We’re all familiar with the philosophical thought experiment, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Lately, I’ve been pondering a different version: “If I experience something beautiful and don’t share it on social media, does it matter?” Sadly, the modern answer often feels like “no.”
Because this is clearly an unhealthy cultural phenomenon, I’ve begun viewing social media detoxes as an important part of my self-care routine. Digital detoxes help remind me that I don’t need to seek validation from outside sources, nor do I need to be constantly entertained or distracted. If you’re interested in reaping the benefits of a social media detox for yourself, here are the steps I’ve found most helpful:
1. Alert your online community that you won’t be logging in for a while. This is more important for those of you with an active online presence and followers who may get worried if you suddenly “disappear.”
2. Uninstall social media apps from your phone; this step will make the biggest impact right out of the gate. Gone are the days of looking at Instagram or Snapchat in the check-out line or on the subway.
3. Log out of all social media platforms on your desktop, and remove the websites from your bookmark toolbar.
4. Don’t log on to social media for at least two weeks in order to gain some distance — 6 to 8 weeks offline should break unhealthy habits.
Now that you’ve cleared the space, it’s time for the fun part of the detox: Fill all those short, in-between moments with fulfilling pastimes. Carry around a book or a copy of your favorite magazine to read while waiting, commuting, or relaxing. Connect with a friend in person.
Next time you find yourself reaching for digital distraction, instead sit patiently in the moment and bring awareness to your breath. My favorite breathing exercise is the Kundalini practice of breath suspension, which is coincidentally used as a tool for releasing addictive thoughts. Before you know it, you’ll have replaced shallow social media expectations with fulfilling practices to feel more centered, balanced, and present.
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