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Many Most of us spend a lot of time online, on our computers, on our phones, on social media.
Especially now in quarantine.
However, if we’re still working from home, we want to avoid distraction and be productive with our work.
Even if we’re not working, maybe we want to be doing more useful or memorable things with our time.
No one on their deathbed will wish they spent more time scrolling through Instagram.
No one schedules time for social media unless you’re a marketer or influencer.
“Hey hunny, I can’t watch that movie with you tonight. I have to spend some time on Facebook.”
When someone asks, “What do you like to do for fun? What are your hobbies?” no one is going to say, “Oh, I love scrolling through Twitter!”
Now, I’m by no means a luddite. In fact, I love technology. I love anything that makes life easier and I love the potential of technology.
Technology is definitely creating way more good than harm.
If it wasn’t for technology, you wouldn’t be reading this – whether it be on your computer, phone, or tablet!
For every negative aspect of technology, there are two or more benefits to it.
It’s not ruining a generation and it’s not weakening society.
But I (and many other important and intelligent people) believe that we should be cautious and aware of the technology in our lives, especially newer technology.
We also want to be in control of our technology rather than our technology controlling us and our lives.
Here are some reasons why.
Reasons Why We Should Be More Proactive in Our Technology and Social Media Use
These reasons are grouping technology use together, but mainly focusing on social media and other forms of media consumption.
Technology is neither good nor bad. It is neutral. Technology only provides tools. The problems lie in how they are meant to be used and how we use them.
Reason 1: Social media can be a form of low quality and low effort communication.
“Likes” mean absolutely nothing. It doesn’t mean someone is your friend, let alone likes you. It doesn’t mean he’s interested. (He can’t even text or call you.)
All it often requires is just a tap of a finger.
Consuming social media is very passive.
Reason 2: Phone use and social media can be damaging to relationships.
This is not only true for romantic relationships but with friends, family and general socializing with others.
We’ve all experienced this in one form or another. Being ignored to a device.
There’s a word for it too. It’s called phubbing.
I’ve been a victim of this. And I’ve been a guilty perpetrator of it.
Many time the person doing the snubbing is not even aware of what they are doing or how hurtful and damaging it is to the other person.
Reason 3: Social media is highly addictive.
Not only social media, but other apps and games on your phone are created to be addicting.
Keep in mind that for these apps and websites, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been invested on countless amount of research on what keeps us addicted.
This addiction is what creates most of the problems with social media and technology mentioned here.
I believe that social media has a lot of wasted potential. And that there still can be a lot of value in social media depending on where you look and how you use it. This is why I still choose to have and use social media.
The problem is that social media is so addicting that we lose control of it. We begin to give all our time, attention and energy to it and use it in ways that don’t bring much added value to our lives.
These social medias are so addicting that their own creators don’t believe in using them, especially their own children.
Check out these headlines:
This very telling.
Reason 4: Social media brings little value to our lives.
The consumption of it has high opportunity cost and low ROI. This means there are likely better things you are exchanging for your time and the time and energy you put into consuming social media and watching tv is not likely to have high returns or rewards.
Consuming social media and watching Netflix becomes passive entertainment.
It doesn’t challenge us. We consume media and content from the people we know. This puts us in a bubble.
Our information is filtered and only coming from people we already know and agree with, rather than people who have much different views from us. This significantly limits our intake.
There is limited learning, growth and value.
A big reason why we feel the need to be on social media is FOMO aka Fear of Missing Out.
The reality is that we are not really missing out on much except for maybe what Sharon cooked for dinner.
Some may argue that they only follow inspirational stuff or they follow really smart and successful people.
You will receive a lot more value and better use of your time reading that author’s book than just viewing their tweets and Instagram quotes.
An author’s big ideas and quotes are more likely to stick with you if you understand the context and stories behind it.
A social media post is usually a writer’s best thought of the day while a book is much more valuable because it contains the author’s best thoughts and ideas of several years or even decades.
Keep in mind that it takes years, sometimes decades for most authors to write a book which would usually take you a few hours or days to read. Meanwhile, it takes just a few minutes, or at most no more than a few hours for a social media post.
Reason 5: Social media is not a realistic view of the world.
Like I said earlier, most the people we follow or friend are not our friends.
Very rarely is social media meaningful or deep. If we’re honest, we mostly use social media to show off.
And it’s usually not our character and intellect, but our faces, our bodies, how attractive we are, how rich we are, how popular we are, how cool we are, how great our lives are.
