7 Things That Could Happen When You Quit Social Media

Social media is glorious fun and a colossal time-suck, not to mention pretty darn addictive. Here's what happens when you pull the plug, even for a short hiatus.

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You'll get more work done, and you'll do it faster

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When you don't have to worry about your devices buzzing left and right, you'll could find your productivity levels shooting through the roof. "The thing about social media is that it constantly interrupts us," says Joanne Cantor, PhD, professor emerita of communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of the book Conquer CyberOverload. "When we stop ourselves to check social media again and again, it really becomes another form of multitasking, and multitasking makes whatever you do take longer, and you do it in an inferior way." In fact, the American Psychological Association estimates that trying to juggle multiple tasks at once—such as clicking back and forth between Facebook and an important project—may reduce your productive time by as much as 40 percent. That's a high price to pay for a few likes and comments. (Here's how to be more productive in your first hour of work.)

You'll get your creative juices flowing

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If you find yourself stuck in a creative block, it might have something to do with your social media habits. Dr. Cantor says the key to an imaginative mind is taking breaks every now and then while you work with something other than social media, like taking a walk or daydreaming. "Having that social media in the background and calling to you and asking you things interferes with your creativity," Cantor says. By giving up social media entirely, you rid yourself of these nagging notifications and allow your creativity to flourish. Check out the daily habits of creative people.

You might feel anxious at first

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While the effects of quitting social media are generally positive in the long run, your immediate reaction may be one of stress and anxiety. These feelings are caused by a neurobiological withdrawal from the sense of being constantly connected. "If you're using social media addictively, which some people are, you have elevated levels of dopamine, so when you stop doing that, there is some withdrawal," says David Greenfield, PhD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. Luckily, these feelings usually do not persist beyond the first few days of quitting social media, so you should be able to enjoy the positive effects soon enough. (Here's how to know if you're addicted to your phone.)

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You'll feel less stressed

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Because social media has become so easy to access anywhere and at any time, we often feel compelled to pay attention 24/7 to what is taking place on our newsfeeds and timelines. According to Greenfield, this impulse to be constantly aware of what's going on online leads to an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone. This heightened stress can bring along a whole slew of unfavorable effects on the brain, such as a reduced memory and an increased chance of depression. Staying away from social media makes you less prone to such a high level of cortisol, leaving you calmer and more focused. Here's more about the weird ways social media affects your brain.

You'll feel more self-assured

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When we post on social media, we tend to share only the happy, exciting parts of our lives that we want others to see. This may seem harmless, but when we're see only people at their best, it's easy to feel like we're falling behind by comparison. This tendency to negatively compare ourselves to those who we believe are superior is what psychologists call upward social comparison. "Let's say you're struggling to have a baby," says Mai-Ly Nguyen Steers, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at the University of Houston. "Normally, people wouldn't come up to you and say, 'Well look at how amazing my baby is!' or something like that. Whereas, it kind of feels like that on social media, because we're posting to such a large audience." A study by Steers and her colleagues found that people who used Facebook more frequently experienced higher levels of this social comparison, which was linked to more frequent symptoms of depression among the users. Quitting Facebook and other online accounts can help block much of this social comparison, and you'll end up feeling much happier and more confident.

You'll get more sleep

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You take a quick minute to check one notification on Facebook before bed, when suddenly you realize you've been browsing, liking, and commenting long past your bedtime. Sound familiar? Dr. Greenfield says this has become a common habit for many people at night, often spending one to two hours scrolling through social media in bed. "Think about it: If you're doing that every day, that's 15 hours a week you spend just doing social media," Dr. Greenfield says. "That's not like going out to dinner with a friend, that's just looking at somebody play with their new hamster and then commenting on it." When you quit social media, you free yourself of this extra priority—and buy yourself the powerful health boost of a good night's rest. If you need a cool-down activity in the p.m., skip the screens and try something more relaxing and less time-consuming, like reading a book or planning tomorrow's agenda. (These are the habits successful people engage in before bed.)

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You'll strengthen your face-to-face relationships

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Sure, social media can be an excellent way to stay in touch with old friends or family from out of town, but cutting ties with the Internet can work wonders for your tangible friendships. Face-to-face interpersonal relationships are generally much stronger than those conducted solely online, and taking a breather from your social media accounts forces you to focus on these real-world interactions. "Pulling back on social media and spending more time on face-to-face interactions really helps your relationships, and relationships are really one of the most important factors in wellbeing and mental health," Dr. Cantor says. These facts prove how ridiculously healthy friendships can be!


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