted like participating in a sports team, local clubs or cooking with family members. Really anything can replace social media and bring a deeper level of connection than what’s possible online.
(5) Break the addiction. Take a long enough break from social media that you can reconnect without feeling the “need” to refresh or to “check-in”. For me, this is usually around a week. Remember, I work online so whether I like it or not, social media can be a huge part of my daily life and it’s easy for this work necessity to metastasize into something unhealthy. This is something that’s difficult to discuss because no one wants to admit to feeling addicted to social media — there’s a stigma to addiction and many people believe they aren’t addicted to social media at all. Once you’ve broken the compulsive need to check on things, to post, to like, to update and to entertain, you can return to your work with fresh eyes and a greater mindfulness as to the impact of your work and what you’re putting out there.
Right now, it’s December 1st and I’m gearing up for a busy twenty days of round the clock work as I prepare for my longer-than-normal vacation at the end of the year. I can’t wait to leave everything running on autopilot and reconnect with the people I love, with my creative energy and most importantly, with myself. My small business this year has been a whirlwind of positivity, yet despite all this, I still feel drained by the pressure of “keeping up” online.
It’s a fact of what I do and for many millennials, this rings true whether or not you work on the internet. There’s this pressure to keep up, to keep your finger on the pulse and to “stay informed”. We’re the generation of FOMO and while there’s nothing wrong with it, we can become overwhelmed and negative. Take a break. Don’t feel guilty about it. Unwind, and enjoy taking much-needed space.