Hello Zen Organizers,
I hope you're well!
In the past few weeks, I've discussed with many of you to get to know you better and get a better idea of your needs.
And one of the elements that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU mentioned to me is that you lose most of your time on social media. I mean, I knew social media is a major time-waster, but I didn't think that EVERYBODY had this problem!
So it seemed imperative that I cover this aspect because time is our most precious resource! We should use it more intentionally and meaningfully, especially if we feel like we don't have enough time to do everything we'd like to do!
Why is it so hard to resist social media?
First, let's make sure we all have the same definition of social media: "forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos)" (Merriam-Webster, 2021). As per this definition, social media can include blogs, forums, social networks, photo and video sharing apps, etc. (Social media, 2021).
Before we dive into the concrete ways to reduce the time you spend on social media, let's talk about why it's so hard to resist social media. Knowing how they work and their negative impacts can be a great motivator to reduce the time you spend on them.
As we'll see below, social media have some benefits and are not bad per se. However, they are designed on purpose to make you spend as much time as possible on them.
Most of them are free because the currency they use isn't money but rather your time, your attention, and your data. So the more time and attention you dedicate them, the more data they gather about you, and the more profit they eventually make, this time with money paid by advertisers (Orlowski, 2020).
The problem is that they rely on some of our most profound instincts to get us hooked: our craving for community and "our natural interest in others" (Odell, 2019, p.32). They also rely on physiological phenomena such as dopamine release, which makes them addictive, just like drugs, alcohol and nicotine (The Social Dilemma, n.d.).
So it's not your fault if it's hard to resist social media. They are designed to be addictive. But if you know that and keep it in mind while you use them, it might be easier to spend less time on them.
If you're interested in the topic, I recommend watching the documentary The Social Dilemma, available on Netflix. It provides interesting insights into how they work, their negative impacts, and their benefits.
The benefits of social media
If you've listened to my other episodes or read my other articles, you know that I like to mention both the advantages and the disadvantages, the pros and the cons, of anything.
So let me do this with social media as well! I don't think that they are bad per se, especially since many of you probably wouldn't be here without them! I also love and actively use social media, both for my personal and professional life, and honestly can't imagine living without them anymore!
For one, social media are great to stay in touch with your friends and family, even if you're not able to see them often. For example, I have friends from all over the world, so it would be hard to maintain contact if apps like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, didn't exist.
They are also amazing to build or find communities of like-minded people that wish to exchange on a given topic. With these communities, you can learn from the experience of thousands of other people and grow with them. And you can even make new friends!
Plus, social media help create social movements (in this case, sometimes positive ones but unfortunately also some less positive ones 😕).
These platforms also offer an infinite quantity of free content that can teach you valuable things. And they are a powerful marketing tool for small businesses that might not have the means to reach this many people otherwise.
There are probably many more advantages to social media, but these seem like the most important ones.
As you can see, and as you probably already know, social media in themselves are not completely bad. Just like any tool, we have to use them mindfully and intentionally, not compulsively and randomly.
Here are some tips to help you use social media consciously, and without wasting too much time on them.
Limit access to the apps/sites
My friend uses a great strategy to limit her use of social media: she regularly changes the position of the apps on her phone to make it harder to find them and use them when she only has a few minutes.
Disconnect your accounts every time you use them. If you need to log in every time, you'll be less tempted to use them for short periods. However, you have to remember every time to log off, and it's easy to cheat yourself...
Another option is to ask your partner, brother/sister, roommate, or anyone you live with, to change the passwords to your accounts and not give them to you. This way, they are the only ones that can log you in. Of course, you can also cheat and change your password yourself, so this is only an option if you're able to control yourself 😉.
