Lessons from my 4-Month Social Media Break and Why Digital Detox is Necessary

Considering a digital detox? I definitely recommend it! Learn the six best lessons I took away from my four-month social media break.

Feel like you need a break from Instagram and Facebook? I hear you! Read the six lessons I took away from my four-month social media break.

Back in July 2020, I had the idea to take a three-month social media break. As a blogger who relies on Instagram and Facebook for both my income and to build a community around my blog, it seemed like a crazy idea. At the same time, like many people in 2020, my screen time was at an all-time high and I felt like I needed something drastic to break my scrolling addiction. I had fears around what temporarily leaving social media would mean, but I had a hunch that the benefits would far outweigh any business repercussions.

So I took the leap, said goodbye, deleted Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, plus the News app, and any other work apps from my phone, and launched into what ended up being an incredible four-month process of self-discovery and growth. I came back feeling re-energized and excited for a new chapter, and as it turns out, my business survived too.

In this blog post, I wanted to share what I learned from taking a social media break. These thoughts can also apply to you whether you do social media for fun or you have an online brand like me. If you share any of the habits or concerns I had around social media, maybe it will inspire you to take a little sabbatical too!

Here are 6 of my biggest takeaways from my four-month social media break.

6 Lessons I’ve Learned From My Social Media Break

1. Getting off social media changed how I traveled

We all know this has been a strange year for travel, and everyone has different opinions about whether it’s ok to travel or not. So let’s put that debate aside and talk more generally about how Instagram influences our travel decisions.

Instagram can be an incredible tool for discovering new destinations and planning trips. I’ve personally used it to form my own bucket list of must-visit places, as well as to inspire you to get outside by sharing my own journey.

At the same time, over-tourism and its impacts have weighed on me for the last few years and any role I may play in this problem. It’s caused me to think carefully about what I share on social media and has also left me disappointed when I visit those IG-worthy spots only to find them super crowded and littered with garbage (which the photos never show).

On my social media break, instead of checking off popular Instagram spots, we visited quiet, off-the-beaten-path destinations. The photo ops may not have been as remarkable, but the experience was more rewarding. Sometimes I didn’t even bring my camera or phone along, and I never felt guilty about it. Instead of worrying about visiting the most photogenic spots, capturing everything, and sharing it on social media, I focused on connecting with nature and enjoying the moment.

Feel like you need a digital detox? I hear you! Read the six best lessons I took away from my four-month social media break.

2. My Social Media Break allowed me a lot more free time

Leading up to my social media sabbatical, my relationship with time was all out of whack. I always felt rushed, never having enough time to do the things that were important to me, ignoring the fact that my screen-time was at an all-time high. Many of you might relate. Well, through some books I read and by working with my therapist, I learned that how I spend my time is indicative of my life’s priorities.

For example, I might complain that I don’t have time to exercise or cook a healthy meal, but that same day, I spend an hour scrolling Instagram. What does that say about my priorities?

The day my social media break started and I turned off my phone, all of a sudden, I found myself with more time than I knew what to do with, gaining several hours a day back. In 4 months, I read 7 books, cooked more than I had in years, meditated every day, cultivated my relationships (hi zoom), and enrolled in a Plant-Based Nutrition course at e-Cornell.

Taking this time off helped me see that I have plenty of time. I just have to make an active choice to spend my time on the things that matter most to me.

3. I felt more present in my relationship

I don’t want to be the couple in a restaurant where both of us are staring at our phones, barely talking throughout the entire meal. Or the ones sitting in bed at night scrolling social media ignoring each other. I want to have a deep connection with my partner Ryan, and that requires giving my relationship the proper attention.

During my social media break, I learned that our phones can be a huge distraction and deterrent for listening to and having meaningful conversations with our loved ones. It felt amazing to put my phone down and just be present with Ryan, rather than be focused on the outside world.

Feel like you need a digital detox? I hear you! Read the six best lessons I took away from my four-month social media break.

4. I had more control over the information I was consuming

I think we can all agree that there are times when social media has left us angry and overwhelmed, as if the world is falling apart. Whether it’s a certain someone on Twitter, a crazy uncle and his crazier antics on Facebook, or conspiracy theories running wild on IG, sometimes you just want to scream.

Turning off social media put me back in control of the information I consumed. Instead of opening my phone, scrolling, and seeing the latest opinion or debate, I had to deliberately choose what I read on the internet. I had access to the news when I wanted an update or I could easily check my favorite blogs, but my brain wasn’t constantly inundated with information and opinions that left me feeling uneasy.

