How To Spend Less Time On Social Media

“In 2008, adults spent an average of 18 minutes on their phone a day - in 2015, they were spending 2 hours 48 minutes per day.” (Adam Alter) Sound familiar? If you’re worried about your daily phone usage, use these lessons from the experts on cutting down your screen time.

by Uptime Staff / 2021-08-10

You’ve recognised that you may be spending too much time on social media, or that you’re checking your smartphone far too regularly. But you’re stuck in the loop, and cannot break free. The effects of websites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok were not apparent in their early days, but today, we can see that our mental health isn’t the only sufferer. Primary effects continue to ignite secondary effects, which means that our overall health - physical, cognitive, and so on - suffers negatively too.

Still, let’s not forget the positive impacts of social media. While we are more connected than ever, we can pick up the phone and speak to long-lost relatives and friends in any country. This global society can promote better health and education, sharing ideas between more developed and lesser developed countries. We just want to make sure we're using it consciously and actively, rather than passively and mindlessly.

Let’s explore how to regain control of our smartphone and social media usage with these five hacks, cherry-picked from the library of hacks that can be found on Uptime. 

Irresistible - Adam Alter

On Uptime

quotation marksMost people spend between one and four hours on their phones each day—and many far longer.

It’s not just social media that draws our attention to our smartphones. Every single app has tailored notifications that leave us wanting more. Each time we check our phone, dopamine is released in our brains, giving us a sense of pleasure. The problem is, this reduces every time, leaving us hungry for more. 

This book finds that something as simple as silencing notifications can be effective. Instead, set a specific time to check your emails, messages, or even social media. Set the time you will start checking, and the time you will end checking. This way, you are in control.

If you’re ready to make the move to spend less time on social media, going cold turkey is tough, and doesn’t always work in the long term. Alter prefers to swap out checking your phone for another activity, like opening a book or magazine, or grabbing a drink.

Antisocial Media - Siva Vaidhyanathan

On Uptime

Facebook is inherently corrupt, and can’t be fixed, says Vaidhyanathan.

quotation marksThe problem with Facebook is Facebook.

Facebook is made to keep you coming back for regular semi-stimulating information. This frequent, low-level pleasure gives you little boosts, which are addictive. Before social media took over the world, we were not used to so much attention. Now, we can get it on tap, 24/7. 

Today, our privacy is depleting faster than the effects of global warming. Facebook, and other social media, have allowed government surveillance and personal humiliation - two different things - to work together to affect our lives.

Facebook’s business model is incredibly successful as well as lucrative, and as long as we recognise what the model is and how it affects us, we can prevent it from controlling us.

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now - Jaron Lanier

On Uptime

quotation marksSocial media is biased, not to the Left or the Right, but downward.

As you would expect, Lanier introduces 10 concerns about social media. He states it:

  1. Takes away your free will
  2. Contributes to the insanity of our world
  3. Turns you into a jerk
  4. Manipulates truth
  5. Is destroying the meaning of the words we use
  6. Annihilates our ability to be empathetic
  7. Makes us miserable
  8. Takes away our economic dignity
  9. Is the reason politics are divided and complex
  10. Social media hates your soul

While the book explores each of these in more detail, there are three key insights we can take from this book. First, social media uses its extraordinary power to manipulate its users. Years of developments mean that the algorithms used across the board have perfected what we are shown. The industry is also heavily invasive, and it’s this that is the problem, according to Lanier. In other words, we don’t need to rid the world of smartphones or online socialisation.

Ultimately, social media is a quest for social recognition. It’s this idea that causes us to act worse, and exhibit less empathy, when online.

How to Break Up with Your Phone - Catherine Price

On Uptime

quotation marksThe same technology that gives us freedom can also act like a leash - and the more tethered we become, the more it raises the question of who’s actually in control.

If you find yourself looking at your phone mindlessly, Price thinks it may be time for you to break up with your phone and remove yourself from this toxic relationship.

Smartphones have been intentionally designed to keep you hooked. The human need for affirmation is exploited by social media, smartphone, and app developers, and likes and ratings are key to the success. Other tricks, like autoplay on video sites such as Netflix and YouTube, are another secret tool used to keep us hooked.

On top of this, the human brain is built to respond to distractions. Responding to these distractions have a negative effect on our productivity by inhibiting the brain’s ability to form short- and long-term memories. 

If you’re not ready to break up with your phone just yet, or it doesn’t work with your lifestyle or job requirements, Price asks us to consider taking a break to reclaim our cognitive abilities. Keep a handful of useful, productive apps on your home screen, and remove time-sucking social media and game apps to make them less accessible.

Take action by setting boundaries - both with time, app accessibility, and in the physical sense, like keeping your phone out of the bedroom at night.

The Social Dilemma - Jeff Orlowski and Larissa Rhodes

On Uptime

This final hack is based on a documentary in which filmmaker Orlowski takes a critical look at the addictive and exploitative aspects of social media. 

quotation marksOur attention can be mined. We are more profitable to a corporation if we’re spending time staring at a screen, staring at an ad, than if we’re spending that time living our life in a rich way.

- Justin Rosenstein, former engineer at Google and Facebook

The business model revolves around monetising our attention by hacking our psychology and modifying our behaviour. The documentary agrees with many of the other authors mentioned in this article: we can take action by turning off phone notifications and dedicating set times to check communications.

Although we love the satisfaction and attention, our bodies are not built nor equipped to handle the stress. Ultimately, the documentary concludes that tech companies need to be regulated in line with their impact on public life: they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves.

Summary

With all of this in mind, maybe you’ve decided it’s time for you to spend less time on social media - or even to break up with your phone entirely. If we’ve left you wanting to know more, head over to Uptime to check them out in full.

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