I’m not pointing any fingers. I am aware that I am guilty of this as well.
I do believe that we should share more about our lives and the marks of a civilized society is more openness. This is what comes with freedom.
The problem is that there is little vulnerable, little truth, little rawness and more censorship, more conformity, more pretending.
Our view of other people and their lives is heavily filtered, pun intended.
This creates depression when we start to compare ourselves as well with unrealistic expectations for how we and our lives should look.
At best, it’s unhealthy and makes us feel like we are not enough or not doing enough. At worst, we fall into a cycle of trying to keep up appearances.
I will never forget about the woman who came into the gym of my apartment dressed up in gym clothes, took a picture of herself in front of the mirror and left.
Reason 6: There’s a lot of junk and fake news.
Technology and the internet creates a wealth of information at our hands. The problem is that there is even more misinformation.
Some believe that the internet is making us dumber instead of smarter.
Not all media and knowledge is equal.
Not only is there a lot of superficial, little value information, but there is a high degree of unverified and unsourced information. In other words, there’s a lot of fake news and baseless yet harmless theories. Facebook is notorious for this.
Many people now get their news from social media which is often not verified or fact-checked aka fake news.
Headlines and article previews also cause people to think they know more than they actually do and form opinions without fact-checking or actually delving into the subject at hand and gaining a deeper understanding of the knowledge.
This can often to lead to overconfidence in thinking that we know more than we actually do because of surface level information shared on social media.
Studies show that people who get their political information and news from Facebook’s News Feed show an overconfidence in their knowledge.
Reason 7: We are not present in the moment.
The average American adult will spend almost 3 hours a day looking at their phone.
Each week, this adds up to an entire day looking at a smartphone.
Out of the year, this makes up 45 days of phone use.
About 13% of your life is spent looking at your phone.
What could you be doing with that 13% of your life instead?
When we are not present, we miss out on the little things. We miss out on connections when we are so consumed and glued to a screen in our hands.
We miss out on more meaningful moments that bring us happiness, mental health and strengthen our relationships with others.
We also forget to spend time with ourselves. We are thinking, reflecting and meditating less.
Reason 8: It focuses on what’s popular and recent rather than what’s important.
Social media is sorted by what’s new and recent – what’s been created in the last 24 hours.
The timeless and most valuable content of all time is harder to access because of this.
You are not likely to find the secrets of the universe or the meaning of life on Instagram or Facebook or even on the first page of Google.
Infinite scrolling keeps us passively and endlessly consuming more and more rather than taking time for more reflection, applying the knowledge and action-taking.
The like button sorts content by popularity which keeps us from rare knowledge, ideas and skills.
A lot of social media is not solution oriented. We don’t often go to Instagram or Facebook to learn a new skill or solve a problem.
If you found something valuable for the future on Instagram or Facebook and you don’t save it and remember the source, good luck trying to find it again.
Reason 9: It’s incredibly distracting.
43% of millennials check their phone at least every 20 minutes.
60% think they touch their phone 100 times or less per day. The fact is a typical user taps, touches or swipes their phone 2,617 times per day.
When our attention breaks, it takes much more mental energy and time to refocus than we think. And this adds up.
Social media and many forms of technology often keep us from being productive or engaging with things and people that matter more to us.
Social media and technology is not only made to be addictive. It’s meant to get our attention in the first place.
This is why we are tempted not only to keep scrolling, but to go to the website or app in the first place!
Many of us wake up and the first thing we do is go on our phones and check social media, our email, the news. We stay in bed practically doing nothing useful and hours roll by and we haven’t even gotten out of bed. This is not a great way to start the day.
There are constant demands for our attention not only from apps but from people as well from all different platforms and mediums.
We are expected to have our phones on us at all times and respond back to people quickly otherwise people assume that we are ignoring them.
This can get exhausting.
Reason 10: Social media and technology disrupts our sleep.
Many of us also spend our last waking minutes or even hours on social media or even watching Netflix.
This is terrible for our sleeping habits.
Not only does it makes us harder to fall asleep, but it causes poor and disrupted sleep.
For better sleep, experts suggest that screens should be avoided an hour before bed.
Possible Reason: Social media may affect mental health
There are studies that link social media use with depression, anxiety, and loneliness. However, I am skeptical of this research because correlation does not equal causation.
It may be that these things cause social media use rather than the other way around.