5. I felt energized around new passions

One of my major goals with my social media break was to feel creative again and allow myself to discover new passions. I’ve been blogging about the outdoors and van life for over 6 years, and for the last year, I’ve been wanting to expand my horizons. Online marketers and social media influencers would tell me to create a paid online course or a membership group or to create a physical product, but as I searched for inspiration, nothing really felt right.

When I stopped looking at other people for inspiration, I re/discovered a number of passions – sustainable living and a desire to help save the planet, mental wellness, and mindfulness meditation, healthy eating, and more. So instead of turning to social media and other online entrepreneurs to figure out my next steps, I found them by looking inside myself.

I already mentioned that during my break, I enrolled in a Plant Based Nutrition Certificate program through e-Cornell. I’ve been on a plant-based diet for over a year now, and I feel amazing as a result. I’ve been wanting to share more of my journey with those of you who are curious about how to live an active plant-based lifestyle, and now I feel empowered to do so with a better understanding of the science.

6. My life felt more full

Social media makes us want things we don’t have. Whether it’s a new gadget, a more adventurous life, or an impeccable, well-decorated house, scrolling social media gives us a snapshot of what a “perfect” life might look like and often makes us feel like we are falling short.

By turning off social media, I eliminated this constant source of unhealthy comparison. As a result, I found a much greater sense of contentment and also spent less money on things I don’t really need.

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What social media will look like for me moving forward

After reading this, you may wonder, if the break was so good, why would come back to social media at all?

I think this past year has shown that even with its problems, social media can be an incredible tool. It gives like-minded people a chance to come together behind a cause and form a strong collective voice. It’s also a way to quickly disseminate information and to connect with and inspire people who have common interests.

Focusing more on topics that matter to me

Before my break, social media was starting to feel like a chore. Posting photos of myself in pretty places, trying to come up with a meaningful caption, I started to question my path and future as an influencer. What value was I really providing? I want to look back and know that I did my best to use my voice to help people (you) live happier, healthier, more purposeful lives and to provoke positive change for the future of this beautiful planet we live on. So that’s my goal moving forward, to talk more openly about the things that I believe matter.

Curating the people and accounts I follow

With that said, I’m establishing some new boundaries for myself to ensure that my relationship with social media is one I have control over. First, I’m unfollowing anyone who doesn’t make me feel good – people that make me feel jealous, those that make me feel like I’m not good enough, those who leave a bad taste in my mouth, and people who I no longer feel a strong connection to. All gone. I encourage you to do the same. The cleanup feels so good!

Maybe there is a relative or friend you don’t want to unfollow, but you really don’t want to see their posts? Try the “mute” feature which allows you to stay friends while hiding their posts from your feed.

Only follow and engage with a small number of accounts that truly lift you up.

Establishing boundaries and control

I’m also using the following affirmation anytime I need to get my use of social media back in check:

My relationship with social media is one I have control over. I use it as a tool to connect with like-minded people, and I quickly stop myself when I get caught up in mindless scrolling. Done!

We also need to remember that it’s ok to just sit and not look at or do anything when you have a free moment. A free moment doesn’t mean you have to fill that time by picking up your phone and mindlessly scrolling. Sometimes it’s best to just sit and breathe.

If you’ve been struggling with social media and a break has been on your mind, I highly recommend it! The first few days might be a challenge as you overcome the automatic physical reflex to pick up your phone, but over time, you’ll start to gain a new perspective that can help transform your relationship with social media into something more positive.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Would you like to take a break from social media? What’s stopping you?

Feel like you need a digital detox? I hear you! Read the six best lessons I took away from my four-month social media break.

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  1. I am so inspired and encouraged by this. I have tried to implement at least one full day a week of all electronics OFF. As well as at night before I try to dial down for bed. But I am really struggling going long-term without social media. But it’s all mental. I think the sobriety of how long I have been disconnected with people in real life, will mean to face some hard realities. Idk. Either way, Thanks for sharing your side of things!!

  2. Thank you for sharing! Sure seems tempting to lay down the ‘gram and ‘book for awhile considering the benefits. Appreciate the inspiration!

  3. Hi Kristin! thanks for sharing this, lots of great information / learnings (and I love that pic of you and Ryan!). Some great ideas on curating and find what matters to you, I am starting to adopt some of these. Thanks for your inspiration!

