Taking a Break from Social Media: Ways to Quit

March 12, 2024

How To Stop Social Media

I've been working in mental health for over a decade and have owned a therapy practice for about seven years now. Part of my job in owning a practice keeping track of the data, who is coming in and how many therapists we need to hire. I recently went over some of these numbers with my team and the results were astounding to me. In 2018 we completed about 1200 therapy sessions. In 2019, we about doubled in size and completed about 2500. In 2020 we hit 7200 and by 2021 we were doing around 12,000 therapy sessions per year. 10x in 3 years.

And I'm sure you can guess what the big factor was here. The good old year of 2020. Pandemic, social distancing, politics, race relations, family tension, system oppression, so on and so forth. I'm not going to lie, it was difficult to watch the negative impact that our world was having on people and seeing clients in such a difficult emotional state. We had plenty of meetings as a team about how we could do better work and support each other while having to send clients back out into a world where it was so difficult to implement the new skill that they might have learned in therapy that week. But we are now in 2024 and these negative mental health trends, as Willy Wonka once said "(are) certainly not showing any signs that they are slowing."

And so we must look to what are the reasons this continues to take place. We are out of the pandemic now and sociopolitical issues continue to be awful, but if we look throughout the course of history, they've always been awful. For some reason we've decided to run the 2020 election back this year after how swimmingly it went the first time. Get pumped for that! But the most defining factor globally for 2020 will always have been the coronavirus. And as with any major problem that humanity faces, the reasons are usually a million little things and a few decent sized ones. And so for today's post we are going to be picking on social media, one of the most deserving and easy culprits.

Screen Time

There's a quote I heard years ago that I continue to come back to: "If you aren't paying for a product, you are the product." Social media apps primary concern is the amount of time that you are spending on their app. The more they can prove that this is where people's attention is, the more they are able to sell to advertisers. Think about it, if you wanted to sell a product would you rather put up a billboard or run an ad on one of the top social media platforms like TikTok? What do you think is going to get more attention?

And I probably don't need to even be making much of a case for this. It's hardly a secret anymore that spending so much time on social media sites is not good for your brain. When we watch a video, like a video, swipe, scroll, click, or receive a like, our brain has a dopamine release. As we continue to engage in this system we create a dopamine feedback loop. And thus we give in to the lie that our brain is just wanting to see a video or two, or let's say even ten! And we think that after we have seen the number of videos we had originally intended to then we will feel some level of satiation and be able to go back to something that is more valuable in our free time. However, this is simply not the case. For every video you watch, photo you absorb, or headline you read your brain wants another one. You may never reach the point of satisfaction and this is a great way to zone out for a period of time. Often the reason that we stop is because we are forced to in some way from one of the many interruptions of life.

What To Do

Most people aren't going to like my way of addressing this, but I believe the best way is to stop cold turkey. If you are having trouble with phone usage or spending a lot of time on social media feeds, you have for the most part shown yourself that you cannot manage a health relationship with these forms of media at the present moment. I'm not saying that you can't ever get to that point, but the first step is recognizing that this relationship needs to change. And so the answer is not necessarily less time, but it is no time.

And so you should go to your home screen and delete all of the main offenders here. Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter are some of the social media accounts that come to mind. And here is the thing that is going to happen. You are going to get bored and you're not going to know what to do. I ran this experiment for myself years ago and I found myself scrolling through "NextDoor" the app where your neighbors complain about somebody being too loud and asking why the mail is 30 minutes late today. I remember thinking "This is my real life. I am sitting here looking at NextDoor because I don't know how to just sit in the present moment." A new low.

As we engage in this digital detox it is generally pretty difficult for the first week or two. We try and replace our social media usage by engaging in a new hobby or learning a new skill, but it doesn't seem to fill our cup the same way. And this makes so much sense! If you've been eating sour gummy worms every day for the past year, strawberries and apples might lose a bit of their sweetness. They'll taste like a dessert again some day, but not when your brain is used to the sugar kick from a sour gummy worm from the bulk section at sprouts, not that I was ever in love with those or anything.

After going through a period of digital detox, you can decide if you want to reenter the social media world with perhaps some stipulations. And no, I don't think you can start at this step without the 30-90 days of stopping.

Setting time limits for yourself is a very helpful way. And I don't mean by telling yourself that you are only goings to be on Instagram for 15 minutes. I mean having a screen time code that automatically locks you out after 15 minutes. Get a friend, partner, family member, or whoever to set this code for you so you don't have access to it.

It's also best practice to keep social media notifications off. So often we want to just check the quick message we receivef from somebody or see who that most recent "like" is from, but end up pouring 20 minutes down the drain when we weren't planning to.

If you are looking for a bit more of a structured plan to improve your relationship with social media, there is a book I recommend called "How To Break Up With Your Phone." I don't receive anything from you clicking on a link, so hopefully you can trust that it is just a helpful read.


Do you have an answer for how you want to better show up in your life? Do you know what values you want to work to protect? Start with outlining your personal, or family, values in our Free Values Course. This course walks you through how to pick, define, and measure your own values. Our newest course on Breaking Technology Addiction has launched and you can click HERE for more info.

Feeling like you need some one on one support in finding the next steps for you? Our therapists are here for you, reach out and let us know how we can help!

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