Social media is one of the biggest time sinks in modern day life. Just observe the people around you the next time you take the MRT or study at a cafe. More often than not, you would see a number of people tapping away on their mobile phones. Quite likely, they are either playing a game, watching a video, surfing the internet, or immersing themselves in social media.
In today’s highly-connected world, it is next to impossible to completely remove digital gadgets from our lives. It is also rather difficult to cut out social media from our everyday lifestyles and habits. However, you can always limit the amount of time you spend on social media every day.
Why should you spend less time on social media?
If you think that you are spending too much time on social media, then that’s likely to be the case. Social media websites and apps are carefully engineered to keep you on their platform for extended periods of time.
Let’s see if you have ever experienced this: you give yourself 10 minutes to check your email inbox. Before you realise it, you unwittingly spend another 30 minutes on social media. For sure, the time could have been put to better use. But how did you even end up there in the first place?
By maximising user engagement, social media websites and apps can collect more data about you. Every time you ‘like’ or ‘share’ something, these social media websites get to you know you a little better.
In a matter of hours (perhaps minutes), they can gather enough information to know what your hobbies and interests are. They would have a good understanding of your daily routine and figure out how you usually spend your evenings. They can predict what images to show in order to keep you on their platform for longer. Finally, they show you targeted advertising that translates to revenue for these social media companies.
Social media can also consume your limited attention span by showing you a lot of unnecessary information. Even though this is information that you don’t really need to know, you might end up thinking further about it – now that you are aware of its existence.
But there’s just so much information your brain can process in a single day. By reducing your time spent on social media, your brain can focus better on other aspects which lead you closer towards your goals.
Continue reading this article to learn how you can reduce social media time in your life.
How to spend less time on social media websites and apps?
Here are some effective ways to cut down your time spent on social media:
- Turn off social media notifications and updates
- Use phone features to limit the time spent on apps
- Keep social media platforms out of easy reach
- Get rid of features that distract you
- Disconnect yourself by going on a digital detox
- Engage yourself deeply in social activities
Turn off social media notifications and updates
After installing a new app on your phone, the default setting is to show notifications all the time. You’ll be notified whenever someone writes a comment for one of your posts, or when you are tagged in a photo. These are visual cues trying to grab your attention.
While these notifications can be dismissed easily by a single gesture, there is always a chance that you would click on it (maybe subconsciously). There are two places where you can go to address this: the specific app settings and your phone settings.
Within the social media app, you can choose the types of notifications which you would like to show or hide. For example, you can choose to hide all notifications and updates except those which are related to direct messaging. If you want a quicker way to disable all notifications from specific apps, do it via your phone settings instead.
Tip: Besides social media apps, you can also turn off notifications for instant messaging apps such as Telegram or WhatsApp. This helps you to check your phone less frequently rather than ‘instantly’. If there is something urgent, the person would be calling you after waiting a few minutes for a reply. Just like replying to emails, you can set aside specific times of the day to attend to these messaging apps.
Use phone features to limit the time spent on apps
If you have upgraded your phone recently, you may have noticed a new and handy feature for managing screen time. This feature helps you to track how much time you spend on your device every day. From there, you can find out the exact duration you spend on each app, right down to the minute. This makes you aware of how you are spending your time, and whether you are using too much social media.
In iOS 12, the Screen Time feature shows how much time you spend on each category of apps. That way, you can know your total time spent on productivity, education, games or social media apps. You can set a time limit for each category, and have the limit enforced across all your iCloud-enabled devices. You can also schedule periods of “Downtime” to keep you away from specific apps at certain times of the day.
From Android (9.0 onwards), the Digital Wellbeing app serves a similar purpose. The dashboard shows you how many times you have unlocked your phone during the day, and how many notifications you have received. Keep track of these numbers and work your way downwards. Don’t forget: the more actively you participate in social media, the more notifications you will be getting on your phone.
Keep social media platforms out of easy reach
Accessing a social media website or app is way too seamless today – it is just a tap or click away. But you have the option of making it more difficult for you to access these social media platforms. When it takes too much effort to launch the app, you have a longer window of opportunity to stay clear.
