Becoming a social “lite”
Your social-media habit has turned into an addiction. Now what? Here are some ways to cut back.
The range of fixations can be broad. Maybe it’s hours spent lapping up videos of furry pups and flash mobs or searching for just the right meme. Maybe it’s doom-scrolling news that makes it hard to get to sleep. These habits may not just lead to wondering where the weekend went — for some, they lead to growing feelings of envy, depression, and dissatisfaction with their lives.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Many want to quit using social media entirely. Others want to seriously cut back the amount of time they spend on it. It might be time to set some limits for yourself—or take a true break from social media. You might find that you feel better, less lonely and less anxious.
An article in PC Magazine discusses how to cut back. It suggests that people may want to leave social media briefly to focus on life offline, or to walk away for an extended time and see what the results are. “Or you could take a more balanced approach and keep social media in your life but get better at managing how much time you spend on it.” Going cold turkey isn’t the only way to help yourself.
According to PC Magazine, there are four basic steps to help you cut back:
- Decide in advance what kind of relationship you want to have with social media.
- Put rules in place for yourself.
- Create obstacles that give you pause before you deviate from your rules.
- Stick to your intentions.
Taking a break or limiting your activity on social media may improve your mental health. A study titled “No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression” in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, says it can. University of Pennsylvania undergraduates were asked to keep their social media use limited to 10 minutes a day for each platform (Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat) for a period of three weeks.
The results were startling. The participating group showed “significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring.”
As that study shows, sometimes less is best. Limiting the time you spend scrolling social media benefits your well-being. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that, would you?
“It takes discipline not to let social media steal your time.” – Alexis Ohanian
Steps for cutting back on social media
So, you’ve decided you want to spend less time on social media and more with the people around you. But where to start? Having a plan helps and is better (and easier in the long run) than simply switching off your phone. It’s a process, so give yourself time.
- Track the time you’re spending It’s hard to decide how much time you want to spend if you don’t know how much time you are spending. Both Android and iOS phones have built-in features for tracking and setting app-based screen time limits. In addition to Android’s Digital Wellbeing and iOS’s Screen Time, there are a variety of options available in the app stores.
- Install time-based blockers for social networking sites Both the Digital Wellbeing and Screen Time apps, as well as others available in the app stores, let you block certain apps for a user-specified length of time. Some apps also integrate with other platforms, like Slack. There are also apps available for desktop computers, like Strict Workflow (free on Chrome), that let you block sites you choose for specific amounts of time.
- Activate time limits in your phone settings You can limit the time you use certain apps like Facebook and Instagram on your phone. Just dive into your Settings for Screen Time on iOS or Digital Wellbeing on Android.
- Observe a digital sabbath Similar to a religious sabbath, this is a time each week when you would eliminate social media (or even internet usage altogether) and replace it with family time, relaxation, etc. You make up the rules.
- Disable notifications Getting rid of push notifications can help you be less distracted. You can also turn off badges and banners (the procedure varies for each app so you’ll need to check online or in the settings for each one to learn how.)
Source: PC Magazine
Turn up the grayscale to downscale your screen time
Wired Magazine has an interesting suggestion for how to “curb your phone addiction” and it involves, wait for it, draining the color from your phone’s screen.
“Removing all color from the screen can be a more effective deterrent than you might think.” Apparently, it works on our brains, which are attracted to all things bright and shiny. The article cites former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris, who founded the Center for Humane Technology, who says that going grayscale “removes positive reinforcements and dampens that urge to keep loading up social media feeds or mobile games.” Basically, blandifying your phone.
Ready to try it? Here’s how:
Open Settings. Select Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Color Filters. Set the Color Filters toggle switch to ‘On.’ Grayscale appears, already checked, as the first option and you’re set.
If you’re on the stock or Pixel version of Android 9.0 or later, open up the Quick Settings panel with a two-finger swipe from the top of the screen, then tap the Pen icon on the lower left. Drag the Grayscale icon up into the panel of icons, and you’ll have one-tap access to your phone’s grayscale mode whenever you need it.
The grayscale toggle switch is part of a new Digital Wellbeing suite of tools built into the latest versions of Android. If you open up Settings, then tap Digital Wellbeing & parental control, then choose Wind Down, you can set up a schedule for the evening: Wind Down turns the screen gray, and mutes notifications.
Five ways to tame your social media use
Reachout Australia suggests five ways that you and your family can healthily curtail social media usage without going completely cold turkey. Think of these as baby steps.
- Keep social media off your phone’s home screen. Move them to secondary folders or swiped screens, so the temptation to jump in is not so immediate.
- Use apps that limit your time and accessibility to social media.
- Pick a screen-free hobby and do it for an hour (or more!) each week.
- Keep phones out of your bedroom.
- Keep phones off the dinner table.
Maximize your connection with others through a balance of social media and real-life interactions.
Even if it feels uncomfortable, meeting new people is vital to our sense of well-being and belonging.
We are wired for positive social contact and reap physical and mental health benefits from having it.