For many of us, social media is a key part of everyday life. It entertains us, helps us stay updated on current events, and connects us with family and friends.

However, social media also has some possible downsides, especially when used excessively. It can be addictive, distracting, and time-consuming – and research shows that it can harm our mental wellbeing.

With this in mind, more and more people are reevaluating social media’s role in their lives – and, for many, this includes taking some time off or limiting their use.

Below, we look at some of the benefits of taking a break from social media and offer some tips for staying unplugged.

6 benefits of taking a break from social media

6 benefits of taking a break from social media

1. A social media break might reduce feelings of anxiety and depression

While there are plenty of upsides to social media, some studies have linked heavy usage with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. There are a few reasons for this, though one of the biggest is FOMO.

The fear of missing out (or FOMO) describes the feeling that others are living better and having richer experiences than we are. It’s especially common when using social media, where people’s profiles can be curated to reflect unrealistically positive lifestyles.

As a result, research shows that having a break from social media can help to minimise FOMO, and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. But you don’t need to stop scrolling entirely to feel the benefits. This study found that people who limited their usage to 10 minutes each day for three weeks were significantly less depressed.

2. A social media break can increase self-esteem

As well as encouraging FOMO, some studies suggest that the more time people spend on social media websites, the lower their self-esteem is likely to be. A recent survey from disability charity Scope found that 62% of Facebook and Twitter (now X) users felt their achievements were inadequate compared to what they were seeing in other people’s posts.

However, unplugging from social media for just a little while can have a big impact. Researchers from York University found that women who took a week off experienced a significant boost in their self-esteem and body image.

As the researchers point out, this improvement may not only be due to less time spent comparing oneself to others (which can lead to more feelings of gratitude for the things we have). It could also be because the study participants replaced their social media time with healthier, confidence-building behaviours like exercising and spending time with friends.

A social media break can increase self-esteem

3. A social media break can decrease feelings of loneliness

The whole purpose of social media is to help us stay connected. But, according to research, it can actually make us feel lonelier, especially if we use it to maintain our relationships (as opposed to other reasons, like entertainment).

One reason for this is if we only see posts about people being happy and succeeding, we might feel disconnected and lonely when we don’t feel the same way.

Plus, studies tell us that online interactions don’t combat loneliness as effectively as face-to-face interactions. As Mark Travers writes in Forbes, “[They] lack the nonverbal cues, physical presence, and emotional intimacy that are crucial to building and maintaining meaningful relationships.”

By taking a break from social media, we can focus more time and energy on connecting with others in real life.

4. A social media break can free up more time

According to the Independent, people in the UK spend an average of 1 hour and 56 minutes on social media daily.

Some of this time might be spent doing productive and fulfilling things like catching up with loved ones or developing a personal brand. However, many of us spend time scrolling for the sake of it.

With this in mind, one underestimated benefit of taking a social media break is that you can spend more time doing things that bring you joy and satisfaction – whether exercising, spending quality time with friends and family, engaging with your hobbies, or even getting extra sleep.

Consider this: it’s estimated that people need 480 hours of practice to become fluent in a language like French or Spanish. So, if the average person in the UK spent their daily social media time (1 hr 56 mins) learning a language instead, they could (theoretically) become fluent in less than nine months.

Of course, if you’re a regular social media user, you might not want to stay unplugged for nine months. However, hopefully, this example gives you a good idea of what’s possible when we take a break or cut down on our online time.

5. A social media break can help you sleep better

Getting enough good-quality sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our physical and mental well-being. It’s linked with a healthier heartimproved mood, stronger immunity, and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, among other things.

However, some studies show that excessive social media usage, especially before bed, can negatively impact the quality and duration of sleep.

For starters, using screens before bed for any reason can disrupt sleep. This is because they emit short-wavelength enriched light, also called ‘blue light’. Blue light makes us feel more alert and suppresses melatonin production – the hormone that helps us feel drowsy.

Social media itself can stimulate the brain too, making it tricky to unwind afterwards. Its addictive nature can also keep us scrolling far past bedtime. So, taking a break might give you one less reason to pick up your device at night.

6. A social media break can improve focus

Have you ever been deep in a task and heard your phone ping, checked it, only to find yourself still fiddling with it 10 minutes later – looking at things that have nothing to do with the original notification?

