10 Ways to Control Social Media, and Not Let It Control You (I’ve Been There, We All Have)

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.

Photo by Bruno Gomiero on Unsplash

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.

5.Switch Off
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!

Photo by Annie Spratt

Which other ways do you use to control your social media usage? Let me know in the comments below.

Emma xxx

P.S I Quit and Why I Took Some Time Out

Photography by Yasmin Anne Photo


  1. Jenn
    August 2, 2020 / 4:23 pm

    Love your thoughts as always. I go in bouts of being so good not being on Instagram in front of the kids and bouts where I feel so burnt out I just look at at a bunch to zone out. But these tips are great! Thanks for the good reminders.

    • Emma Ross
      August 3, 2020 / 1:22 pm

      yes i so hear you re zoning out – but am really seeking to try to find other forms of this that aren’t quite so dizzying! hope you’re well Jenn x

  2. Shelley
    August 1, 2020 / 7:14 pm

    Thank you! Such valuable content and very practical help in putting “it” down. I don’t think I’m on my phone much but the other day I was playing “mommy/darling” with my little girl and she promptly told me that she would be the mum…but she needed a phone! Head in hands moment.

    • Emma Ross
      August 1, 2020 / 7:36 pm

      haha oh bless her. thanks for heading over here Shelley!

  3. Hannah
    August 1, 2020 / 6:51 pm

    Loved reading this and all your fab tips! I reinstated our landline last year (really because I wanted a cool retro phone!) too but only my mum has our number so maybe I need to give it out more!!! What I have trialled since the beginning of lockdown is using a non smart phone as my mobile, just calls and text, then I have all the apps on my old smart phone but use it as a mini tablet so I can just switch off when I want. Some days it has meant it looks like I have 2 phones in the house so I am trying to just limit my use a bit more. I also like putting my phone on “silent” (I am a natural introvert though!)

    • Emma Ross
      August 1, 2020 / 7:37 pm

      a non smart mobile is genius! i held off getting a smart phone for ages and long for those days when not everyone and everything is at the tip of your fingers! ps. yay for landlines 🙂

  4. annemarie honey
    August 1, 2020 / 5:58 pm

    This is so useful. I am only on day 2 of actually using my account to post and it already feels like a strange, new and exposing world that will definitely need some boundaries…so I could not have read this at a better time, thank you xx

    • Anonymous
      August 3, 2020 / 12:53 pm

      boundaries is the word…its a great place to be, but needs to be treated with caution! x

  5. Anna
    August 1, 2020 / 5:24 pm

    Thanks, Emma! I also find Instagram such a source for inspiration and a learning platform, but find myself also spending too much time looking at other people’s lives and forgetting about my own. I delete the app every now and then, which only allows me to access the platform through the browser of my phone or on my computer, losing many features and hence having the motivation to use it much less! x

    • Anonymous
      August 3, 2020 / 1:08 pm

      deleting the app is a GREAT one. mainly its about not letting that weird ‘ole platform control us…!!

  6. Gem
    August 1, 2020 / 4:17 pm

    I’ve recently deleted Facebook, as in – I actually deleted my whole account. BYE BYE, GOOD RIDDANCE! All it brought me was negativity and bad memories of things I’d rather not remember.
    Instagram is my crux, I find myself sucked in and losing my time for hours. I love seeing what the people I love are up to and finding inspiration etc
    I’ve deleted all my images off my Instagram and that felt really freeing! Now I don’t feel any pressure to post or update random people or expect a certain amount of likes etc (I know some people have it as their job so deleting all your photos isn’t a great idea, but for an average jo user I think I would recommend it).
    I have just gotten in the process of asking those who I love following if I can contact them another way so that eventually I can delete my account altogether.
    I am excited for that day! I know I shouldn’t let Instagram take over THAT much that I feel addicted to it and need to delete my account before I can make a difference, but I do find myself too easily sucked in.
    I will be taking a massive chunk of time off soon though, see how that feels 😊
    Thank you for your amazing words of inspiration as always ❤️

