Clean up your mental health with a break from social media

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Two and a half hours: That’s the average amount of time people spend on social media each day. It may not sound like a lot, but that time can really add up, and at what cost? Social networks have shown negative effects on mental health (especially for adolescents), self-image and, for some, it is a great waste of time.

Sure, finding local events, selling things on Facebook Marketplace, and keeping up with high school friends are some of the best parts about these apps, but there are definitely ways you can interact with social media that are better for your health.

anish agarval

Anish Agarwal of Penn University, an emergency physician, researcher, and deputy director of the Center for Digital Health, said it’s important to constantly reassess the role social media plays in daily life.

The bottom line: Taking a break from social media is healthy for you. Read on for guidance and tools to help you limit screen time on these apps.


What is the reason that led you to social networks? This is the question Agarwal said to ask yourself when trying to figure out if it’s time to take a break from social media. If you’re not getting the same satisfaction for the reason you use social media, it may be time to look at alternatives.

If you joined social networks to…

  • Find Community: Look for clubs and groups in your neighborhood where you can meet and interact with other IRLs (in real life).
  • Get Inspired: Consume other forms of media such as magazines, books, podcasts, movies, or live events.
  • Buy and sell stuff: Try using other apps, like OfferUp or NextDoor, or visit local events and markets in person.


Have you ever heard of the “text neck”? It’s the result of looking down at our phones when we’re scrolling or texting, tensing our neck muscles for a long period of time. Taking a break from social media helps ease neck pain and gives your eyes a break from bright screens.

People may also be more connected than ever through social media, but a 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found that people who limit their time on social media experience less depression and feelings of loneliness.

Taking a break from social media will also help you sleep better. Research suggests that late-night social media use is driven by FOMO (fear of missing out) and causes people to browse longer at night rather than go to sleep.


When you’re at home and have free time, put your phone in a drawer or some place where you can’t see it. Often, limiting the ability to quickly and easily grab your phone is enough to keep you off social media, Agarwal said. If your phone is what’s keeping your hands from moving, try having a few stress-relievers around the house, like a stress ball, a fidget toy, or yarn and crochet hooks.

Hide your social media apps on your phone by placing the app on the second or third page of your home screen, or bury the app inside an “app folder” with many others. When you’re waiting in line or have five minutes to spare, instead of grabbing your phone, enjoy the view, practice some breathing exercises, or read a book.


Most smartphones today already track screen time and usage. It’s a good idea to calculate your average screen time per day so that you have a baseline to work from.

On iPhone, you can go into the “Screen Time” settings, which shows the amount of time you spend in each app and allows you to set timers in specific apps to limit the time you spend in them. Android phones have similar features in the “Digital Wellbeing” settings. Also, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok offer the same features within the app’s settings.


Scrolling through social media while out with friends isn’t uncommon these days, but when you think about how unengaged you are at such times, you can put your social media use into perspective.

Agarwal suggests that the next time you’re in a room with other people at a family or friends gathering and find yourself scrolling through social media instead of interacting with other people, take a minute to physically remove yourself from the room and isolate yourself in another room. room. Listen and feel how much you may be missing.

“What it does is it gives a signal to your brain. If you force yourself out of the room, you realize how much you’re using that app and you’re missing out on other people,” Agarwal said. “It’s a good physical reminder to be present in the moment and not on your phone and scrolling through social media.”


“If you’re reading this article, I congratulate you on thinking about reevaluating social media,” Agarwal said. Trying to reach your goals is all about celebrating the small victories.

At the very least, set small benchmarks for yourself, like spending 10 fewer minutes on social media than you did the day before. The right amount of time on social media is different for everyone, as some people actually use these apps to market themselves and promote themselves. Find your own social media sweet spot, and remember, even if you scroll too far on social media one day, you can try to hit your goal tomorrow.

Another way to stay on track is to share your goal with someone you trust. A friend or loved one may give you a nudge when they notice you’ve been on social media for a while.

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