Looking to reduce your social media time in 2023?
Good for you! This is a road I have been down before. I’m not going to go into reasons why you should give up social media or to preach about the benefits; that’s not what this blog post is about. If you’re reading this you are probably already interested and have your own reasons for why you want to make this change.
And so, here is a practical guide with steps that helped me to overcome a mobile phone and social media reliance; I hope they will be helpful for you too! The first few tips should help you to reduce the time you spend on your phone in general (which leads to social media) while the remaining ones are specifically about social media apps.
Get an alarm clock
This may sound silly but this was the single biggest change I made to reduce the amount of time I spent looking at my phone. My phone used to be my alarm to wake up in the morning. That meant it was the last thing I saw at night and the first thing I checked in the morning. Getting an alarm clock breaks this cycle. It allows you to do something else before bed without getting sucked into the social media vortex and gives you space to think in the morning before getting distracted with notifications. I bought my digital alarm clock for about €15 in a local electronics shop. These days I often don’t switch my mobile phone on until 11am or later. There is just no need for it.
Get a watch
This is another really helpful one. I found that my phone was becoming a crutch I leant on for everything, including checking the time. Checking the time would inevitably lead to seeing new notifications on my phone and before long I am knee deep down a YouTube rabbit hole about how to turn carrots into whistles. Make a mental rule to only check the time on your watch.
Turn off all notifications
This is an obvious one. When I say notifications, I don’t just mean from social media apps but from any apps that are not critical. All notifications bring you back to your phone and if you’re on your phone there is a higher chance you’ll end up back on social media. Also, if your phone has other notification indicators like a small flashing light that tells you something has come in, switch that off too. You should be able to do this in your phones settings.
The above tips can help but setting strict rules can make them even more effective. Some rules that I found helpful were:
Never use your phone to check the time (mentioned above).
Only use your phone in one room of your house. Alternatively, make a rule never to use your phone in your bedroom.
Never take your phone out of your pocket if you are in company; stay present with the person you’re with.
Delete (or move around) your social media apps
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Deleting the apps on your phone obviously makes it harder to get on to social media which will reduce the time you spend on it. If you don’t feel ready to delete the apps just yet, try moving the position of apps around on your phones home screen or put them into a new folder. If you’re like me, your thumb will have a habit of going to your favourite app almost as a reflex. Break that chain. Move the apps around every few weeks to keep your thumb guessing.
Only ever access specific content
Sometimes you may feel like you need to access one of the social media sites to see a specific piece of content. That’s okay and it happens from time to time so don’t be too hard on yourself if it happens to you. However, setting a few rules can make this easier to manage. For me, I never use the app to access whatever content I’m looking for, I always go through the browser in my phone and I always log out after viewing that content. This trick makes it more cumbersome to access social media sites so you’re less likely to do it often. Also, I never click on suggested content or “explore” type buttons. If you’re going to the site to look something specific up then look it up but make it a rule not to watch anything being recommended to you. If you want to look something else up, close the browser window and start again. You’ll probably find you actually weren’t that bothered to look the second thing up once the browser has been closed.
Delete (or deactivate) your account
Deleting your social media accounts is probably the ultimate goal here but you may not be ready for that yet. Most sites like Instagram and Facebook have an option to deactivate your account which can be a good first step. I recommend trying this for 30 days. Deactivating your account will stop you from getting tagged in photos, having content shared with you etc. which all serve to draw you back in and to spend your time in the app. Your friends may question why you don’t want to see the memes they are sending you on Instagram but if the meme is funny enough they will find another way to send it to you. You won’t miss out, trust me.
After a few days of implementing the above tips I noticed two things; I had a lot more free time and I didn’t really know what was going on in the world (which actually made me feel a lot happier; bad news clearly sells). But I think you should prepare for these side effects in advance.
You will have more time on your hands than you used to. I wasn’t ready to start filling this unbooked time with peaceful meditation or yoga; I needed something to occupy my mind. A book is the best replacement possible, especially in bed before sleeping. If you’re doing an activity like cooking, a podcast is a decent shout as it at least reduces eye strain. If you really need something active in your hand try downloading an app like Duolingo or Anki. It is not ideal to replace one app with another but at least you will be using your time a bit more productively.
Ask a friend to summarise the news for you. Better yet, ask two friends with opposing political views to summarise the news for you. This is actually a tip from Tim Ferriss’ “The 4 hour work week” but I found it helpful to keep a grip on what’s happening in the world. If your friend mentions a news topic you are really interested in, by all means investigate it further when you get home. In my experience, there are a lot of news stories you’ll read when you already have your phone out but there are surprisingly few that will actively make you take your phone out to read it.
If you are into stats and metrics you could use a free usage tracking app. It can be pretty rewarding to see your usage numbers drop and it can also foster your competitive streak to beat last weeks number. I used “Rescue Time” for a little while to do this. It wasn’t the thing that made the biggest difference for me personally but I know these apps have helped a lot of others.
And there you have it, those are my tips to reduce your social media time in 2023. I hope they help you live a happier and more present life as they did for me!