Modern life has become consumed by social media and other online activities. How much time do you spend on your phone or in front of other screens? Do you know? Are you worried about it?
consumed by: completely absorbed in or controlled by something
Generally, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know whether or not we are spending too much time online.
We don’t always want to admit how much time we waste online. However, if your screen time is higher than you’d like to admit, why not take a crack at reducing it? It’s time to get out of your own way and start taking back your time.
to get out of one’s own way: to stop letting your habits, behaviors, feelings or beliefs limit your success
In my second betterment letter, I asked, “What is one aspect of your daily routine that is standing in your way?” In this post, I’ll talk about my own answer and my plan to change a time-consuming habit.
If you’ve read my post on habits, you know that I keep my phone in a completely separate room from where I sleep. It’s also true that I begin each day with about 10 minutes of meditation and 20 minutes of yoga. However, there is another truth that I haven’t told you. After getting out of bed and brushing my teeth and before getting on my yoga mat, I cycle through a variety of apps on my phone.
More often than not, this consumes nearly an hour of my morning. Unfortunately, that is just the beginning. With anywhere from 38 to 68 pickups a day and a few hours each evening scrolling through social media, my daily average screen time on my iPod alone is between 3 and 4 hours per day. Lately, I’ve had a weekly average of nearly 30 hours! That’s practically a full time job!
UPDATE (May 14, 2021): Last week I was down to just under 19 hours, my lowest week since I’ve been keeping track. Of course, that still included nearly 6 hours on Twitter, but I have had days recently where my daily Twitter use was only 6 minutes. Another change is that I rarely pick up my device for more than a few minutes before getting on my yoga mat. Pickups are way down. Last week my average was only 9 per day, which was down 75% from the week before.
UPDATE (Sept. 3, 2021): My time on social media is continuing to drop. Last week I was down to 15 hours and 27 minutes. Nearly 4 hours of this was spent reading books. Twitter use was only 17 minutes for the entire week. After watching The Social Dilemma, I’m feeling even better about disconnecting from social media.
to keep track: to be aware of how something is changing or what someone is doing and have the newest and most accurate information
Social Media Value
Technology is both a blessing and a curse. It has both advantages and disadvantages. It helps us keep in touch with family and friends across the miles, but it can also cause us to ignore those who are in the same room with us.
a blessing and a curse: something that seems beneficial at first but also has negative aspects
“Every time you check your phone in company, what you gain is a hit of stimulation, a neurochemical shot, and what you lose is what a friend, teacher, parent, lover, or co-worker just said, meant, felt.”
― Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
Before moving overseas in 2010, I didn’t really have much of a use for social media or technology in general. This was right around the time that cell phone technology really started taking off.
to take off: to become successful or popular quickly or suddenly
Living thousands of kilometers from home, Facebook became an easy and convenient way to keep in touch with friends and family and share pictures of my new adventures. For many years, that was my main use of technology. I also loved playing Words with Friends (still do!). It felt good to maintain connections with people from so far away. Having a pocket-sized device with 24/7 Internet access was something that added value to my life. Now, when I return home to visit family, I find myself competing for their attention. It’s sad.
Social Media Drawback
Much time has passed since the days when Facebook was a positive factor in people’s lives. It has since become a negative for many due to political tensions, among other things. In 2018, I had had enough of social media and wasting hours of my time on Facebook and playing online games.
to have had enough: to be unhappy with a situation and want it to stop
I wanted to do something better with my time. I decided to begin this website. Without any background in creating or running a website, I went for it.
to go for something: to make great effort to achieve something
I’m happy to say that I successfully diverted a great deal of time to something that was more meaningful than the time I spent scrolling through Facebook or playing Candy Crush. However, the social media rabbit hole was one that I would once again fall into.
rabbit hole: a metaphor from Alice and Wonderland that is often used to refer to the way we surf the Internet and get consumed with the journey from one place to another without being able to easily disengage from it
I discovered Twitter and justified the time I spent there as a way to share my website. I now have 4 Twitter accounts. Things have gotten out of control.
According to a 2020 article by Entrepreneur, “Millennials were found to spend the majority of their time on their mobile devices, an average of 3.7 hours per day. Generation X reports 3 hours of daily use and boomers 2.5 hours per day.”
In reality, the amount of traffic I have received to my website from social media over the past 2 years is a mere 2.1%. The majority of my web traffic during that time comes from organic searches (83.9%). If I look at the past month, social media drops to 1.6% and organic rises to 90.9%. Despite knowing this, I continue to struggle to decrease my time on Twitter. Why? The answer is obvious, isn’t it?
Designed to be Addictive
Apps like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the games we play online are designed to be addictive. The variable rewards we receive via likes, comments, and retweets keep us in a dopamine-driven feedback loop.
Despite the frequent dopamine hits keeping us glued to our devices, hours and hours of screen time has many damaging effects. We are losing our ability to focus and decreasing our attention span. Children are becoming less empathetic and many millennials have difficulty carrying on a face-to-face conversation because their primary method of communicate is text messaging.
According to UNICEF, “Research has shown that screen time inhibits young children’s ability to read faces and learn social skills, two key factors needed to develop empathy.” In addition, we compare our lives to those presented on social media and find ourselves coming up short. The lines of reality begin to blur online.
to come up short: to fail to achieve something, to be insufficient
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Related article: Learn English From The News: Social Media And Depression
Take Back Your Time
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”
~ John C. Maxwell
So, what can you do if you want to take back your time? There are plenty of articles written on this, so I’ll just briefly list the first five things that come to mind. Each are things that have worked for me.
- During the day, socially distance from your cell phone and other devices. Put them out of arm’s reach or inside a drawer or cabinet.
- Give yourself a better chance of a good night’s sleep by removing devices from the bedroom.
- Turn off notifications for apps so that they are not drawing your attention.
- Remove apps from your phone and only access sites like Facebook and Twitter from your computer.
- Do a digital detox or fast. Learn how and get tips here: What Is a Digital Detox? by Verywell Mind
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More books can be found here: digital detox. I’ve read the ones by Cal Newport and James Clear and really liked them both, but I’m really interested in reading a lot of the others. What about you? Have you ever done a digital detox? If so, how was it? If not, would you like to try? Let me know in a comment below.
a blessing and a curse. (n.d.). Phrases.com. Retrieved March 1, 2021, from https://www.phrases.com/phrase/a-blessing-and-a-curse_19435.
Babies need humans, not screens. (n.d.). UNICEF Parenting. https://www.unicef.org/parenting/child-development/babies-screen-time
Entrepreneur En Español. (2020, November 24). You Will Spend 76,500 Hours, or Almost 9 Years of Your Life, Using Your Mobile Device. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/360320