Recently, I took a survey about my habits as a ~millennial~. One of the questions read, “How much time do you spend on social media?” The possible responses were:
(a) Constantly, I’m checking a few times a day
(b) About once per day
(c) A few times a week
(d) A few times a month
My answer: Um, none of the above?
Okay, I chose (a), but even that massively underestimates my actual social media use. A few times a day? Try a few times an hour.
Frankly, it was embarrassing—and somewhat of a shock—to step back and think about my habits: my hand that’s automatically drawn to my phone every morning; my nearly incessant peeks at my profiles all day long; my late-night scrolls that send me deep down digital rabbit holes.
I realized that if one of the options were: “I’m addicted to social media and can’t stop looking at it,” I would have to check that box. Take today, for example. It’s only 10:30 a.m., and I’ve already lost track of how many times I’ve checked Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
At 7:30 a.m., I spent about 15 minutes in bed scrolling through all of my feeds after my alarm went off.
At 9 a.m. I posted an Instagram story of my coffee cup. #WednesdayVibes.
At around 9:15 a.m., I looked to see how many views it had.
At 9:30 a.m., I checked my Facebook feed to see if my latest freelance stories had been posted.
At 9:35 a.m., I clicked over to Twitter. No new notifications. Not a surprise since I barely tweet.
And I probably checked each one at least once since I started writing this. That’s a lot of wasted time.
Here’s the thing. In small doses, social media is inspiring, informative, and necessary for my career. My last job, after all, was creating “social content” for a major health website.
Now, I’m a freelance writer. As part of my work, I have to keep up with the latest news, read tons of articles, and see how brands promote their stories on social. And there’s no denying that social media has plenty of personal perks. It keeps me connected with old and new friends, gives me a glimpse into the lives of successful people I admire, and I can always count on @mytherapistsays whenever I need a good laugh.
Plus, I’m not the most addicted person I know. I sometimes leave my phone at home when I run errands or go to the gym. I don’t even think about checking it while driving. I try my best not to bring it out when I’m at dinner with friends. And I don’t even use Snapchat!
But let’s be real. All other times, I’m probably checking Instagram every 30 minutes, if not more often. And whenever I spend too much time on social media—or stalk the profiles of people I really shouldn’t stalk—I inevitably end up feeling worse, not better, about myself and my life.
As a health and wellness writer, I’ve been told by plenty of experts that if a mental health issue—whether it’s depression, anxiety, or alcohol use—starts to interfere with or disrupt your everyday life, it’s time to seek help. Well, I’d say my social media use is starting to pretty seriously impact my life—or at least my levels of productivity and happiness (NBD, right?).
Here’s an example. In the past (like, pre-Instagram past), I was a super-fast reader and would tear through books. Well, since January (it’s May), I’ve had three books I’ve been wanting to read, sitting on my bedside table or loaded on my Kindle. One, I read. Another, I’m barely a few pages into. The other I haven’t even cracked open. Why? Because when I get in bed at night, instead of reading like I used to, now I scroll. And scroll. And scroll.
So, I admit I have a problem. Now, I’m ready to take action. I’ve tried some productivity hacks in the past, like deleting the apps from my phone or “time-blocking” certain times of day to check them, but nothing has really stuck.
That’s why I’m writing this to serve as a sort of manifesto — a game plan—that I can refer to whenever I’m tempted to waste another minute laughing at a meme featuring a Kardashian’s latest facial expression.
It’s like my own personal “choose-your-adventure” game that I’ll play any time my fingers hover over those tempting little squares.
Please know: My goal isn’t to make myself—or anyone else—feel bad or guilty about spending time on social media. I also don’t mean to blame the apps or their makers. Even though they are designed to be addictive, I know the main culprit is my own weak willpower and/or bad habits.
Of course, I’m a writer in a new age of digital media, so I will continue to use social media—but I want it to be on my own terms. I’m just sick of watching my life go by without accomplishing so many of the things I want to do.
If anyone has any tips/wisdom/advice to help me cut back, I’m all ears. Please me know any strategies that have worked for you in the comments.
Thanks so much for reading!
Originally published at medium.com