Last summer, a friend of mine showed me the Screen Time feature on my iPhone. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a tool that shows you how much time you spend on your phone, breaking it down into which apps you use the most and when you use them.
I was shocked to see I was spending more than four hours a day – sometimes more – on my phone. More than 15% of my waking hours spent staring at my phone. I was embarrassed and angry with myself that I had let my phone take up so much of my life.
I saw that most of my phone time was spent scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and messaging friends. Learning this made me determined to start using it less and engaging more with the people and world around me.
Screen Time lets you limit how long you can spend on certain apps each day before they become locked, so I limited myself to an hour of social media a day. However, after a few days of resisting the urge to have ‘just a quick look’, I found myself ignoring the limit every day.
That’s when I decided enough was enough, and I deleted social media.
I don’t just mean I deleted the apps. I had seen before on Facebook people putting up statuses with something along the lines of, ‘Deleting social media. If you need me, text me.’ But they were always back to liking and sharing within a day or two.
I mean I deactivated my Facebook and Instagram. I deleted my Twitter account. Snapchat and Messenger; both gone too.
Very quickly, I began to see how much of a hold social media actually had over my life.
I’d say within an hour, I found myself getting really bored, not knowing how to fill the gaps in my day where I would usually scroll for ages and ages on Instagram. I realised my life was actually pretty boring. Whilst before I felt connected to my friends, seeing where they were and what they were doing with a quick look at my phone, I was now far from connected.
By the end of the day I felt pretty miserable, not because I hadn’t been able to use social media, but because I had learned how dependent on it I had become.
The next few days were the same. I was getting bored and felt quite lonely at times. Yes, I could text and call people, but it didn’t feel the same. I wasn’t as immersed, and I hated it.
But after a week or so, I began getting used to life without social media, and I was enjoying it. I started to read books again – something I hadn’t done since secondary school – and was filling my spare time with new music, more exercise, and learning new things.
I wasn’t bored, and I didn’t miss social media one bit.
Almost a month after deleting my accounts, I was much happier without them. I began to think about how much time we waste on social media, and wanted to learn more about the effect it has. So I did some research.
Here’s what I found out about excessive social media use:
Reading all of this just confirmed for me that quitting social media was the right thing to do.
Of course, these apps do have their benefits. They make it easy to talk with friends and stay connected, and some people claim that social media has a positive effect on their self-confidence.
But, based on my own experience and research, social media is toxic. It’s highly addictive and, while it can feel great to get a few likes on an Instagram photo, in the long term it is doing much more harm than good.
Try quitting for a while and see how you feel. If cutting it out completely doesn’t appeal to you, use Screen Time to limit how much you can use it. If you’ve got a Google Pixel or Android One phone, you can download Google’s Digital Wellbeing app.
Spend more time with friends, explore new places, and try different things – there’s a whole world ready for you to experience, you just need to disconnect from the world in your phone.