Most social media apps allow you to track your time usage and set a reminder to notify that you've spent a selected amount of time on it. You can program that reminder directly on the app:
On Facebook: Click on the three horizontal bars on the upper right corner of the app → Select "Settings & Privacy" → Choose "Your Time on Facebook" and then "Manage Your Time" → Click on "Daily Time Reminder" at the bottom. A pop-up will open. It indicates the average time you spend on the app (on that device), and you can set the number of minutes or hours you wish to spend daily on the app. They'll send you a reminder when you reach this limit.
On Instagram: Go to your profile and click on the three horizontal bars on the upper right corner of the app → Select "Settings" → Click on "Account" → Choose "Your Activity" and then "Time." Here, you can see your daily use of the app. If you want to set a daily reminder after a certain amount of time, click on "Set Daily Reminder."
However, as you can see from the pictures, they're only reminders, and they don't block your access to the app. So you can simply click "Ok" and keep using the app...
If you need a more hard-core solution, you should install app blockers on your phone and computer. Here are a few articles that list such apps:
There's also the ultimate solution to simply delete the apps on your phone. If you know you mainly use them there, this can be a solution to drastically their use!
Set specific moments to use them (or not to use them)
Set a defined moment and length of time you can spend on social media every day and stick to it. For example, you can use it for 30 minutes during your lunch break and then another for 30 minutes right after dinner. But apart from these two moments, don't check them.
Have technology-free moments with your friends and family. You can decide that meals or Saturday evenings are always device-free, for example. You can even have a jar or a specific place where everybody must leave their devices (rigorously on airplane mode, so nobody feels the temptation to go check their phone if it vibrates or chimes 😉).
Leave cellphones out of your bedroom. Have a power-down hour before going to bed in which you don't use devices of any kind (their blue light disrupts sleep patterns). It's also good to refrain from using your devices first thing in the morning. If you can, avoid looking at your phone for at least the first 15-30 minutes of the day.
Deprogram your brain to reach for social media when you're bored
If you're bored, do something that will nourish you instead of mindlessly scrolling down your newsfeed. For example, you can reach for a book (or your e-reader, or a book app on your phone), listen to a podcast (like mine 🤪), doodle something in a notebook, do quick stretching exercises, etc.
Also, accept to do nothing from time to time. It's okay not to be always busy or productive and not to be constantly doing something. Use off moments like going to the bathroom, queueing, or waiting for your meal to reheat to let your mind wander. You'd be surprised how many ideas and insights you can have in these moments!
Beware of the content you consume
Don't watch recommended videos or content. Consciously decide what content you want to consume (Orlowski, 2020). It will help you avoid falling into the rabbit hole and involuntarily spending hours on social media. To help you with that, you can use "a search engine that does not store search history, like Qwant," and "use browser extensions to block recommendations" (The Social Dilemma, n.d.). It will help reduce the temptation to watch recommended content.
Periodically audit the accounts and the pages/people you follow. Eliminate irrelevant accounts that don't bring anything positive to your life. Pay special attention to those that spur negative emotions (envy, jealousy, poor self-esteem, rage, etc.).
Eliminate distractions when you're working
The easiest way to avoid being distracted by social media when you're working is to put your phone on airplane mode and/or in another room when you have to work. We don't have to be available 24/7, even at work. In most cases, people can wait 20-25 minutes for a reply (until your break from focused work).
Meet the Pomodoro Technique. One of the most efficient time management techniques of all time! It consists of uninterrupted 25-minute periods of work, followed by short 5-minute breaks. Then, after four series of 25 minute-work interleaved by 5-minute breaks, there is a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes. Of course, you can vary the length of work periods and breaks according to your needs and the type of task you're doing. But the important thing is to focus completely on your task during the work period and eliminate all distractions, social media, SMS, phone calls, and emails included!
I hope these tips can help you regain control over your time and spend less time on social media. Remember that if you use them intentionally and mindfully, there's no problem. The problem arises when you intended to only spend five minutes on them and end up spending 30 minutes instead! Time is a precious resource, so make sure you use it consciously!
I wish you a zenly organized and time-abundant week,