Social Media Detox

I’m increasingly disenchanted with Facebook.

The whole site is designed to keep you on the site as long as possible…and checking the site often the rest of the time.

Have you noticed how it has changed in the past few months?

“Notifications” that aren’t really telling me anything important…sometimes just that someone I hardly know has updated their status.

Because they know that the more notifications, the more often I check.

Links barely show up anymore. I had the hardest time figuring out how to link to a blog post recently. URLs used to look colorful and appealing. But now, unless you add a photo, it appears that hardly anyone sees them.

Facebook would rather you didn’t leave their site. The longer you scroll, the more of their ads you see.


I go through cycles where I use my phone more than I should.

Even though I know it has a negative effect on me, the cycle can be hard to break.

I was due for another opportunity to break the cycle – the addiction.

So I picked up a book about it at the library recently.

The Power of Off by Nancy Colier was a nice reminder to be mindful and present.

To notice the things around me.

To be in touch with myself.

To recognize that the things we do today will be tomorrow’s memories.

What does that mean for each of us?

I’ve limited my phone usage before and written about it here.

But it was time for a refresher.

I was feeling the pull again, so this was a timely reminder.

Helpful or Unhelpful?

Author Nancy Colier says it means learning how to coexist with technology in a healthy way – because technology isn’t going anywhere. To put technology to work for us rather than be a slave to it.

You could take some time like I did and write a list of all the ways technology is useful or necessary in your life. Then contrast that list with all the ways technology is draining, frustrating, or time-wasting in your life.

Here’s my list:

  • Helpful – texting, messenger, FB groups, events, the blog.
  • Unhelpful – FB newsfeed, Pinterest, Instagram, checking email more than once a day.

I chose the top ones because they are the parts of online activity that actually connect me to people in real life.

Once you have your lists, take a look at how you can optimize the helpful aspects of social media and eliminate the unhelpful ones.

Facebook is Reluctant to Die

Lately I’ve noticed that more and more of my friends express frustration with Facebook. We wish we could remain connected to the people online without the drama, politics, and lame memes.

The Facebook staff is well aware of this “problem.” They know that at least half their users would like to walk away if they could. But those users feel trapped because they view their FB account as an indispensable collection of contacts.

I believe this is why Facebook mysteriously discontinued the Groups App earlier this year. They realized that fewer and fewer people were logging into their actual accounts – that the main thing people wanted out of their Facebook was the connectedness of the groups without the time-wasting of the newsfeed.

It worked a little too well. Now we have to log onto Facebook to get our group notifications.

And it’s the addictive nature of the notifications that keeps us coming back. I’ve heard refreshing the home page of FB likened to the feeling of pulling the lever on a slot machine. We love the cheap thrill of checking, even if we’re not expecting anything.

If you’ve  ever been 3 or 4 days without logging into your FB account, then you know that the emails get pretty annoying and pushy. “You have notifications!” “See what your friends are doing!” Josh has said FB is like a needy ex girlfriend who just won’t leave you alone. Yes, we know it’s been a few days. No, it’s not an accident.

Here’s a telling and timely article about our addiction…and collective frustration…with the social media giants.

Will a future generation look back in 10, 20, or maybe 100 years from now and wonder, mystifyingly, why a generation of humans believed in these platforms despite mounting evidence that they were tearing society apart—being used as terrorist recruitment tools, facilitating bullying, driving up anxiety, and undermining our elections—despite the obvious benefits and facilitations they provide? Indeed, some of the people who gave us these platforms are already beginning to wonder if this is the case.

Nick Bilton

For the past few months, I’ve been using the messenger app to stay in touch with people, but I haven’t been using the FB app or checking notifications. I haven’t been “scrolling” at all, therefore I don’t see any ads.

Josh and I are toying with the idea of getting off FB entirely… But for now this middle ground has broken the addiction and I’m still in touch with those contacts whose numbers I don’t have.

But I’ve also been making it a practice lately to get someone’s number when I meet them and want to stay in touch, rather than my old habit of just finding them on FB. It may be old-fashioned in a sense, but I think it’s the good kind of old-fashioned. It forces me to be intentional about actually getting in touch with them in real life…which social media relationships can bypass altogether.

Just Another Addiction

One of the things I’ve noticed about social media is how easy it is to give up after a couple of days of not checking it.

Just like quitting sugar, the addiction is strong but easily broken. It’s like the spell is broken once you’re free. “Why did I waste all that time browsing stuff I didn’t even want to see?”

The main thing I’ve noticed since taking this last break and freeing myself from the addictive quality is that I have a lot more time.

Like, a lot.

Time to rest. Time to think. Time to be alone with my thoughts. Time to pray. Time to listen to music. Time to nap. Time to read. Time to write.

