Written by Yasmin Singh
Illustration by Jeremy Nguyen
Sort your social media use before it becomes social media overuse.
Social media is designed to keep us scrolling so, beating yourself up over spending three hours down the rabbit hole of your explore page probably isn’t going to make you feel any better. If you break it down first, you might be able to pinpoint the moment where the line is crossed in social media being a time sponge rather than a source for healthy gratification and enjoyment.
Because, let’s face it, social media is fun and you’re only human so, naturally, overindulging in the comments section of your ex’s aunt’s rant about single-use plastic is a great way to avoid doing quite simply anything else that could have been a priority. Distinguishing habits from active self-instruction is a good place to start if you’re looking to spend more time in the real world.
Habits are automatic actions stimulated by your prefrontal cortex in order to process information to avoid being overwhelmed. Basically, your brain created a shortcut to something that produces a reward or stimulation. Active self-instruction is when you consciously take action on something routinely and is controlled by your medial temporal lobe and basal ganglia. The connection between the two processes is that they both connect to your dopamine neurotransmitter. So, again (you’re human), of course you refreshed your homepage six times in the last half hour.
Knowing if you’ve created habits with your social media will help you figure out how to pull back. Generally, habits are prompted by certain things, for example, when your alarm goes off in the morning, you might instantly open up Instagram without even thinking of it. Noticing how different things in your day prompt you to use social media could be key.
Here are some tactics that may be useful in keeping your hands free
De-clutter what pages you follow. Be selective, follow pages and people that prompt positive emotions. Comparison is the death of individuality.
Delete the app for a week. Maybe an offline cleanse is what you need to reset.
Review your phone usage and set a time limit. Your phone will tell you what apps your using the most. They know everything.
Get an alarm clock. If your phone isn’t the first thing you pick up in the morning you might have a better chance at not spending 20 minutes flicking between apps before you start you day in the real world.
Be present when with friends. Dump your phone in the bottom of your bag. Real life conversations are more interesting than your DMs.