  4. LOVE this perspective! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve deleted my apps only to re-download them days later. The reflex to scroll is so automatic. Thank you for the inspiration to push past that! As a long-time follower, I’m proud of you for staying true to yourself and not getting caught up in the controversies that other outdoor bloggers can’t seem to stay out of. Can’t wait to see how your platform evolves!

    1. Hey Kyle – I definitely realized that it is in fact a reflex. The first few days I kept going to grab my phone only to realize there was nothing for me to look at. Eventually it subsided and now I just have to be dedicated to ensuring the addiction doesn’t come creeping back now that i’m home and back online. And thank you for your support! – Kristen

  5. What a wonderful message you gave for everyone! I think we are all in the same situation whether we want to admit it or not. I will take your message to heart, and try to implement it into my life.
    Thank you for sharing all the time. I appreciate you and what you are doing.

  6. I used to share photos while I was actually doing a trip. I realized that it subtracting from the over experience. Now, I share photos after the trip is finished. And actually, I really have a better perspective of the moment the photo was taken, when I look backwards. Also, taking less photos than you think you need is good. I know, we always try for that perfect shot, but that is too time consuming. A near perfect shot is just as good. A photo will never be as good as the experience. I made one trip to Japan and decided not too take any photos, this was before cell phones were invented, but I left my camera home. It felt so good.

  7. I loved your thoughts on not needing to travel to those Instagram worthy locations. I am new to getting outdoors, and as a result have relied on social media posts to give me ideas of places to visit. Do you have any suggestions for finding locations when not relying on social media?

    1. Hi Kimberley, great to hear that you’re getting outdoors! Blogs, books, and talking to locals are other great ways to find fun places to explore. Social media can be a good tool as well, but just be aware of ‘why’ the image was posted (for likes or to help you have a great experience?)

  8. I actually quit IG and FB last year. And Ive never felt better!
    No pressure to take photos, enjoying the moment and as you say so much more free time!!!

  9. I appreciate you sharing this! I’ve enjoyed your blog since I found it a few years ago and you are my go-to for recommendations when I’m needing specific outdoor gear.
    I have on a few occasions left my phone back at the car when I’m adventuring outdoors and it really does make a difference in the experience! I’ve found that enjoying and soaking up the experience without documenting it is more meaningful than getting just the right shot and composing captions in my head while I hike/fish/whatever. Nothing wrong with taking pics, but sometimes it is good just to “be.”
    I am considering trying a social media break as well. I’ve already limited what I read, because too much is bad for my mental health. A complete break might be more what I need.
    Thanks so much for all you do and all of your great info!

  10. Thanks for your insights. One of the reasons I like to backpack is to disconnect from the world for a few days. Nothing but good has come of that so far. Keep up the good work/play.

  11. Deleting all social media is the single best positive change I made in my life in 2020! I don’t miss it, at all. In fact, the longer I am away the more I realize how much of my life I gave away to it instead of actually LIVING my life!

  12. So good! The whole reason why I want to connect with nature is to escape the negative social environment fueled by social media. You hit the nail on the head from so many dimensions. I really want to know what you thought about the eCornell plant based course. Was it worth it? Did you learn anything new given you were already a plant-based practitioner? I am interested in the course as long as it is science based and not anecdotal. Did they share causal data more than correlations? I’d love your opinion. Also, did you study journalism cause I love how you write!!!

    1. Hi Carolyn – I just finished the plant-based nutrition certificate program and found it really helpful. There are definitely areas of the course I wish they went a little deeper, but it was completely science based and mostly taught by medical doctors. We were introduced to so many different studies that linked the standard american diet to disease and other studies that showed how much better plant-based eaters fared in their attempts to reverse disease. The evidence is overwhelming. I also learned a lot about supplements. I’ve heard so many times that vegans need to take supplements, because we are lacking this or that, but if you mostly sustain on a whole foods plant based diet, a majority of supplements are unncessary. Finally the course taught me how to do vegan the right way. We were relying on a lot of the vegan substitutes (fake meat, cheese, vegan snacks etc) because it helped with our transition, but we are now trying to stay away from oil, cooking more from scratch, and trying to incorporate more diverse vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans in our diet. I feel better as a result and am also more confident when people question whether a plant-based diet is healthy.

  13. Thanks for sharing your experience and insights. I deleted Instagram from my phone about a month ago because I felt it was too addictive. Now I have to look at it on my laptop, which is a bigger barrier that mostly feels like too much work. This is one of the lessons I took away from the book “Atomic Habits”. Make it harder to do something you want to quit doing.

