Coffee is great, right? It’s warm, cozy, and makes you feel wide awake. But too much coffee is not so great. You begin shaking, you can’t focus on anything and you start to feel like you’re cracking it.
They say that “variety is the spice of life”; but I think another way of saying is that you just don’t want to do any one thing too much (it just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?).
Social media is a bit like coffee: its double-edged sword. It’s great occasionally, but too much isn’t great for us. It gives us news about our friends and families, invites to social events, builds communities and gives us advice. But it can also make us very unhappy: we can also look at other people’s gorgeous snapshots of their lives and think they live every day like that. We get jealous and feel like we should be achieving more.
In fact, when I lived overseas for a few months, my own Instagram feed looks amazing – adventures in the snow, new foods, stunning new sights. The reality is that I cried nearly every day of that trip because I was so lonely. For me, taking photos of beautiful things was a tool for me to help me get through the day and try to be grateful for the experience. When I skim over that feed, it looks like things must have been perfect. But they weren’t. When we think everyone else’s lives are better than our, we feel dissatisfied, frustrated and angry with ourselves. It’s not a great way to live.
I think social media can be great – in moderation. And everyone’s version of ‘in moderation’ looks different.
If you’re thinking about cutting down your social consumption, I’m going to share with you a few ideas for cutting down on social media which worked for me.
Why cut down on social media?
I personally don’t want to cut social media out of my life entirely, because I value it as a way to communicate with my friends. But I do want to cut down the mindless scrolling that happens – this is where I get anxious, angry and full of self-loathing that I’m not doing more with my life. It makes me unhappy.
Also: it’s a total timesuck. You check one thing on there because you’ve got a notification and suddenly it’s forty minutes later. This comes into stark relief when you find yourself saying things like “I don’t have time to go to the gym”… well, if I just didn’t open up Insta first thing in the morning and get stuck there for forty minutes, I would have time to do things like go to the gym!
Here are a few tactics that worked for me:
Make social media really hard to get to
Anyone who has touched their phone to check a text message and suddenly found themselves down a Facebook wormhole without realising might want to make their social media apps harder to get to, so they aren’t an automatic response to open.
A few ideas are:
- move your apps into a folder in an annoying location phone. This means you consciously need to open it the app, not automatically.
- just use the web browser, not the apps. Again, you need to consciously type in the URL – and who can be bothered typing?
- log out of your accounts. Yep. Anyone who has been in the trap of ‘what’s my password again?!’ knows how much of a deterrent this is.
- install an app that blocks your social media usage at certain times of day, like when you know you want to work on other things.
- automatically set your phone to flight mode – I find this one particularly handy for overnight if you trawl social at 2am, but still want your phone as an alarm.
And, if you’re someone who trawls social before bed and first thing in the morning, why not get an old-school alarm clock and leave your phone to charge in another room, so it’s really hard to access social until you get out of bed.
I found setting boundaries for myself really important. For some people, setting a time limit, or time of day boundary helped.
For example, “I only have one hour of social a day”, or “I only use social between 6 pm and 7 pm”. (Those apps we mentioned earlier can help with this!)
You might find a location helps: “I only look at social on public transport”, or “I don’t look at it in the bedroom.”
The big one for me was “if I wake up at 2 am – do not open reddit!”.
New habits don’t get built: they happen through practising them over and over again. This one requires a lot of self-talk and reminders until it’s second nature, but over time, your behaviour will change.
You don’t need ‘em all
You might find that you’ve just got one social platform that is the major problem. Or that you are busy checking all of them. You don’t need to cut all social media out of your life.
It’s your life – pick and choose what you want in it. You might just choose three you want to keep. Or just one. Or just cut out the one that leaves you most unhappy.
Rework them, baby
I found some social channels were making me really anxious. But I realised the feeds I had were full of friends on amazing holidays and it made me feel super jealous. So, I changed the content in my feeds.
I subscribed to feeds that were for hobbies I was starting, or things I wanted to learn. Want to learn to cook healthy meals? Subscribe to a sugar-free chef. Or woodworking? Subscribe to a few cool woodworkers showing off their wares. Use it as a tool for inspiration for the little, daily wins, rather than a place to be jealous of other people’s highlights reel.
BFFs on board
If you’re cutting down your social, you might be worried your friends will miss you, or that you’ll miss invites. The simple solution? Tell them first.
Tell them you’re cutting down your social, give them your email or phone number and get in touch. Give them warning, and an alternative way to chat.
Also – it’s really easy to forget a detail like who is on which social network when we’ve got a million things on, so it’s possible your friends will forget the first time you tell them. Just gently remind them. We’re all human. (I’ve had friends remind me they aren’t on Facebook for six months before I actually remembered! It happens!!)
Why are you even on social in the first place?
Self-awareness is one of the most important skills you can develop in life. Spend some time analysing why you’re on social media will help. Each time you log on – what is your intention? Are you bored, or lonely? Looking for entertainment?
Over a week, you might keep a diary and jot down the time of day, and what you’re feeling. Over time you might spot a pattern – for example, every evening you’re bored.
Once you know your motivations, you can then come up with switches instead of social.
- Want to unwind before bed – lay some books by the bed, or subscribe to podcasts with short fiction.
- Want something to do in the evening – meet friends for board games, go for a walk, cook dinner from scratch, learn macrame.
- Are feeling lonely in the evening – why not call a friend and see how they are doing?
- Want something to inspire you at the start of the day – why not try journaling, writing or yoga from YouTube?
- Are on the train and looking for something to do – why not learn a new skill like a new language, learn to code, or just spend that time reflecting and being grateful for the day (which, btw, science has proven to be super effective at increasing happiness levels).
- Are procrastinating because you’ve got a big thing on and you don’t want to deal with it – Journaling might help. Procrastination is often just fear, so getting to the bottom of your fear so you can start the project is a good approach.
Come up with a wishlist
I found what helped me cut down my social media use, was looking at my “if I had more time, I would…” dreams. I would … go to the gym, learn a new language, starting salsa lessons, building an app, write a book.
Each of those things is something I could do in 30 minutes a day, and at the end of a few months, I’d have made loads of progress.
Big dreams achieved by breaking them down into small steps, and doing those steps regularly.
And the truth is that I had 30 minutes spare a day. I was just using it to angry-trawl Instagram. It meant that if I cut down my social media use, I could focus on those big dreams.
We all have 24 hours in a day – the same as Beyonce has, BTW – it’s just what we choose to do with those 24 hours.
And I personally, don’t want to spend all my time in a social media vortex, when I can be doing something I’ve always dreamed of instead.
Write an inspiration list: if you had 1 extra hour in a day, what new thing would you learn, do, or make?