Interview with Holly Brown: 11 reasons why you may need a social media break

Holly Brown
Does the thought of taking social media break spark anxiety, or a sense of relief?

Many of us feel inundated by the politics in our feed, or maybe by the images of other people’s seemingly perfect lives.  How do you know when you need to take a break? And what should the boundaries be when you return?

According to marriage and family therapist Holly Brown, you know you need a break if you:
  1. quickly feel demoralized and hopeless every time you log in.
  2. slowly feel demoralized and hopeless every time you log in. (Sometimes a viewing session has an insidious effect that lasts long after you’ve turned away.)
  3. are losing large amounts of time and neglecting tasks that you value more. This is a sign that you’re losing track of your priorities and perspective.
  4. wind up feeling bad about yourself, and inadequate compared to others.
  5. feel more judgmental of yourself and others. Unfettered mean thoughts can easily go unchecked when you’re on social media.
  6. are writing nasty things to other people, joining in the dog pile in ways that are unkind and unproductive. Brown is also a psychological suspense novelist whose recent release THIS IS NOT OVER dives deep into how social media and internet culture exacerbates the projections, jealousies, and misperceptions between her two protagonists.
  7. you are jumping on social media more than once an hour, or just have it on all day long.
  8. if the thought of NOT being on social media sites for a day fills you with anxiety and fear.
  9. you’re craving pings all the time, constantly overstimulated or in need of stimulation.
  10. you’re not connecting with people in person.
  11. you go to check one thing and the suddenly, it’s an hour later. But the time spent wasn’t really happy or fulfilling; it was just time. And it led you to crave more input, like you’re always seeking another hit.
Holly Brown, MFT lives with her husband and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she’s a practicing marriage and family therapist, and a psychological suspense novelist whose recent release is THIS IS NOT OVER. Her blog, “Bonding Time”, is featured on, a mental health website with 1.5 million visitors per month. For more, visit and

I had the honor of interviewing Holly.  Enjoy!

 Faten Abdallah (FA): Define Social Media.  How did it shape our world today?

 Holly Brown (HB): Social media is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn...and even when you don't have your own account, the impact is unavoidable. That's because people are witnessing each others' lives (or at least, the curated version of them) and that then shapes the way those people's perspectives. Also, the empathy-numbing and meanness that can pervade social media can extend beyond as well. If we don't adequately consider others' feelings online, we're less likely to continue them in person.

FA: What are some pros and cons of Social Media?

HB: A pro is that people have a forum to efficiently connect with one another. We can share good news and commiserate over bad. We can keep in touch in a time-effective way. We can send each other love, affirmations, and support, and see the latest pictures of our friends and our friends' children across the country. And at its best, it's a place to commune over similarities and explore differences in order to broaden our frames of reference.

At its worst, it's where people are intolerant of differences, and where it can be too easy to dehumanize others since we don't have to see their faces. We can then relate to them accordingly--as if they don't deserve basic human decency and respect. Then there's the way it can effect self-esteem. We may compare ourselves unfavorably to others, or can find ourselves seeking instant gratification and validation rather than gaining those things through our own esteemable acts, and through deeper connections with those who are, ostensibly, closest to us. That means that instead of being with the ones we love, we're paying them half-attention as we check the web. Being mindful and present is what strengthens relationships, and social media can be a distraction from that.

FA: How do you know if you are getting burnout from using Social Media?

HB: You're not having any fun on social media but you just can't stop checking in. You've developed a bad case of FOMO. You might be comparing your life to what you're viewing of other people's lives, and you're losing the awareness that what you're seeing is just what they want you to see.  Perhaps you're more involved in your online life than your real one, deciding what to do or not do based on how it would appear to others. You're losing touch with your lived experience because it's all about how you appear, as contrasted with how you feel. You might not even really know how you feel anymore, as distinct from what you're uploading.

You're also burning out if you're frequently seeking jolts of self-esteem from social media--for example, needing to be "liked" often in order to feel okay. If your moods are highly dependent on social media, both positive and negative, you're entering a danger zone.

FA: Is it good or necessary to take a break from Social Media?  Explain.
HB: It's not necessary if social media is an enhancing adjunct to your life, and you're able to keep it in its proper place. If it's bleeding into everything else, then a break would be good. And if you're got the signs of burnout I referenced above, then it might be necessary.

FA: What kind of help is available for people who can't stop taking a break from Social Media?

HB: If you can't stop taking a break, then that might mean you want your break to be permanent. And that's okay. I know people who are content in their lives without participating actively in social media.

Now if you need a break but can't enforce it, it's possible you need an accountability partner. This can be your romantic partner or a friend, just someone who's doing it along with you. This works well for other motivational activities, like working out where people are much better at showing up at the gym if they know a friend is waiting for them there.

And if you're not able to get off social media, it might indicate another issue. Maybe you're having trouble engaging deeply in your life and you could use a mindfulness practice. Or perhaps you're combing social media as a way to avoid whatever problem feels too big to tackle. In that case, some therapy could be helpful.

 Readers might want to note that 

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