For about five years when my children were small, I worked part-time from home managing social media for a local university. It was an ideal job for that season of life; I could do most of my work while my kids were napping. One drawback was that I had to be online regularly to keep up with social media, and because I was the only social media manager, there was no break.
After a couple of years of being highly connected for work, I started to get really sick of social media. Even when I was logging on to check something for work, it was difficult to avoid seeing my personal accounts, too. I wanted – and needed – a break.
I was a contract employee, which allowed me to set my own hours. So, I decided to take off two weeks of work, completely disconnecting from social media during that time. My first two-week break was over Christmas break. I enjoyed it so much that I also took two weeks the following summer. Those biannual two-week breaks from social media were so refreshing. When I stopped managing social media as a part of my job, I also took a break from my personal social media for about nine months. (I didn’t miss it at all.)
If you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed, thinking you don’t measure up, or snapping at the people you love most, you might need a social media break. We need to take regular breaks from social media so that we can relax, recenter, and reconnect.
The Problem with Too Much Screen Time
So many of us – me included – use screens for our work, and the last thing we need is to have shame heaped on us for overusing our devices.
The problem isn’t really our devices, anyway. Laptops, tablets, and phones are important tools that make our lives easier and have real potential to make them better. The problem occurs when we have trouble shutting them down or setting them aside. When our time spent online takes away more energy than it gives, we have a problem.
Too much screen time can produce a range of negative side effects – including eyestrain, neck and back issues, and insomnia.
Additionally, if we’re honest, many of us have probably experienced feelings of inadequacy after scrolling social media. Instagram in particular has become a place to curate picture-perfect lives, homes, and bodies.
I’ve also found myself snapping at my family after spending too much time scrolling on my phone. There’s a problem when I’m irritated that my real-life people are interrupting my interaction with someone else’s highlight reel.
Taking a break from screens – and social media especially – can help to mitigate all of these issues.
Relax, Recenter, and Reconnect
The best antidote I’ve found to the negative effects of social media and screen overuse is regular, intentional breaks from both. When we take regular social media breaks, we make space in our lives to relax, recenter, and reconnect.
We’ve already discussed the negative physical effects of screen overuse. When we take a screen break, we allow our bodies to heal and reverse some of those effects. We can truly relax when we aren’t tethered to our devices. (Remember how quiet is powerful?)
When I find myself feeling dissatisfied with my life as it is, I can almost always point to the fact that I’ve spent too much time online. When I shut down social media, I can recenter, bringing my focus back to the things that truly matter to me.
Finally, when I disconnect from my phone, I can reconnect with the people I care about most – my husband and kids, friends, our extended families, and our neighbors.
How to Plan for a Screen Break
There are several ways that you could plan a screen break, but the most important thing is to start small. (That’s true for any change, by the way!)
As I see it, there are three basic types of screen breaks:
- Timeout – A social media timeout limits the time you spend on social media on a daily basis. Using an app like AppDetox, you can set limits to how much time you spend on a specific app each day. AppDetox also allows you to set limits about what hours you’ll access certain apps. For instance, I don’t log on to social media or email before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (Many phones also have a native tool that monitors screen and app use and facilitates setting limits for both.)
- Sabbath – A social media sabbath is a short break that happens regularly. I choose to stay off social media on Sundays. If beginning with an entire day away from social media is too much, choose one evening a week when you’ll plug your phone in after work and ignore it until the next morning.
- Vacation – Once you’ve become accustomed to daily limits on social media and a regular weekly sabbath, you might be ready to reap the rewards of a longer break. Social media vacations are less frequent, but longer breaks that really allow you to relax, recenter, and reconnect. If you use social media for work, it will require more planning, but it’s worth it. (You can schedule posts in advance using a variety of tools. You can also ask a coworker to moderate social networks during your time away.)
Take the First Baby Step
After you’ve begun to enjoy the benefits of an occasional break from social media, I believe you’ll want to make it a regular part of your life. Although it requires some discipline to maintain, the improvements to your physical and mental health and relationships far outweigh the discomfort of making a change.
Tell me in the comments below whether a regular social media break is part of your life. If you plan to integrate it into your life, tell me how!
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