It could be that social media is used as a coping mechanism for depression, anxiety and loneliness.
The truth is because this is not been ruled out so I will still leave it at this as a possible reason.
We don’t know many of the long term effects of technology and social media.
And realistically, too much of anything can’t be good for you.
Many of us occasionally or socially drink alcohol. We know, however, that it’s not necessarily good or healthy for us so we limit our use.
The point is not to completely eliminate technology (or even social media) from our lives, but to limit our use and be proactive and intentional with it.
Decide How You Will Use Your Technology
Before we get into the systems, you have to determine which systems you will use and how. For this, you want to ask yourself a few questions.
- Why are using a certain platform?
- Is it because everyone else is on it? Is it because you get a lot of excitement out of it? Do you use it to pass time out of boredom? Do you feel like you would experience FOMO without it?
- Do you use it as a distraction? Out of anxiety, likely social anxiety? Do you use it to unintentionally procrastinate – when you should be doing something else?
- What triggers your use? How do you feel before getting on it? Bored? Lonely? Lazy? Tired?
- What are you getting out of it?
- Do you feel the need to prove something?
- How much time are you spending on it? Are you going to wish that you had spent more time or less time?
- Do you know about the CEO’s or the executives’ intentions behind the platform?
- How do you feel about it?
- What could you be using that time towards instead? Reading books? Writing? Spending quality time with loved ones? Staying present in the moment enjoying your surroundings?
Ask more questions about your use of technology and the technology that you are using.
How you use your technology should be something you’re regularly aware and conscious of. It should become habitual.
This is a very underrated and not talked about habit – developing a personal plan for how you will use and adopt new technologies.
How to Be More Proactive in Your Technology and Social Media Use
Let People Know
One of the possible obstacles to limiting your screen time is that people may get upset with you for taking too long to respond to their DMs.
It’s okay. Just let them know that you’re limiting your screen time. People will learn to respect your technological boundaries.
Saying no and enforcing your boundaries will free up a lot of your time reduce stress to constant and urgent but unimportant demands.
Spend specific time without your phone
When I go outside or go on walks, I often don’t take my phone. If I do, I use it to listen to a podcast, but I don’t touch it.
When I go for a quick food run, I sometimes don’t take my phone with me. I have my id and wallet. It allows me an escape to be more present in the moment.
I don’t (or at least try not to) check my phone when I watch movies or read books or on dates (very rarely – once or twice).
Learn to spend time alone with your thoughts. To take time for reflection or meditation. This is becoming more and more rare.
Keep your phone less accessible
If you don’t need your phone for work, turn on Do Not Disturb or Airplane Mode to keep distractions to a minimum.
Better yet, put your phone in another room while you’re working. Studies shows that even being in the same room as our phone reduces productivity even if it’s off.
Don’t take your phone everywhere with you. When I’m at home, I don’t keep my phone on me.
Avoid sleeping with your phone. Put it across the room from you to aid you in waking up when your alarm goes off. Or turn off your phone at night and invest in a good old-fashioned alarm clock.
Avoid using your phone around others
Like I mentioned earlier, I avoid my phone during social activities. This keeps me engaged with others and it’s way more fun than being glued to a screen.
Despite our temptations and habits, people are far more interesting and fun than most social media posts.
Remember, phubbing is damaging to relationships and you miss out on opportunities around you to connect if you’re glued to your phone and not paying attention.
This not only keeps me present in what I am doing or who I am with, but it helps increase the skill of focus and concentration. A skill which is becoming more rare these days.
I am able to immerse myself in what I am watching, reading or the conversation at hand. Life becomes more exciting, enjoyable and reflective this way.
Schedule time for social media
This may seem counterintuitive. But if you actual schedule when you allow yourself to use social media, it becomes intentional. You also don’t use it when you know you shouldn’t use it.
What this does is it creates constraints on your screen time every day. My rule is to not check social media or respond to casual texts and emails before 2pm, sometimes 12pm.
Read a book instead
Instead of carrying my phone with me, I’ve been replacing my phone with a book.
This not only causes you to read more, but you’re more likely to seem smart and interesting to those around you.
It’s a definite conversation starter and you’re likely to find and get the attention of people with similar interests.
Instead of going on your phone, read a book, listen to a podcast or an audiobook during these times:
- Waiting rooms
- Restroom use
- On flights
- In lines
- Before boarding
Physically carrying a book in your hand at all times makes these things easier and over time, habitual and instinctual.
