Sure, Tik Tok is entertaining as hell (even if I feel way too uncool for some of the dances. Read: the WAP), and Instagram gave us true blessings like avocado toast, whipped coffee, and Jennifer Aniston breaking the internet. Social media is an effortless way to stay connected to loved ones, network in your field, and keep up with the latest from favorite brands, celebs, and publications (like, IDK, @theeverygirl #shamelessplug). However, too much social media can take up your time, distract you from being productive, and might even make you unhappy. Here are 10 easy ways to spend less time on social media, and more time living your life.
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1. Be aware of how much time you’re spending on social media
The first step in making any changes is to identify the starting point. If your phone tracks your screen time usage, look at the numbers and quantify what they mean. For example, if you spent two hours and 30 minutes total last Monday, was the biggest chunk of that from scrolling through Instagram on your lunch break or Snapchatting throughout the day? What could you have spent those two hours and 30 minutes doing instead that would make you even happier or more fulfilled?
Identify which apps you’re using most, when and why you’re using them, and how to replace that habit. If you’re a goal-oriented person, you can also make a screen time or social media time goal, based on the time you know you are currently spending. For example, cutting two hours and 30 minutes down to two hours by next week will be a much more achievable baby step than aiming to cut screen time down to 30 minutes). Baby steps are the key to forming healthy habits, and knowing exactly where you’re at is the key to making baby steps.
2. Utilize the mute (or unfollow) button
Instagram changed the game when they added the “mute” feature, and I no longer had to be subjected to my college friend’s cousin’s ex-boyfriend’s stories taking shots out of a ski (we get it, Brad–you party!). You know the saying that you’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with? Well, you’re also the sum of the five accounts you consume the most on social media (and I definitely don’t want to be like Brad). Do yourself a favor and mute or unfollow everyone on Instagram except a few accounts that bring you inspiration, motivation, and happiness whenever you click through their feed or stories. Not only will it help to boost your confidence, but you’ll naturally spend less time on social media when you have fewer accounts and feeds to click through.
3. Don’t check your phone before 10am
Many of us wake up and immediately scroll through Facebook like it’s the morning newspaper, while others stay in bed longer than we should because we’re catching up on Tik Toks we missed while sleeping. Not only does checking social media first thing in the morning start your day with a focus on what other people are doing in their lives (rather than setting the tone for what you’re doing in your life), but it can be a complete waste of time.
Wait to check social media until after you already start your day, whether that’s a specific time (like 10am) or 60 minutes after you wake up. You can also limit phone time in general. Try not to check your phone until you’ve made a cup of coffee, did some gratitude journaling, and finished a 10-step skincare routine (not all that realistic, but sounds nice, doesn’t it?).
4. Turn off notifications
Do you really need to get an alert every time some random account likes your picture or Kim Kardashian posts to her feed? Thanks a bunch, Instagram, but, to borrow a line from 13 Going on 30, I don’t need a play-by-play. Notifications and alerts are meant to pull your attention away from whatever you’re doing to get you to grab your phone again. Give your phone a break and turn off social media notifications, so you get to choose when you want to check social media, rather than letting social media tell you when. Bonus tip: you can also turn off text message notifications, and it will be the most freeing feeling of your life, guaranteed.
5. No phones at the table
Looks like your mom was onto something! Try creating a phone-free space in your home by keeping your kitchen table tech-free. It will ensure that you’re fully present during mealtimes. Also, when you’re eating out with friends (post-virus, of course), try to get everyone to put their phones in the center of the table, and make the first person who grabs theirs pay the bill or buy the next round of drinks. Sure, it might feel annoying to enforce the rule your parents made when you were 14-years-old and got your first cellphone. But rest assured, I always enforce this with my friends and, while they groan and occasionally complain, we have better conversations, longer meals, and a lot more fun. Spending less overall time on social media is just a happy side effect.
6. Get an accountability buddy
Having trouble holding yourself accountable and keeping up with habits you want to implement? The secret to shifting any routine or enforcing any new habit might be as easy as getting an accountability buddy. Find a friend who also wants to spend less time on social media, recruit your spouse to beat tech addiction with you, or ask your roommate to remind you to stop scrolling while watching TV. Knowing that someone else is aware of your goals (and will be checking in on the changes you want to make) might be enough to cut off that social media addiction once and for all.
7. Use Screen Time (or another timing app)
Sure, the geniuses at Apple probably released Screen Time, knowing it would be great news for parents with Tik Tok-obsessed teens, but in my opinion, it’s most beneficial for adults who need serious help with their iPhone addiction. Using Apple’s Screen Time or Google’s Digital Wellbeing, you can set a time limit for daily social media usage or get specific with any app (like say, Instagram, where hours of my day go). You can also schedule a specific time of day using the Downtime feature of Screen Time, or try an app like Forest, which provides more incentive for limiting screen time.
8. Leave your phone in another room
Out of sight, out of mind, am I right, ladies? If you’re taking time for some self-care or focusing on a task at work, you do not need your phone staring at you and begging you to scroll. Leave your phone in another room whenever you don’t need it, or just keep it out of sight as much as possible. If you’re ready to get seriously ballsy, consider leaving your phone at home while going on a walk or *gasp* when you leave the house to run an errand. It will feel weird at first (given that our phones are fifth limbs), but it will cut out excessive social media.
9. Change up the location of social media apps in your phone
We often find ourselves clicking on apps without even realizing it. Confession: whenever I open my phone to look at a note, send a text message, or check the weather, my finger automatically clicks on Instagram first. Sometimes, I’ll realize I just spent 15 minutes on Instagram and have no idea how I even got there. More often than not, we’re not reaching for our phones to open social media, but we go to our phones for other reasons and check social media by habit or as a mindless break.
To break out of this routine, try rearranging where the social media apps are located on your phone. Consider keeping apps on the very last page (so you have to consciously scroll to get there), or regularly change up the location to break the automatic motion. Yes, you’ll still have the option to spend tons of time on social media, but it will cut out those moments where clicking on an app is just a mindless habit.
10. Communicate more in person (or with a phone call)
Remember when we didn’t rely on Siri to get advice or Google Maps for directions? Yeah, me neither. We’re so used to asking for directions, making social plans or reservations, and getting help over buttons on touchscreens. Reduce your social media dependency by practicing in-person communication (or over the phone). Ask anyone nearby for directions, call up your friends to make plans, and ask your roommate if they know the weather, rather than checking the weather app. Small adjustments will make a big difference in our overall phone dependencies.