When I asked on my Instagram what being offline feels like to you, the responses were pretty intense: “liberated”, “grounded”, “productive”, “like I’m holding a secret”. There was one word that came up again and again, though: “free.” I say intense because it seems that being offline seems to feel SO GOOD for SO MANY of you. Armed with this information, added to the multiple studies signposting the links between prolonged usage of social network sites and depression and changes in self esteem, I felt drawn to write a little more on this subject.
As someone for whom social media has always been not just a source of entertainment, inspiration and information but also a workplace (before blogging, I worked for YouTube for 8 years), I’ve had to learn – sometimes, the hard way – how to control it, and not let it control me. What follows is not a tirade against social media, it’s just some practices I’ve taught myself over the years to help me tame the wild beast that is social media.
1.Set a Daily Limit Reminder
This one is a *game changer*. Hit the three horizontal lines in the top right hand corner of your Instagram page, then find ‘Your Activity’. Scroll down to ‘Manage your time and click on ‘Set Daily Reminder.’ Choose how long you want to spend on Instagram each day and you’ll receive a notification when that time is reached. I have mine set to 30 minutes, which acts as a warning to me to ramp down usage – I aim to be on Instagram between 30 mins – 1 hour each day.
I have mine set to 30 minutes, which acts as a warning to me to ramp down usage – I aim to be on Instagram between 30 mins – 1 hour each day.
2.Say Hello, Don’t Scroll
This one’s crucial for me. I deliberately avoid scrolling which can feel mindless and end up consuming a tonne of time – ever gone down an Instagram hole and come out again, only to realise you’ve lost an hour of your life (to everyone else’s)? Yup, me too. These days I’ll scroll slowly through a few posts, and properly engage- usually by leaving a comment. Sure, I see far less content but what I do see, I feel like I engage fully with.
3.Unfollow Any Triggers
This one’s nothing new but it’s more important than ever. If someone else’s content triggers or has started to disinterest you, just quietly unfollow them (I once had someone leave a comment that they’re unfollowing me to which one of my followers replied: “This isn’t a dinner party, you don’t need to announce you’re leaving.”) We all have our triggers, so leave the party when you’re no longer having fun, for everyones’ sake.
We all have our triggers, so leave the party when you’re no longer having fun, for everyones’ sake.
4.Let Go of the Likes, F*ck the Follower Numbers and Focus on the Positives. Really
This one’s hard, real hard – not least because my salary directly correlates to the number of followers I have. When we receive likes and gain new followers, a mini dopamine hit rushes through our body. Social media platforms thrive on the human instinct of gratification and validation. But it’s all instant, and how much of it is real, profound, connection? I rarely check my numbers – it can be a real head f*ck! – and instead focus on those lovely followers that I do have.
There is so much noise on social media – unplugging from it all is CRUCIAL. Like, crucial. So every evening at 6pm (unless I have an urgent piece of work to attend to), I slide that sweet sweet iPhone button across and s w i t c h my phone off – I have an alarm set to go off at 17.50 to remind me. I feel like I shed a few pounds each time I do it, and I’m left with a phone free, social media free evening. I’ve written a few more pieces on this over here. Others switch off for the weekend, but for me I love unwinding phone free – it ensures I sleep far better too, I’m sure, before my little sleep-thief wakes me.
Every evening at 6pm (unless I have an urgent piece of work to attend to), I slide that sweet sweet iPhone button across and s w i t c h my phone off.
6.Diversify Your Platform Usage
So you want a voice online, but don’t like social media? Why not write a blog or record a podcast? There are so many ways to connect with a wider online audience these days without needing to rely on social media. This is the very reason I’m spending more time writing blog posts – I myself want to spend less time on Instagram, and I’d love to encourage you to do the same. If you want to make sure you don’t miss a thing over here, please do subscribe to my newsletter.
7.Take Breaks, Like Proper Ones
I cannot recommend real, juicy 2-3 week long breaks away from social media enough. Breaks so long you forget to look at your phone for an entire day, so long that you’re brain feels fuzz-free and your fingers forget where social media icons live on your phone homepage. It’s food for the soul, and I hope you indulge yourself from time to time.
8.Get a Watch, an Alarm Clock, a Notepad and maybe even a Landline
Ever found yourself going to check the time on your phone and slipping on to social media just to check something? I felt like all my Christmukkah’s came at once when we installed a landline at the start of the year meaning that I no longer need my phone even near me, just in case someone needs to contact me, and therefore even less temptation to pick it up and open social media. Same goes for using your phone for Notes, to tell the time or as an alarm clock – there are so many other items you can use to tear yourself away from the black brick.
9.Location, Location, Location
I have a few non- negotiables when it comes to my social media usage: no social media in bed, no social media at the dinner table and no social media in the toilet and as far as possible, not *too* much phone usage at all in front of the kids. I always make sure I’m out of bed, ideally at my desk, before I open the app. The toilet, meanwhile, is a place reserved for pees, poos and piles of books, not other peoples’ lives ya (don’t really) know, to flick through. Some places are sacred space and these are mine. What are yours?
The toilet, meanwhile, is a place reserved for pees, poos and piles of books, not other peoples’ lives ya (don’t really) know
10. Don’t Take It Too Seriously
Finally, and my favourite point of all, don’t take these freakin’ apps too seriously and do not let them or any users on them get under your skin. Tone and nuance exist uneasily in the online world which can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings. This is a space you have created, and only you can control what you post and when you post. If you’re unsure, keep those pesky thumbs still and just do nothing – at least this is my strategy lots of the time!
Which other ways do you use to control your social media usage? Let me know in the comments below.
Photography by Yasmin Anne Photo