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Should you do a social media cleanse?

Do you feel compelled to check Instagram, TikTok or Facebook every time you pick up your phone? Are you worried you’ll miss out on something if you take a few hours off? If so, it may be time for a social media “cleanse.”

“The bells and whistles of social media are designed so you’ll keep coming back,” says Dennis Buttimer, M.Ed, CEAP, RYT, CHC, a life and wellness coach at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “You may not realize how addicted you are until you decide to take a break.”

What is a social media cleanse?

During a social media cleanse, you stay off those sites and apps for a few hours, days or even weeks. Alternatively, you may decide to declutter your newsfeed by unfollowing, muting or disconnecting from people or accounts that make you feel upset, jealous or dissatisfied with your life.

The good news is a social media cleanse isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s not about being perfect or giving up social networking forever. It’s simply giving your mind and body the space it needs to relax and gain clarity.

To be successful with your social media cleanse, set a small, doable goal, suggests Buttimer. Maybe you’ll take the night off from checking Instagram. Then perhaps you take a day off and then a weekend.

“You’ll build momentum as you successfully take time off,” he explains. “You may notice your mind and body start to feel better.”

If you feel tense at the start of your social media cleanse, that’s normal because your mind and body have developed the habit of frequently checking in.

“Once you get through the tension phase, you may notice a real sense of relief,” says Buttimer. “Your body will relax and open up, and your mind will become clearer. You’ll no longer be mentally congested and physically constricted.”

Signs you may need a break from social media

Buttimer says you may want to consider a social media break if:

  • It’s affecting your relationships, mental health, physical health or work. For example, you may check your phone in the middle of the night when you get up to go to the bathroom instead of going back to sleep.

  • You prefer to spend time on social media platforms rather than engaging with real-life connections.

  • You feel like you don’t have time for activities you’d like to do, such as hobbies, reading, spending time with loved ones or advancing in your profession.

What to do instead of checking social media

If you have trouble avoiding the social media icons on your home screen, you’re not alone.

“For so many people, checking social media feels urgent,” says Buttimer. “It excites the adrenaline and dopamine levels in the body, so you’re always chasing a carrot you can never quite catch, and you’re never satiated.”

If you’re tempted to check your account, he recommends doing anything that breaks your pattern of looking at your phone. This could be a mindful activity like taking some deep breaths or stepping outside without your phone.

“If you do fall short, be compassionate and quick to forgive yourself,” he adds. “It’s not the end of the world—you can reset from that point. You want to be determined about taking a break from social media but have a gentle approach to it.”

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