    I use social media for my online business, but I just schedule everything ahead of time. I’ve decided that making IG stories isn’t worth it for the price I pay personally for having the app on my phone. I hate the hamster wheel of social media and have started to change my expectations around what I “need” to be doing for my business.

    I also have noticed I have way more time to work on the things I want to in my life- mental and physical health being at the top of the list.

    1. Hi Megan – I just started using Sked Social for scheduling social media posts and it also allows you to schedule stories. Maybe a tool worth check out. Another tip that might help is to have long random passwords for your accounts, so you don’t know the password off the top of your head. It’s one additional step for logging in that serves as a barrier. I’ll have to check out that book you recommend.

  14. Hi Kristen, thank you so much for sharing this with all of us! I think a LOT of us are in the same situation but just don’t know how to be “the one in control” and many of us don’t even realize we are no longer in control of the scrolling and psychological effects. I also recently started seeing someone to dive a little deeper and understand more about myself and what truly grounds me. I am excited to hear more about what you’ve learned, and also interested in some of the books you have read that have helped you on this journey? I’m so happy you’ve taken such a huge step to focus on yourself and personal growth. You are such an inspiration to me in so many ways. Thank you for the fresh perspective!

  15. Hi Kristen, Good on you for doing the social media break! We all need to detox from something now and then that isn’t working well in our lives, it’s learning to see what isn’t working that can be challenging. For many of us, social media is added to the list, if not the top of the list, lol! As I embark soon on my own van life adventure, with my partner, we are being very mindful of just what we want that to look like and your words are an inspiration. I found your Van Life Road Map to be very useful as we went forward with our plans to this point. We are now finishing up our build and within 2 months hope to be out there! As professional photographers, workshop instructors, tour leaders, authors and speakers, we need some of the connection to social platforms for our business, as do you, but we can still control that so the quality of life is there. Looking forward to the ‘fresh new you’ !

  16. Hey Kristen,

    My husband shared this with me recently. I am a vocologist, songwriter, musician, teacher and actress. I use social media constantly….for years. During this crazy time I am round the clock on the screen and it has taken it’s toll on me (my husband works the same way as well). I try to get out and walk in nature (easy to do where I live) every day for one hour or more.

    I was so grateful to my husband for sharing this with me because I tried to do this for one week and what I found was I slept better, reconnected with my passion for cooking and listening to Jazz on vinyl, pulled out my camera gear and took it with me on walks, wrote so much music and realized how much I really love a good glass of wine at night. I am not sure I could do this for 4 months but I would love to try. We still have one child who lives at home – he’s 23 and has Asperger Syndrome but during the pandemic he finally finished college and now cannot get a job – his screen time and social media time is OH SO TOXIC (people are toxic too!) for him as well but he doesn’t care.

    Reading the article put a lump in my throat because I realized that my life is way way way too short to NOT try this…..thank you for your inspiration and wisdom.


  17. Love this Kristen!
    I also took a social media break that started in November (literally right before the election). It kind of, sort of ended last month. Kind of still going. Maybe in between. Haha!

    I experienced all the same benefits as you did. Moving forward, in addition to what you shared, I created a boundary of only allowing myself a window of one hour to go on social media. I could be on it for 20 mins, 30 mins, the whole hour… once that window is up, I can’t go on for the rest of the day. I’m finding this boundary to be beneficial in ending the habit of jumping on social whenever there is ‘downtime’ – it keeps the amount of time on social from adding up throughout the day. Also, creating any posts through third-party apps outside of being on the apps themselves also helps save time (but I’m sure you knew that already 😉 )

    I would recommend checking out the book ‘Digital Minimalism’ by Cal Newport if you haven’t already.
    Happy growing my friend!

  18. Thank you for your article and validating my lifestyle where I limit social media and screen time. I like to be connected and enjoy where I am and what I am doing at the moment. So I have a low data phone plan and don’t put social media on my phone. Occasionally I will check social media if I have time and feel like it on my computer. Mainly that happens if I get an email notice that something interesting was posted. I’ve trained most of my family and friends to either call or text if they want a sooner response. I don’t always hear the phone. I prefer to subscribe to email newsletters which I can open or not as I please.

  19. Deleted FB account 2 months ago. NEVER going back. Never used the other virtual relationship apps. Writing notes & mailing them. Chat on the phone. Real & Private life for me. “The Machine Stops” is a short story written in early 20th century; makes one think.