Switch to a more useful app like Kindle
If you find yourself picking up your phone and tempted to check social media or play a game, redirect that urge to the Kindle app and read instead.
This is a great and useful way to break that habit because it replaces that habit with a better one.
Avoid checking social media, email or even just using your phone or computer right before bed or right after waking up.
This is why I find the Do Not Disturb Automation incredibly useful. It prevents me from checking my phone in the morning or in the evening if airplane mode is turned on and I have to physically turn it off to use my phone.
This will help you sleep better and it will help you start the day better and more productive (or snuggling for a bit with your SO – in the evening or morning).
Use a notebook
If you’re like me and have thoughts and ideas that you’d like to take note of, add to a to-do list or look up, write it down. This is especially useful if you’re working on an important task at hand and don’t want to go down a rabbit hole on the internet because of a random thought or if
My brain doesn’t always shut off at night even if my phone is so this is helpful in reminding me of important things without using my phone or having the urge to.
Technological Systems to Control and Limit Your Technology Use
Systems always win. Willpower can only take you so far. And not that far, if that.
Note: Most of the technological smartphone systems are for iPhones since I am an iPhone user. If you’re an android user, you can skip the smartphone systems to the other systems.
Consider deleting your social media.
You don’t have to delete your accounts or everything altogether. Maybe you could just delete the Facebook or Instagram app
I recently learned for my mom’s sake that you could delete the Facebook app without deleting Messenger.
For most of us, social media doesn’t do much to help us reach our goals. Even non-influencer bloggers know that social media and followers is not that important.
Organize your apps on your phone so that they are less accessible.
Instead of having your social media apps on the home page, put them into a folder so that it takes more work to access them. This extra step will cause you to be more likely to second-guess when you are tempted to use your social media apps.
As you can see, most of my social media apps are in a folder. I only have Snapchat on the home page because I sometimes prefer it for taking quick videos.
Change and limit your notifications
Turning off notifications is useful if you still find use in the app, but you don’t want to use it unless you intend it.
Go through your Notifications from Settings and turn off notifications for certain apps that break your attention and cause you to check your phone.
Some notifications are really not worth your attention. And some notifications only tempt you to do things you wouldn’t normally do like shop when there’s a sale.
I recommend turning off notifications for apps such as Facebook, Groupon and food/restaurant apps.
Badges are those annoying red stickers on your app icons that call your attention to open the app for usually pointless notifications.
You can find these in Notifications from Settings on iPhone.
Eliminating badges was probably one of the best decisions I made for digital minimalism.
My home screen looks much more cleaner and I only notice the notifications I don’t want to miss or forget about such as text messages and phone calls.
I have badges turned off for nearly every app including social media, except for Messages and Phone and a few apps that are important for my work and productivity like Reminders.
Limit screen time – App Limits
You can create time limits for certain apps a day.
On iPhone, from Settings head to Screen Time and then App Limits.
There you can toggle on App Limits and set a time limit for specific apps you choose.
I set a 30 minute time limit a day for social media apps including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, Snapchat, Reddit, and more.
If I spend 30 minutes in a day on just one app, it locks me out of all the apps I have limited.
I have experimented with 1 hour and 10 minutes. I find 30 minutes to be the happy medium.
You can have different app limits set for different certain days also.
Experiment and find out what works best for you.
You also have the option to set limits for different apps or types of apps.
Limit screen time – Downtime
Downtime allows you to set a limit on specific times of day when all apps are limited (you can set certain apps to be allowed at all times in the Always Allowed settings).
From Settings, go to Screen Time, then click on Downtime.
This is useful if you want to limit your screen time after a certain time of day in the evening or before a certain time of day in the morning.
You could also use this for certain times of day when you are working, writing, or spending time with your kids or whatever it may be.
Use Screen Time Passcode
To add an extra measure in avoiding temptations to bypass app limits, you can add a passcode.
From the Screen Time setting, simply click on Use Screen Time Passcode and set a password.
I suggest setting a random password that you’re likely to forget or closing your eyes while setting it. Or having someone you trust set the password for you.
With this setting on, you will be asked to put in the password in order to bypass app limits.
Do Not Disturb schedule
Do Not Disturb silences calls and notifications and hides notifications from your Notification Center.
You can set a schedule for Do Not Disturb from Settings.
From Settings, go to Do Not Disturb.
Choose what times you’d like to not receive notifications.
