Eight steps to freedom: How to detach from social networks

Free yourself from social media and start living again.

Eight steps to spending less time on social networks and more time in the real world

Social networks becoming a burden? When out-of-control social media taxes your nerves, steals your focus and distracts you from important tasks, it’s time to do a digital detox. Today we will tell you how to get it done in a few easy steps.

Step 1. Thin out your feed

Unfollow anyone who doesn’t contribute to your experience — a former classmate newly obsessed with Sanskrit, an old hobby group that’s basically just ads now, whatever else you simply don’t want to deal with. If you’re not getting any benefit from the content, you have no need to invite it onto your feed.

If an account is one you’d rather not unfollow or unsubscribe from, try muting it instead. Social networks let you hide updates from accounts without unsubscribing. Your friends won’t even know you’ve muted them.

Step 2. Centralize communications

Social networks are much more than just feeds; they’re also places to stay in touch with friends, relatives, and colleagues. But if you’re talking with people on half a dozen platforms, you may be wasting lots of time checking inboxes — even if no one has written to you. Try deciding with your friends where they should contact you, and centralize your correspondence on one or two platforms. That way you’ll be able to check the others much less often with no fear of missing an important message.

Step 3. Clear up your screen

Have you ever picked up your phone to check the weather, and then seen the Facebook icon, opened it just for a second, and ended up wasting two hours down a rabbit hole? To keep that from happening, try moving your social media icons out of sight. For example, hide them in a folder or send them back to your third or fourth page of apps — out of sight, out of mind.

Step 4. Curate notifications

No matter how responsible you may be about avoiding your feed and even keeping certain icons out of sight, if a social network sends a notification about a new post, you can easily, unthinkingly press that sneaky little window and find yourself right back in the thick of things. For help concentrating on what’s important, try disabling unnecessary notifications. To learn how, check out our instructions for iOS, macOS, Windows 10, and Android.

Step 5. Configure Screen Time or Digital Wellbeing

Seeing exactly how many hours a day you waste roaming social networks and messaging apps can be sobering. Apps to help with self-control are easy to find, but you don’t need to download anything for a view into your digital habits: Open your smartphone’s settings and enable Screen Time (in iOS) or Digital Wellbeing (in Android). Put the widget with the statistics in a place where you’ll always see it.

And if seeing statistics isn’t enough, configure the app to let you open the social network only at certain times or for a limited amount of time.

Step 6. Take a break

Whenever you start something new, the most important — and hardest — thing is to establish new habits. Try spending a couple of weeks avoiding the apps that consume most of your time — when you reach for one out of habit, you can try imagining you’ve gone on a hike and don’t have an Internet connection.

Better yet, actually get away from the Internet if you can. Cut off the flow of information so you can reset and no longer feel like you’re missing out.

Step 7. Delete the app or your profile

This step is optional; the suggestions above may have helped you attain the digital freedom you’re looking for, but if not, consider the drastic measure of removing the app from your phone or even deleting your account altogether. Don’t worry — you don’t have to lose your posts, messages, or photos. Almost every social network lets you keep all of your data even if you deactivate your profile. We’ve posted instructions on how to do this for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

Step 8. Keep an eye on yourself

Having freed yourself from today’s social media overload, take a sec to congratulate yourself — but keep an eye on yourself as well. It’s entirely possible your brain will try to return to old habits. If in a couple of months you find yourself online at 3 a.m. debating the pressing issues in some stranger’s post comments, just go back and repeat these simple steps.