So you need a Sabbatical. Excellent! A lot of people don't realise how common taking an internet detox really is, nor do they think about the potential benefits one can gain from taking a break. These benefits are highly individualistic, but can include more productivity, lower mobile/internet bills, more leisure time, new hobbies and even simply a cleaner attitude to the social web upon your return.
Know Your Reasons
First up, consider why you want this and if you can do a hiatus. Do you have an upcoming career or personal milestone that requires your full attention?
Share your reasons with contacts if you wish to communicate your absence, which is highly recommended. Not only will you avoid embarrassment upon your return after contacts' messages have gone unanswered, but your friends won't be surprised when you party invitations via (gasp!) telephone call instead of Facebook.
Note: I don't recommend using a hiatus purely to avoid someone or something online. Seek help if you feel the reasons for a tech detox are 100% avoidance-based, especially if it is someone intently making your use of social media less enjoyable. You deserve the best!
What are the rules?
Think about how strict you want to be with yourself and for how long. I stayed well away from the websites even when logged out for the entire two months I was on hiatus, but you might need public-facing information from the websites every couple of days. Set your own rules and stick to them.
Back in 2011, I chose Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. I would probably do the same this time, as well as Google+ and Pinterest. Would I include Pocket, Flipboard or other bookmarking accounts? Actually, I'm not sure, because I often use Pocket for research for work. If you manage social media accounts at work, factor this into the equation as well as if you need your existing accounts. You will be able to decide what you can and cannot keep during the hiatus, but whatever you choose, stick to your guns.
Will you have a caretaker?
Consider handing your passwords over to a close friend or family member, and allow them to change the passwords of your accounts. Clearly this is a high-risk idea, but provided you choose someone who a) knows their way around the social media websites, b) has NO chance of forgetting the reset passwords, and c) has NO chance of refusing to return your accounts to you after the agreed date. It's best they promise not to use your accounts during this time as well.
Securely send your caretaker a list of your accounts' login details and confirm the date and time of changeover with them.
Do you have everything you need from the accounts?
Grab all important contacts' email addresses and/or phone numbers if you expect to need them during your hiatus. The same goes for any photos you cannot access while logged out.
All Set? Go!
Organise for final messages, swapping of contact details and anything else you need to do. Then log off about 15 minutes before your caretaker is due to change the passwords, uninstall any apps you don't need and go make a cup of tea.
"Ack! This is harder than I thought!"
Don't panic when you're unable to Tweet what you next think is hilarious or thought-provoking. Write it all out in a diary or call a friend if you need, otherwise distractions might just be all you need for the first few days.
When I did my hiatus, I lived with three film students, so my days outside of the lecture halls were spent quite well on the cheap. I don't recall going out any more than usual, but I know I wanted to. Now could be the time to change habits or start new hobbies you've wanted to try. Make a list of places/activities you'd like to see/do and get to it!
Anyone who has worked with me knows I'm big on learning from experience. You'll get more out of your hiatus if you are able to recount how it affected you and your routine. Will you do anything differently online if you choose to return to the same communities? Maybe you'll cut contacts or entire accounts, or maybe simply change your access habits.
Keep a diary (or a blog if you're allowing yourself that) and watch for any changes in cognitive processes or behaviour that you might put down to the lack of social media use.
You did it! Welcome back! Grab your passwords from your caretaker and shout out to your contacts again.
The biggest plus-side of coming back after a break is fresh insight towards excess contacts and accounts. If you're looking at Facebook's junk and Pinterest's mindless recycling of cake-pops in a different way, now's the time to cull the noise - and don't worry about feeling guilty about this if you do.
Good luck! My two posts on my 2011 May-June hiatus are tagged tech detox should you like to read more about my experiences.