From Selena Gomez to Kelly Marie Tran to Millie Bobby Brown, it’s not unusual for celebs to take social media breaks, often to protect their mental health. Heck, remember when even Kendall Jenner went on one for a hot minute in 2016? She dropped by The Ellen Degeneres Show and confirmed to the world that she was in the middle of a digital detox, having shut down her Instagram account two days prior. A drastic move for a Kardashian, but probably not a bad call, given what KJ described to Ellen as frequent feelings of over-dependency: “I would wake up in the morning and look at [Instagram] first thing, I would go to bed and it would be the last thing I would look at.” Kendall couldn’t live without the app, however, and returned to Insta shortly after (where she is now the most-followed model with 101 million followers). The siren call of selfies was just too hard to resist.
While the Kardashian/Jenner siblings rarely remind anyone of us common folk, having an Instagram addiction is hardly an A-lister-only issue these days, and, as it becomes more widespread, all kinds of academic research (this 2016 study out of McMaster University, for example) is now linking it to mental health risks and depression.
So whether you’re full-on addicted or just a little screened-out, most of of us could stand to step away from the ‘like’ button. Here are five tips for kicking the habit:
Ditch your phone & delete your social media apps
Separating yourself from your device may seem ridiculously obvious, but most great solutions are. “The first thing I tell clients is that they should try putting their phone in a different room after a certain time,” says Toronto-based psychotherapist Nicole McCance, whose couple clientele frequently site social media dependency as a major source of friction: “One person is trying to talk to the other person and that person is on their phone—that can be frustrating, but if you’ve both agreed to leave your phones at the front door, it doesn’t happen.” For a more extended break, do like Kendall and remove Instagram (or other social media apps) from your phone altogether. Expect at least a few false starts (you grab your phone, swipe to the Insta screen and get an empty feeling when you remember it’s not there). Consider this your cold-sweats period. “It’s about breaking the cycle,” says McCance. Even a few days will allow your brain to develop new patterns.
Track your scrolling time
Picture it: you’ve plopped down on the couch to binge watch the new Marvelous Mrs. Maisel episodes and, without making a single conscious decision, you realize you’ve been scrolling for the last 15 minutes. That’s your inner Insta zombie at work, and the way to stop it is simply to pay attention: “In your downtime, notice what you’re doing. If you decide to sit down and watch Grey’s Anatomy, just do that,” says McCance, explaining that that weird “what else should I be doing?” feeling likely comes from the fact that most of us spend our work days multitasking. “We are so overly stimulated during our days, the unwinding period can feel uncomfortable.” She suggests a similar level of awareness any time you reach for your phone. “If you want to check the weather on your phone, go ahead, but don’t let that be a license to spend 40 minutes on Instagram.” Apple’s new-ish Activity Reports—which launched in June 2018 as part of ioS 12—make tracking your social media time a cinch.
Mute your hate follows
Have you ever heard of the stat about Howard Stern that claims his fans listen for an hour while his haters listen for two? In other words, negative feelings can dictate our behaviour as much as (or more than) positive ones. Try unfollowing or muting your hate-follows (i.e. exes, frenemies, Gwyneth Paltrow and everyone whose vacation snaps give you FOMO). You’ll be less tempted to rage-check multiple times a day.
Make alternate plans
Before starting your digi detox, think about what else you might do with your time (and your hands). The Revenge of the Analog author David Sax notes that “people turn to social media to keep them busy—entertain me, show me something, distract me from the sadness of my life.” Sax’s book looks at why retro analog activities (think board games, jamming, adult colouring books) are making a comeback in hipster culture. “For the current generation of 20-year-olds, these activities aren’t nostalgic, they’re something new, a way to stand out in a world where everyone is online,” says Sax. Regardless if you’re getting into vinyl for the first time or dusting off your collection of Dusty Springfield, tactile activities are a great way to distract your fingers from the fact that they’re not swiping.
Find a friend
For the same reason that having a workout buddy tends to work better than going it alone, finding a detox companion or team will help you to keep your vow of Insta-abstinence whether it’s for a week, a month or just a meal. “You see this game that groups of friends play at dinner, where they stack their phones and the first person to reach for theirs has to pick up the tab,” says Sax. Even a less official, more casual understanding amongst friends can lead to good times off the grid. “I got together with a group of friends over Thanksgiving. We never made a specific agreement to keep our phones away, but we were all listening to records and having fun hanging out and nobody thought about it.” In other words, try just having fun even when nobody’s around to post it.
This article was originally published on December 8, 2016.