5 ways to tame your social media use

Social media can be a tricky beast. Sometimes you’re LOL-ing and scrolling; other times you’re feeling flat from FOMO. So, it pays to know how best to manage your use of socials. It's not an easy thing to do, but reducing your useage will free up time to spend on other things and help you to be more focused. Here are five ways to make your socials work for you.

1. Keep apps out of sight, so they’re out of mind

cartoon graphic of finger swiping on phone putting app into folder

Hands up if you’ve ever had to hide the Tim Tams because you know you’ll eat the whole packet? Guilty as charged. The same goes for social media: try moving your apps away from the home screen and into folders to avoid overindulging.

If you want to go one step further, you could delete the apps from your phone. Decide on a regular time for checking social media (say, Fridays between 6 and 8 pm), and don’t log-in otherwise.

You can also turn off notifications for specific apps in your settings, so you’re not constantly tempted to open apps and get sucked into a social media time vortex. You could also turn off data (or switch your phone to airplane mode).

2. Use apps to help you limit your time on social media

cartoon graphic of a bouncer guarding a phone from social apps coming in

Using an app to reduce your time spent on apps may seem ironic, but there are many apps and features that can help you to limit your social media use.

  • Forest allows you to set a period of time (say, 20 minutes) when you commit not to use your phone. During that time, a digital plant will grow in the app. If you use your phone at this time, Forest sends you a notification to get off the app or your plant will die!

  • Daywise lets you schedule times for receiving notifications, so that they're not constantly distracting you.

  • The Do Not Disturb feature on the iPhone silences all calls and notifications (such as vibrations or the screen lighting up) when the phone is locked.

  • On Instagram, under ‘Your activity’ in account settings, you can see how much time you spend daily using the app. To reduce your usage, set a daily reminder that notifies you when you’ve reached the amount of time you’ve decided to spend on the app.

  • In Settings on iPhone, you can turn on 'Screen Time', which will give you reports on your phone usage and allow you to set limits on your use.

3. Spend an hour a week on at least one screen-free hobby

cartoon graphic of girl playing guitar with dog

There are plenty of hours in a day, and even more hours in a week! Pick a screen-free hobby and commit to spending an hour on it once a week. Join a yoga class, read a book, plant a herb garden or walk a friend’s dog – anything that will be a solid break from your screen. After you’ve found something you enjoy spending time on, you can amp up the hours, or branch out and add more activities. Get some ideas here.

During hobby time, switch your phone to Do Not Disturb mode (or turn it off completely) so you're not distracted.

Research has shown that people who engage in hobbies related to the arts (performing arts, visual arts, reading, etc.) for two or more hours a week report significantly better mental wellbeing that other levels of engagement.

4. Enjoy a phone-free dinner

cartoon graphic of friends having dinner

The best part of going out to dinner is catching up with friends. (Okay, we lied: it’s the food. But friends come a close second!) You’ve put aside the time to spend with your friends – make the most of it!

Put your phone in your bag (or someone else's) during dinner, rather than in your pocket, so you're not tempted by those pesky buzzes.

5. Leave your phone outside the bedroom

cartoon graphic of a phone sitting outside bedroom

We know your parents have probably been banging on about this, but it does work. Sharing your bed with a bright and shiny phone is a guaranteed way to interrupt your sleep. Instead of scrolling through Insta before hitting the pillow, try leaving your phone on the charger ... outside your bedroom.

When you want to take a break from social media during the day, put your phone away (in a bag or a cupboard) so you're not tempted to check it every two minutes.

Remember, it’s all about baby steps. It’s probably not realistic to try to go from spending two hours a day on social media to 20 minutes, all at once. You could reduce your time by ten minutes a day, and then check your progress in a week.

What can I do now?