Fair warning that I this is started as a totally off the cuff reaction piece, spurned by an unnecessarily rude ultimatum by an unnamed influencer to go hop into the comments section of a problematic @betches instagram post instead of discussing the topic amongst ourselves. *insert eye roll emoji here*
I get nothing from fighting with people on social media.
I gain nothing, learn nothing from the comment threads full of ignorance and hatred.
Retweets and call-out posts add absolutely nothing to our dialogue and I have not learned anything or taught anyone by participating in this kind of social media activity.
What I do learn from is following really smart writers on Twitter who temper their trolls with insightful commentary and conversations.
I also learn from following feminist sex educators and zero waste nonprofits and sustainable farms on Instagram.
Following artists and curators of niche interests (like tarot, old houses, southern kitsch) makes me happy and entertains me.
I’m not saying that it’s all bad. It’s not.
But the militant prescriptivism on how to post, what to post, how to and when to engage with trolls or people who think differently that you? It’s not serving me. (It’s probably not serving you either.)
Yet, I’m on social media for hours every day. Last time I was tracking my screen time on my phone, I was spending between 3-4 hours on my phone every day. That doesn’t even include any time I spent on the computer.
I want that time back. I want that mental space and that sense of calm boredom back.
The Social Struggle
I honestly, truly, don’t want to give up social media altogether. I don’t think it’s the root of all success or all evil. I also know it’s not feasible when I’m trying to run my own business.
But lately, my frustration outweighs my enjoyment.
More than anything, I wish we could all get a blank slate. If there was a way to just go back to the beginning, without the algorithms and the updates to everything, I’d be happy to continue sharing and enjoying the content I want to see.
Of course, that’s not really something that’s feasible. Even if we all started fresh accounts, we’d get bombarded with suggested posts and the algorithm would learn about us quickly.
For those who still bemoan the advertising takeover of our beloved internet hidey holes (RIP tumblr, specifically), I hate to break it to y’all but–at the end of the day–these are companies. Users are only worth what advertisers will pay for our attention.
I(’m not going to get into the business side of this debate on this blog, but I have thoughts on that too.)
At this point, I know it’s up to me to game the system for myself. Despite the fact that social media is designed to be hypnotic and a veritable rabbit hole of endless distractions, I’ve gotta snap myself out of it.
Fight Bad Habits with Good Habits
That’s my plan. Here’s the list I’ve got so far:
Tracking screen time.
I’ve downloaded Moment on my phone. They estimate that the average user spends three hours, forty two minutes on their phone every day. Yikes.
Not all of my phone time is spent on social media. I have many people I love that I text constantly (or send memes to on Instagram, which is the modern sixth love language), most of which don’t live in Tallahassee and therefore can’t be subbed out with IRL quality time.
But if I’m honest, most of that time is spent scrolling through the explore tab on Instagram, or watching stories of people that I really just don’t care about or don’t need to keep up with.
Last time I used this app, I cut my phone time down by over an hour each day. I’ll probably spring for the Premium version soon too, so that I can have more options for managing my screen time.
Unfollow without fear.
I’ve been starting to unfollow people when I notice I’m blocking or hiding or scrolling past their posts. A lot of fitness people, many brands and shops, some of those “who even are you?” personal accounts that are just utterly baffling.
Here’s the thing: my need for more mental space and less digital clutter is not less important than someone’s Instagram engagement stats.
Even though I forget all the time (especially with my over-active people pleasing tendencies), we do not owe a single person a follow, like, share, comment, view. Whatever. We truly do not.
I would hope that people aren’t following me that are bored or annoyed with the things that I post.
If you think about it like a social gathering, do you really want to show up to a party when you don’t like anyone who’s attending? Do you want to go to a gym or an art gallery opening if either of those things makes your cringe just thinking about it?
Then get those people out of your digital circles and move on with your life.
Carve out distraction free times.
This is specific to my needs as an entrepreneur working from home, but I have to block out work hours and keep my phone off and away to get anything meaningful done.
I also use the Self Control app for my Mac to block tempting websites. Usually set the time for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.
This is a pretty serious no brainer for most people, but when there is no one to watch over your shoulder or spy on your internet history, it can be all too easy to just zone out on Twitter for a couple of hours every day.
Do literally anything else.
I feel like this one should not be the hardest one to conquer, but it really is.
When I’m laying in bed or waiting in line or anything that would otherwise be a white space, if it weren’t for social media, I’ve got my phone up and in my face.
This is particularly an issue when going to bed and waking up for me.
I will mindlessly scroll for an hour before falling asleep and as soon as I wake up, knowing that nothing I’m seeing is really adding to my life and especially not to those otherwise precious moments before or after sleep.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with sketching and coloring in bed while I watch shows.
As much as I want to lay down and read at night, I’m much more inclined to give myself something totally mindless and relaxing before cracking open a book I want to pay attention to.
That being said, reading instead of being on my phone at the bar or restaurants when I’m alone is something I genuinely love and am happy to practice on the regular now.
All and all, the point I’m trying to make for myself here is that I have the power to make myself less miserable when it comes to social media. I can opt out of the constant outrage, consumerism and comparison. But I have to do it myself, because it is all designed for the opposite purpose.
Do you have any tips for minimizing your screen time or tackling some of the social media ennui I assume we are all feeling? Lemme know, I could serious use the advice.