For a significant other or emergency contacts and that friend who can call you to talk at 4am, you can these contacts to override Do Not Disturb.
You can allow phone calls from Favorites contacts.
For text messages, you can also turn on Emergency Bypass.
You can do this by going to the selected contact(s) each, clicking Edit on the top right. Then, clicking on Text Tone, you can toggle on Emergency Bypass.
You can also do this for calls by clicking Ringtone and doing the same.
Do Not Disturb automation
This will automatically turn on Airplane Mode and turns off Wi-Fi when your scheduled Do Not Disturb is
This is a bit more advanced, but it’s very useful in preventing screen time at certain hours.
- Go to the Shortcuts app and select Automations at the bottom.
- Click on the blue plus button in the top right corner.
- Select Create Personal Automation.
- Scroll down and select Do Not Disturb.
- Is Turned On should be selected.
- Click Next. Click on Add Action. Search Airplane mode. Click on Set Airplane Mode.
- It should be added to your automation. Click on the blue plus button underneath. Search WiFi. Click on Set Wi-Fi.
- The setting will be set to On. Click on On to set it to Off. Click Next.
- If you want this done automatically, toggle off Ask Before Running. Then click Done.
Note: All of the following systems are useful for non-iPhone users.
Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator
This is for the Facebook website on Chrome. If you still use Facebook for things other than the timeline such as Facebook groups or you manage business pages, this is a helpful tool.
What this does is it replaces your Facebook timeline with a quote of the day. You can download it here.
Your Time on Facebook settings
Daily time reminder
You can set up a time limit for Facebook through the app. I’m not sure if this is just for the Facebook app or for the website also.
On the Facebook app, click on the hamburger menu at the bottom right. Scroll down and click on Your Time on Facebook.
Click on Set Daily Time Reminder to set a daily time limit.
Facebook Notification Settings
I have Facebook notifications turned off for email, SMS and push. I still do have some notifications on for when I do go on the app or website so it’s important to go through whether you have notifications on your phone on or off.
You can also decide what notifications go to email and SMS text as well.
I have these turned off because an email or text for every Facebook notification is absurd.
Your Activity Instagram settings
From your home profile page, click on the hamburger menu at the top right corner. Click on Your Activity. Then click on Set Daily Reminder.
There you can set a time limit for how long you’d like to spend on the app each day.
This is really important to go through if you’d like to still keep on Instagram notifications for more important ones likes DMs, but you’d like to turn off other less important ones.
From Your Activity, click on Notifications.
Go through and turn off notifications you wouldn’t like to receive.
You’d be surprised how many notifications Instagram can send you!
Personally, I have everything turned off except some comments and DMs. Yes, even likes.
You may be tempted to keep them on, but that’s only because your brain likes them since you get a boost of dopamine every time you a like pops up. However, like I said earlier for Reason 1, they mostly mean nothing and it’s a waste of your time and attention.
Clean up your feeds
If you do choose to still keep in touch with certain people on social media, take the time to filter out your feed.
For Facebook, unfriend people you don’t know very well or don’t care to keep up with. Unfollow people you still want to keep the appearance of Facebook friends with but don’t want to see their posts.
For Instagram, unfollow people and accounts that don’t bring value to your life.
Personally, I don’t usually unfollow people who are following me or who I know personally. It avoids unnecessary drama, awkwardness, tension and hurt feelings. So what I like to do is Mute people so I don’t have to see their posts or see their stories pop up.
What you do is go to the account that you’d like to stop seeing the posts or stories pop up on your feed. Then click on Following, click on Mute, then select if Posts, Stories, or both.
Do the same thing in unfollowing for other apps you may use like Twitter, Tumblr or Reddit.
RescueTime is a great program to keep track of your time being spent online.
You can set goals for how much time you’d like to spend on certain things such as Business, Learning, or Writing. And you can set goals for how little time you’d like to spend on things such as Entertainment.
And it’s completely free! You can check it out here.
Technology is not something that is going away. And it’s only going to get more advanced. This is why it’s so important to be aware and intentional with our relationship to technology.
Remember you can always bypass the systems. It’s important to having a strong why for your time and to prioritize your values, goals and what’s important to you.
Time is our most precious commodity. It’s something that can never, ever get back – unlike money and most other things.
Take back control of your time. Remember ultimately you choose how you use and spend your time with technology.
How will you use it? What fire will you fuel? What person are you becoming?
“It’s not that life is short. It’s that we waste a lot of it.” – Seneca