    • Emma Ross
      August 3, 2020 / 1:37 pm

      YES Gem! This is awesome and inspirational. Well done you for taking action on your feelings xx

  7. Emma
    August 1, 2020 / 4:03 pm

    What good advice. I just set a daily reminder on insta – didn’t know you could do that. Strangely my average is under 30 minutes a day…it FEELS like so much more. I scroll fast and take it all in at hyper speed but clearly it affects me for longer than I’m actually looking at it directly. It’s stressful all that info in one stream never ending and all the issues it raises. I get stressed trying to be low waste/green/attentive mum/educated/well read/friend/not to mention as thin as insta mums (I have zero chance of that at the moment!!) Comparison is the death of joy for sure, but I’ve also learnt lots on social media – especially recipes and ideas for reducing the environmental impact of parenting and how supportive women can be towards each other. I love your page and your day in the life videos – they’re visually beautiful, and they remind me to slow down, that I don’t have to schedule things in to be a good mum, that it is ok to simply just be and go where the day takes me and that I’m not alone in wanting that. It’s hard when the financial realities of insta clash with the social – it’s not so much social media anymore as ‘ad-media’. There’s a lot of subliminal pressure. I think you balance that well on your pages and by being generally low consumption. I also appreciate that in the past year you’ve been more open about having bad days and needing rest etc. Motherhood can be a lonely business, and this helps.

    • Emma Ross
      August 3, 2020 / 1:42 pm

      hey emma – thanks for this insightful comment, and for the feedback! i often get information overload when i spend too long on instagram which is why ive need to put boundaries in place. That, and as you say, falling prey to comparing myself to others. there’s essentially A LOT going on on the platform and we need to ensure we keep on the right side of it. Thanks for being here x x x

  8. August 1, 2020 / 2:00 pm

    I’ve just started a new IG account related to a new blog project…and yep, your words are – as always – really helpful at this point of my life. The social media hall can be really deep if you fall into it…going to fix a time limit reminder right now (for the second time, hopefully not to skip the alarm this time!)

    • Emma Ross
      August 3, 2020 / 1:42 pm

      ah that sounds exciting ! got a lot of love for blogs… good luck! x

  9. Esmee
    August 1, 2020 / 10:53 am

    I absolutely love this post and it came at the perfect time too as I have been making changes in my life to reduce time spent on devices in particular my phone and social media. Some of the things I’ve done is buy an alarm clock so phone can stay off at night and out of the bedroom, using my old iPhone as a landline with just a prepaid simcard (landlines are expansive and this way i essentially have one), cancelling my wifi subscription (hot spotting can work just as well if you’re in a pinch or I can visit a cafe/the library/a friend’s house). And I’ve deleted instagram from my phone. If I want to look up something in particular, I can still access instagram on my laptop. it just ensures I don’t have access to it everywhere all the time. And I feel SO much better for it!
    Signed up for your newsletter! Can’t wait to receive it in my inbox as I won’t be following along on instagram so much.

    • Emma Ross
      August 3, 2020 / 1:43 pm

      these actions sound GREAT. nice work. and most importantly, it’s making you feel better – what more validation that you’re doing the right thing can there be ! x

  10. Rebecca
    August 1, 2020 / 9:34 am

    Thanks! ❤️

  11. Rachel
    August 1, 2020 / 9:20 am

    Thanks for this! Really great to here practical ways to lessen my scream time I’m defo gonna make the effort – freedom is the word!

    • Emma Ross
      August 3, 2020 / 1:43 pm

      bring it on! x

  12. Laura Avery
    August 1, 2020 / 8:42 am

    Love this! We all seem to be addicted to our phones for one reason or another. Last year my phone broke. I had 2 weeks without one and loved it! Although now I’m back to being addicted. Definately going to set a daily reminder on insta. X

    • Emma Ross
      August 3, 2020 / 1:43 pm

      def do give the daily reminder setting a go – let me know how you get on ! thanks for reading laura xxx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *