By: Lindsey Lanquist

If there were ever a time to think about taking a social media cleanse, it’s now. As we head into an election season marked by civil unrest and the new coronavirus pandemic, it’s tempting to throw your phone out the window or, at the very least, unplug. Whether it’s the latest pandemic news, rants from relatives with questionable political views, or FOMO-inducing vacation selfies from your friends—there’s never been a better time to consider a social media cleanse. But if you’re wondering how you can break away when the world seems to implode every few minutes, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about taking a social media cleanse, including more than a few benefits.

What is a social media cleanse?

“Social media cleanse”—a fancy term for taking a break from social media—has become a buzz-phrase in our increasingly plugged-in society. That’s probably because there’s a long history of what one might call “the celeb social media cleanse.” In December 2015, Ed Sheeran took an indefinite hiatus from Instagram. (He also stepped away in December 2019 and recently returned to announce his daughter’s birth.) Demi Lovato, who has a historically tumultuous relationship with the Twitterverse, has stepped away from social media numerous times so that she doesn’t “have to see what some of y’all say.” Chrissy Teigen, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and a handful of other celebs have all followed suit at different points—seeking respite from the realm of mirror selfies, nonstop notifications, and internet trolls, if only for a mere 24 hours. And we probably all know someone who at some point the past few years has taken time away from social media.

You might need a social media cleanse too.

Jut about anyone can absolutely benefit from taking a social media break. It all comes down to whether your time on social media is making you feel more connected or, well, less.

“Seeing others’ curated, polished images of only happy moments or attractive photos can set up an unrealistic expectation of ourselves and the destructive experience of constantly comparing oneself with others,” Christine Moutier, M.D., practicing psychiatrist and chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention(AFSP), previously told SELF.

She explained that we might find ourselves feeling more disconnected and isolated when we’re overusing social media. This is especially true if you’re already dealing with self-esteem, anxiety, or depression (or general stress from a pandemic). So if you’re feeling any of those feelings, it could be time to take a break.

Okay, but how do you do a social media cleanse?

In a world where we go live on Instagram to brush our teeth, it’s no surprise many of us have glamorized the idea of taking a break from the digital and getting back to our pre-technology roots. But it’s not really that glamorous. It basically involves temporarily (or permanently) deactivating your social media accounts and deleting the apps from your phone for an extended period of time. This could be a few days, weeks, months, or even an entire year—the choice is yours.

It’s easy enough to delete a few apps from your phone, but if you’re worried about maintaining your cleanse, there are apps, like Freedom and Self Control, that can keep you from accessing Instagram and Facebook on your phone and computer as well.

Are there actual benefits to taking a social media cleanse?

Every time I step away from Twitter, or remove Instagram from my phone, or temporarily deactivate my Facebook account, the same questions arise: Is deleting social actually doing anything for my mental health? Are all those TikToks, Snapchat stories, Instagram double-taps, and Facebook updates impacting my life that much? Or am I just making these periodic forays into the land of no social media for naught?


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