I have spent the last year slowly but surely breaking my addiction and habits around social media. Like a lot of people, I found that it was making me unhappy, giving me more anxiety, and becoming a time suck I couldn’t afford as a working mom who needs every moment to be productive. Unlike Paul, I didn’t go cold turkey. I just made steady changes until I suddenly realized that I had broken most of those hardwired habits.
First, I cut Twitter out of my life, closing my browser windows that stayed open and taking the app off my phone. I used to spend at least two hours a day on Twitter. Now I don’t even spend more than 10 minutes a month on Twitter.
Last year, I closed down a Facebook group that kept creating unnecessary fights between the members, and a few weeks ago I deleted Facebook from my phone. I never used Facebook nearly as much as I used to use Twitter, but I feel increasingly grossed out about the privacy overreaches and the company’s lame apologies without any real change. So I just wanted it gone.
I’d also stopped using Snap a few years ago and that left my lone social media time-splurge as Instagram. I have the smallest following on Instagram, and it’s by far the least toxic for me. (Let’s pause to think about how messed up that is: Social media becomes more abusive to us the more successful we are at using it) And while I still have it on my phone, I am using it far less. There’s something about posting on it that increasingly feels gross to me the more detached I’ve become from the constant sharing of social media.
My latest weekly screen time report on my phone shows dramatic improvement. I was stunned to see how little I engage with social media these days. Which explains why I’m on my phone less, almost never on my phone around my kids, and sometimes leave it at home altogether and don’t feel like I’ve misplaced a limb. (This probably helps explain why I haven’t broken a phone in a few years after cracking them so much for a while there that Eli wrote a song about it.)
As of my last report, I am spending an average of one hour and 42 minutes per day on my phone. Reading & reference represent 2 hours and 45 minutes of that over a week’s time and productivity represents 2 hours and 22 minutes. Social media was a mere hour and 33 minutes of my time in the last seven days. I spent almost as much time in the New York Times Cooking App (one hour and 20 minutes) as I did engaging in the entire category of social media.
And the only reason it was that high is that Apple counts texting as social media. It really belongs in productivity along with email and Slack. In truth, the only social media app I used was Instagram, and I spent a scant 44 minutes on there over the entire week, despite it pushing more than 60 notifications at me.
People ask how I’ve found time to work out and read so much in the last year, and this is a big part of it. I must have gained an extra three hours or more in my day as a result of this steady weaning myself off of something that was making me miserable and replacing it with things that make me happier, smarter and healthier. I am not less informed about the news. I read 52 books last year and have read nearly 20 so far this year. I’ve lost some 30 pounds. And I have built more close friendships during this time.
It’s all about replacing the things that you crave about social media, with less toxic alternatives that scratch that same itch. (A lot like dieting. Why do I need a baked potato when I can have a baked sweet potato?)
When I want to vent or feel connected, I go to Chairman Mom instead where there are no fights and I generally leave feeling better about myself. When I want to scan the news, I go to Feedly. (15 minutes a day on average, because you don’t get pulled into the rage of it all, you just read the news and move on.) When I want a mindless five-minute distraction, I pull up Duolingo and work on my Spanish. In a Lyft or on a walk or a commute I listen to audiobooks to kill the time instead of mindlessly scrolling.
Sure, I still have to do some work promotion over social channels. But I usually type it out in Instagram and share it across Twitter and Facebook without having to actually open those apps up at all. Could we have grown faster if I was doing more social? Who knows? In the last month Chairman Mom’s user growth has accelerated up and to the right, our churn has fallen from an already low number, and our engagement has more than doubled. So I’d argue whatever I’m spending my time on is working a whole lot better.
This is to say nothing of the biggest benefit: Modeling healthy digital habits for my kids.