Social media means that we’re constantly connected nowadays. While this brings a few benefits, it can also be distracting and make us less productive.

While many people choose to put their phones on ‘do not disturb’, research shows this can have an even more distracting effect. Studies suggest that people check their devices more regularly when in silent mode, especially if they’re prone to high levels of FOMO.

By deleting social media apps from our phones entirely for a while, we can give ourselves fewer reasons to reach for them when we’re trying to focus.

6 tips for taking a break from (or cutting down on) social media

6 tips for taking a break from (or cutting down on) social media

1. Reflect on your habits and triggers

We all use social media differently and for different reasons. So, before we start making a plan for taking a break or cutting down, it can help to reflect on what causes us to reach for our devices, and what specific social media-related habits we’d like to change.

For example, do you usually log on to social media because you’re bored? Or perhaps it’s to relieve feelings of anxiety or loneliness. As for habits, are there any specific situations where you’d like to cut down your usage, such as before bed or first thing in the morning?

To help you identify your habits and triggers, you could continue using social media as normal for a week. During this time, try paying extra attention to when/how you’re using it and how you feel – you could even jot down some notes. Having a better understanding of how and why we use social media can help us form an effective plan for taking a break.

2. Set realistic goals

If you’re a frequent social media user, you might find it challenging to abstain completely. So, instead, why not start small? Try setting yourself the goal of using certain apps for 10 minutes less each day, or limiting yourself to certain periods.

And, if you want to take a full break, consider challenging yourself to stay off social media for just a few days or a week. Knowing exactly when your break will end can make it easier to stick to it. You can always decide to keep going once you reach your goal if you want to.

Set realistic goals

3. Delete or limit access to apps

As mentioned above, sometimes silencing notifications can encourage our desire to pick up our phones. So, if you’re looking to take a break, you may find it helpful to delete the apps entirely. But, if you’re just looking to reduce your scrolling time, there are plenty of tools available to help.

For example, platforms like Facebook and Instagram have built-in time limiters to help you manage your usage. All you need to do is log in and set the amount of time you’d like to allocate yourself each day. You’ll then be sent a notification when you’ve reached your limit. You can find out how to do this on Facebook here and Instagram here.

There are also third-party apps and browser extensions you can use to block your access to multiple platforms at once. Popular ones include StayFocusd (which is free but only available for Google Chrome) and Freedom (which requires a paid subscription after the first seven sessions).

4. Tell your friends and family

When taking a break or cutting down on social media, it can also be helpful to let some of our friends and family know. Not only will this help ease their minds when they can’t reach you through certain channels, but they can also help you stay accountable.

You could even ask a loved one to check in on you now and again to make sure you’re sticking to your goals.

Tell your friends and family

5. Replace social media time with other activities

If you reach for social media at certain times of the day – for example, when you wake up or before you go to sleep – it can be useful to pencil in other activities during these periods.

Understanding our triggers can be a big help when deciding what to replace our social media time with. If you log on to combat loneliness, why not schedule a call with a loved one? Or if you log on because you’re bored, try filling the time with hobbies and activities you find engaging – such as cooking, reading, or doing puzzles.

Check out our hobbies and activities section for some ideas.

6. Spend time reflecting and reevaluating

Nowadays, when social media is deeply ingrained in our daily lives, cutting it out altogether can be challenging (and some might not need or want to). But one of the best things about taking a break is that it can help us reevaluate our relationship with social media. So, when your break ends, it’s worth taking time to reflect.

One helpful way to reflect is to consider your initial worries about taking a social media break and decide if they were valid. For example, were you concerned about missing out on important information or feeling less connected to your loved ones?

If some of your concerns turned out to be real challenges, you could try a new approach in future, such as limiting your use to 15 minutes a day or continuing to take a break from some platforms and not others.

Final thoughts…

As we’ve said, taking a break from social media won’t be right for everyone. Lots of people use it in a productive way that doesn’t interfere with their mental health or other aspects of their lives. But if you feel like your usage has gotten a little out of hand, or you’re simply curious about the benefits listed above, we hope this article has been useful for you.

For more information on maintaining your mental wellbeing, head to our healthy mind section. And for more advice on managing your digital habits, check out our article; 8 ways to manage your news consumption.

Are you considering a break from social media? Or do you have any other tips for cutting down? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.