How to have a social media detox

09/13/2016 08:31 am ET Updated Oct 10, 2016

In this post I am sharing with you how you can have social media detox.

I grew up before the World Wide Web. The first computer that my parents bought was in the mid-1980s. It was a chunky machine with a green screen which used big floppy discs. I mostly used it to play a game called Falcons. The next machine they bought was a bit smaller and had an amber screen, which was certainly better for the eyes. I inherited that machine when I moved out and used it to write my MA thesis. The program that I used for this was called “Word Perfect” - it took me years to remember all the commands of the Function keys. It was a tad frustrating to work with. Back then e-mail and mobile phones barely existed. If I wanted to find stuff out I would spend hours in the library to research for my Art History thesis. To meet up with my university friends I would make quick – or not so quick- phone calls and we actually tended to stick to the agreed meet up places and times.

My next computer was another hand-me down and I finally got my first e-mail address and internet access. Back then you had to use a modem and decide whether you wanted to use the internet and send your e-mails or use the phone. Downloading and uploading took ages and as a consequence I didn’t spend much time online - also I was mindful of the phone bill. And then technology speeded up. Connecting got quicker, using the internet for research was a big help for lots of things. Still, I didn’t use it as much as today.

Then with Twitter and Facebook social media arrived and the internet became a massive distraction. Now we also have Instagram, Google+, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Pinterest and I bet I have forgotten a few others. The choice is overwhelming. There are apps for everything and you can easily access everything on your smart phone. I can’t knock social media, as a small business owner I rely on social media to connect to (potential) customers and to promote my business. I have also made real friends on Facebook and I am part of some useful groups. However, over the years I have noticed an over reliance on social media, not just my own but also that of friends and acquaintances. I also worry about over sharing. It seems that some people have no boundaries at all and share everything. Facebook can also be quite a lonely place and importantly (and what some people forget) it’s not a substitute for real world friends. If you start relying completely on social media for friendship and validation then you have a problem and need to step back. Personally I sometimes find it hard to cope with the information overload, which is why in the past I have stepped back completely and taken a week off from social media as a short experiment. And guess what? Nothing bad happened. People could still contact me via email or phone or good old fashioned snail mail. My business didn’t suffer either. Whenever we go away on holiday I look forward to my social media-free time, because otherwise it’s not really a holiday. On holiday I want to experience new things and live in the present and spend time with my husband. Plus I don’t think it’s a great idea to shout from the rooftop that you are away! I have also started to be stricter with my online time – mainly to get stuff done. So here are my tips for setting boundaries and spending less time on social media to free up more time for the people who matter to you. I am mostly referring to Facebook, as for me it has been the main distraction.

Restrict yourself to only those platforms that you like.

Do you really need to be everywhere? If you don’t like Twitter and rarely use it, why not delete your account?

Set yourself limited time periods to spend on social media.

What works for business owners also goes for people who use it for fun and making connections. Check in at set times and set your time to no more than 15 - 30 minutes. For example: a quick check-in in the morning and then again in the evening after finishing important work.

Turn notifications off.

Platforms such as Facebook tend to send you loads of notifications whenever you get a new post, message or when someone posts in a group. This can be very distracting. You can change your notification settings in your personal profile under notification settings. When you reply to a friend you can also change the notifications for those posts and when you post in groups. Also check your browser if it sends you unwanted notifications. Chrome does it and you can turn it off under settings. I only discovered this recently!

Unfollow or unfriend/unlike.

If you find your Facebook feed is full of annoying posts by your friends (or pages) – you have two options- unfollow them and you won’t see them anymore. Or simply unfriend them, if you feel you have zero in common, or in the case of pages just unlike the page. Sometimes a good old declutter is really refreshing and suddenly you see posts from people you haven’t spoken to in a while. You can also change what you want to see on your newsfeed in the “News Feed Preferences”.

Leave groups you don’t really participate in.

If you are a member of lots of groups on FB or communities on Google+, but don’t use them much, why not leave them? If you want to come back you can always ask to be added again.

Set yourself posting boundaries.

This is a pretty obvious one. Only post and share things that you feel comfortable with sharing and won’t regret later. My personal boundary is that I avoid political discussions or anything that’s controversial as the written word can be very misinterpreted. On this topic I can highly recommend Jon Ronson’s “So you’ve been publicly shamed”.

Delete your social media apps when on holiday.

A lot of people take their mobile phone on holiday and so are always in contact with social media. This makes for a rather unrelaxed experience. If you are tempted to check Facebook or Twitter – why not just delete those apps? You can always re-install them later.

Try a week without social media (or even a month).

You can let your friends know in advance that you are reachable by phone or e-mail. And if you worry about your business you can always schedule automated posts using apps such as Buffer or Hootsuite.

Enjoy your newly found free time.

Spending less time on social media gives you more time to do the things that you usually never get round to, like reading the novel that you got for Christmas or phoning a friend who you haven’t seen in years. Enjoy it and build on it.

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