For example, hide unessential apps from your home screen so that you are not tempted to use those apps. Instead, fill your home screen with productivity apps that you would actually use, such as calendar, notes or maps.
You can also consider grouping all the non-essential apps into folders. Place this folder on a screen that is several swipes away from the home screen. Or give the folder a name that starts with a letter near the end of the alphabet. By doing this, you would need extra swipes and taps to get there. This gives your mind more time to intervene.
Every evening, place your phone somewhere far away from your bed before you go to sleep. That way, you are less likely to check your phone for updates if you happen to wake up at night. Instead, use an actual clock or watch if you need to tell what time it is.
Get rid of features that distract you
In today’s society, social media has become an essential part of our lives. Getting rid of social media altogether is not viable, as this leaves you isolated from the rest of the community. For instance, you may need to log on to Facebook to respond to an event invitation. You may also need to register and log in using your Facebook account credentials on certain websites.
Don’t worry – you can make your digital environment less distracting by downloading a browser extension to hide the news feed. By doing so, you can continue to use Facebook without losing its other functionalities. Your teacher wants you to watch an educational video on YouTube? There’s always a plugin that hides the sidebar and related videos.
Just like you, many people around the world would love to enjoy a break from their smartphones and other gadgets. But on the other hand, the way social media integrates into our daily lives makes it difficult to do so. That’s why programmers have come up with various extensions and plugins to make social media less distractive. If you need to deactivate a particular feature in social media, you can most certainly find something useful online.
Disconnect yourself by going on a digital detox
During a digital detox, you make a conscious effort not to go online. You refrain from checking for new emails or social media updates. You take a break from everything that’s going on and on. In addition to helping you to relax your mind, a digital detox allows you to live a happier and healthier life.
The trick to getting this to work is by starting small. Leave your phone at home the next time you go for a walk or a jog. Place your mobile phone outside of your bedroom 30 minutes before you go to sleep. Turn off your phone and keep it out of sight for an hour or two during the weekend.
You can also schedule specific times of the day to put your phone away. For example, you could take a one-hour break from your mobile phone and laptop at 5 pm every evening. Once you are comfortable with not having your device next to you all the time, try for a 24-hour block.
If you’re always checking your phone during the morning bus commute, consider switching to another mode of transport which keeps your hands occupied. One way to do this is to cycle to school (which can be counted towards your daily exercise goals). Alternatively, travel to school with a friend so that both of you can have a “real” face-to-face conversation.
Engage yourself deeply in social activities
When having dinner with your family or friends, keep your phone away in your bag instead of placing it on the table. You can have a more engaging conversation with one another without worrying too much about the phone vibrating. Treasure the moments which you all are spending together at the dining table.
Parents who stay away from social media during mealtime are setting a good example for their children to behave likewise. As a student, you can also connect better with your family and give everyone a listening ear. After all, you wouldn’t want to come across as rude by checking your phone during a conversation.
Participating in other activities such as sports or community work can also steer you away from spending too much time on social media. When you start to fill your schedule, there is hardly any time left for you to go online. The only exception is that you are a professional gamer.
During other times of the day, occupy yourself with meaningful activities outside of the virtual world. For example, carry a book around with you so that you can read while on the go. We still prefer to hold on to a physical copy of a book, to avoid any potential online distractions. If you’re waiting for someone to arrive, why not explore the surrounding area a little? Chances are that you will discover more interesting things in the real world.
Technology helps us to be more productive, but at the same time it may also reduce our productivity. Similarly, social media can affect our quality of life either positively or negatively. We must be self-disciplined and determined to prevent social media from taking up too much of our time. With these ways to cut down the time spent on social media, you can have more time for yourself and the people around you.
How much time should you spend on social media every day? We suggest completely staying away from social media on weekdays. But if that’s not too realistic, you can keep your social media time to less than 15 minutes a day. For weekends, a longer duration of 20 to 30 minutes seems to be fair.
Are we really using too much social media? Here are some figures reported in a 2017 study conducted by Ernst & Young:
- Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 were spending an average of 3 hours 12 minutes on their mobile phones every day. That’s nearly one full day in a week!
- 78% of the respondents check their mobile phones or tablets when they wake up in the morning.
- 71% of the survey respondents indicated that they engage in social media activities at least once a day.