I’ve been trying for quite awhile to decrease my social media use but always found that the commonly offered solutions didn’t work for my lifestyle. Deleting the apps wasn’t convenient because I still utilize them to some extent. Giving myself a maximum amount of time during the day to spend on social media wasn’t helpful because I was still using that time for mindless scrolling when I was bored or stressed. Completing a Tech Shabbat once a week is wonderful and something I still want to incorporate to some extent, but I found it a little extreme and anxiety inducing (we don’t live close to family and I’d hate to not be at least somewhat available if they need us). Not bringing my phone to bed was okay but didn’t really address all of the issues throughout the day. I felt fed up that everyone’s secret tricks and methods never worked for me! Despite all this, I knew that the status quo was no longer working and I needed to find something to allow me to break free from my phone.
The other night I got particularly annoyed with this absolutely insane addiction and found an app (AppBlock) that allows me to choose my blocking conditions (not opening an app more than X times a day, usage limits, or, what worked for me, only allowing access during specific times). I arbitrarily set a time of 7-8pm when I am allowed to access my social media apps and off I went. Surprisingly, this was the easiest of any of the transitions for me. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been trying different options lately and was used to periods without social media, but I rarely feel deprived or experience FOMO throughout the day like I have with other methods. When it does hit 7pm, I’m finding I’m not as interested in the posts or endless scrolling and sign out early most times.
It has only been about a week of this decreased social media use, but I have noticed:
- My mind feels more focused. This was the main reason I downloaded AppBlock the other night – I was tired of my mind feeling overwhelmed and scattered, and I really suspected it was at least in part due to how I was utilizing social media. (Here is a link to a research paper on the topic as well, in case you love reading them as much as I do!)
- I’m becoming more comfortable “zoning out” while waiting for something and not needing to feel busy all the time by scrolling or switching between apps.
- I’m less anxious. The “influencers” are not a part of my daily life and I don’t feel this insane pressure to be updating stories all day or sharing daily posts. I’m existing more mindfully in my reality rather than getting caught up in others’.
- I’m beginning to view social media as the tool it is meant to be, rather than a lifestyle guide or constant companion. Despite how it is often villainized (and rightfully so), social media does have its perks (especially during the pandemic and while living a distance away from family and friends), and I think I’ll always maintain a presence there to some extent. When I’m on social media now though, I’m mindful about my presence and therefore, can more easily recognize when I’m finished and ready to move on with the rest of my day.
So here’s the guidelines I’ve given myself. In case you’re like me and need to hear this; this is not a magic formula or the one answer. The reason it works for me is just that – because it works for me and is a system I can stick with long term and adjust as needed. It has prevented me from falling into the traps set by the creators of social media and still allows me to reap the benefits of social media. However, no one’s system is the only way, so remember to be flexible and adjust for what works for you!
- Between 7-8pm I can access social media. Because I’m a shiftworker, I did adjust that time on a couple of days, but still kept it under an hour and within one block of time (which has been the biggest thing for me).
- Access on the computer doesn’t count. I despise the desktop version of Facebook and Instagram (my two main vices) and it’s very easy for me to kick myself off it once I’ve accomplished what I needed to do. (ie. I make the newsletter for a local organization so needed to access some information from their Facebook page, sometimes our community group has good information (and not just nonsense drama) so I might logon if I need recommendations for a business).
- All push notifications are off. This is something that I’ve had in place for years and I never opt into push notifications for comments or likes. Except…
- Messenger doesn’t count. As much as I hate to admit it, this is the main way I communicate with people now (Texting? That’s soooo early 2000’s…). However, my sound is never on and I do turn my phone completely off for periods of time, so I’m not constantly bombarded (not that I’m popular, but sometimes group texts get out of control!). I would definitely turn off Messenger notifications during another Tech Shabbat and just tell close friends/family to text or call if they actually need me.
There you have it! There’s nothing incredibly revolutionary here, but I think I’ve finally found what works for me and encourage you to try different techniques and keep what works for you and scrap everything else!
Have you ever tried to quit social media? Did it work? What held you back?