We tend to think we’re using time wisely when we pick up our phones during our downtime throughout the day. But being “productive” all the time isn’t necessarily using time wisely.

And we’re fooling ourselves if we think scrolling Twitter is truly productive.

It’s been scientifically proven that social media makes us feel lousy afterward. Not connected. Not fulfilled. Not satisfied. (Just like too much sugar.)

The more time a person spends online, the less time is left for real-world interactions.

In addition, seeing certain aspects of other people’s lives may spur feelings of envy and rouse the belief that your life is disappointing and dull in comparison.

Prof Primack added: “I don’t doubt that some people using certain platforms in specific ways may find comfort and social connectedness via social media relationships.

“However, the results of this study simply remind us that, on the whole, use of social media tends to be associated with increased social isolation and not decreased social isolation.”

Sky News, UK

I’ve found multitasking and endless “productivity” to be seriously overrated. I’m the opposite of productive sometimes…yet I manage to get the necessary things done.

Killing Ourselves

I spend a lot of time sitting on my front porch in the mornings. While I’m out there, I watch drivers going by. I’d say a solid 1/3 of the drivers are on their phones. Some of them aren’t even looking up at all.

As a frequent pedestrian, and mother of small children, and wife of a commuting cyclist, I find this very concerning.

Are tougher laws the answer? Or is it deeper than that?

Until we address why all these drivers are unable to single-task and just drive, we can’t change their behavior. They know they should be focused on the road. They know that their lives and the lives of others depend on it.

But addictions defy logic.

Maybe we don’t see ourselves the way others see us. We don’t see ourselves the way our friends, family, and outside observers see us – always scrolling, texting, chatting.

We can come up with excuses to justify our behavior – at least to ourselves. Even if it’s ugly. Even if we know better.

But the addiction might actually be killing us slowly…or not so slowly if we’re driving distracted. It needs to stop before our lives spin out of control.

One of the problems is that these platforms act, in many ways, like drugs. Facebook, and every other social-media outlet, knows that all too well. Your phone vibrates a dozen times an hour with alerts about likes and comments and retweets and faves. The combined effect is one of just trying to suck you back in, so their numbers look better for their next quarterly earnings report. Sean Parker, one of Facebook’s earliest investors and the company’s first president, came right out and said what we all know: the whole intention of Facebook is to act like a drug, by “[giving] you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.” That, Parker said, was by design. These companies are “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya has echoed this, too. “Do I feel guilty?” he asked rhetorically on CNN about the role Facebook is playing in society. “Absolutely I feel guilt.”

Nick Bilton

Are You a Tech Addict?

Colier says to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your reliance on technology increasing?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you can’t check your phone?
  • Do you continue to use technology even though you know it is impairing your work / family / life?
  • Have you given up activities you used to enjoy to use technology instead?
  • Would your family and close friends say you have a problem?
  • Do you lie about the extent of your Internet usage?
  • Do you get defensive when someone tries to confront you about it?

Also ask yourself:

  • Who am I trying to impress?
  • What am I hoping to find on social media?
  • What would I have to feel if I couldn’t play with my phone right now?

It’s completely possible that we’re escaping for a deeper reason.

That we’re seeking affirmation and fulfillment in the digital realm due to feelings of inadequacy in our own lives.

That we’re running from something that we need to face head-on – with our eyes up.

That we aren’t happy and therefore must present the illusion of happiness to the world.


This isn’t meant to point fingers at anyone.

I’m sharing this because I’ve been there.

Technology isn’t evil, but I also happen to know the freedom of setting the phone down and “single-tasking.”

The beauty of being untangled from the web of information, empty “social” interactions, and constant, instant availability.

Next time you find yourself wrestling with these feelings, give yourself a moment to breathe and feel.

Set the phone down and walk away. Find something else to do – even if it’s just being alone with yourself.

Don’t be afraid of your own thoughts.

Remember how to just be.

That’s the power of off.


Add yours →

  1. Great article, Emily. I left Facebook 3 years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I felt like I’ve become exponentially more productive without social media and a bit happier, too.

    • I’m glad to hear it! My biggest setback is feeling like I somehow owe it to my friends to “keep up” with them on social media. But asking how they are doing in person or via text is more personal anyway! You’re missing the drama and not much else 😉

      • Thanks! I know it’s not as convenient in this day and age to refrain from social media, but if people are my real friends, then they would make an effort to call, text, and/or email me. Glad to know I’m missing the drama and other petty things.

  2. Wonderful post, and I can so relate. I’ve deactivated my Facebook several times, only to return again after a few months. While it is currently deactivated, I toy with the idea of deleting it completely. I do feel a bit like the odd woman out if I don’t keep up with friends from afar, or know what’s going on in our community. The truth is, I know that if someone really needed to get ahold of me, or see how I’m doing–they could, without social media.

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