What it’s like to have a social media detox

Emine Saner

It was when Mehret Biruk lost two hours of her life to Instagram that she knew the time had come to escape. What had she been looking at? She couldn’t even remember in the moments immediately afterwards. Instagram, she recalls thinking, was “winning the war on my attention”. The irony was that Biruk had returned to the photo and video-sharing platform only some months earlier, after a three-year break. And she had only returned to promote her website and newsletter, in which she writes about the benefits of spending less time online. She hoped to reach the people who might want help. Instead, she found herself getting sucked back in. “That’s the scary part to me. It was just instantly back to scrolling, and waiting for the likes and comments.”

Earlier this year, one study suggested a week-long hiatus was enough to have a positive effect. In a group randomly selected to take a break from platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, researchers found that symptoms of depression and anxiety had reduced, and overall wellbeing increased….