I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my use of social media. On a quest to reduce my screen time I was reminded of the words of a wise friend of mine. She said that since she’d had kids her social interaction had gone down but her social media use had soared.
‘I used to spend all my time with my friends, now I just spend all that time on Facebook.’
I think it’s a common problem whether or not you have kids. Screen time can creep into your life and quickly get out of control. Now that we have smartphones that can do so much, there is a temptation, and actually sometimes a benefit, to using them for a range of tasks. If you aren’t desk-based all day then a smartphone is an easy way to achieve a range of things away from your laptop. I tried to think about all the things I do on my phone: email, social media, checking the weather, directions, web browsing, managing ebay and PayPal, managing my bank account. It really left me wondering if I could reduce my screen time at all.
I found myself spending a toxic amount of time on social media, mostly Facebook and Twitter. I use the word toxic because it actually felt that way. I’d go onto a channel to have a quick look at something, and would still be sat there 20 minutes later, scrolling through newsfeeds telling me things I had little interest in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of social media. I work in social media. Getting lost in the warren of Twitter, where I start reading about one thing and end up finding 5 new people to follow, is great but that just wasn’t my daily reality anymore.
Then I read this article on Medium giving a teen’s view of life online. A few things mentioned really rang true for me. I’ve long felt uncomfortable about the amount of advertising on Facebook with sponsored links etc. and to hear someone else say that they keep mainly to the groups for that sole reason made me think — yes! I liked the insights into identity online, I really get Tumblr a lot more since reading this article and find more and more joy there with every visit.
It gave me a starting point and I was soon thinking about other aspects of social media and how I use it. And, of course, I signed up to Medium. I found this by someone who had left social media behind and felt the benefits. One thing that stood out was the phrase ‘does this bring you joy?’ — if it doesn’t then get rid of it.
Suddenly I had a lightbulb moment and since then my social media habit has been pretty much cured. By asking myself every time I try and check a feed or an article whether I really want to do this, I’ve pretty much reduced my social media time to a fraction of what it was. And I do now just check Facebook to see what happened in groups that I’m a member of! Like Helena Price I find myself checking my phone, clicking on an app and then just switching it off again. It’s like a habit I can’t quite break until I’ve clicked and then remembered — oh yes, no joy here.
Whilst this has reduced my screen time overall I am also using the time on other bits of the screen. I think before I read articles. When I started thinking about screen time, I just regarded all screen time as equal — equally good or bad — without really questioning it. Now I’ve realised there’s toxic screen time, where I’m just looking at a random social media feed for no clear reason, and screen time that I’m really starting to enjoy.
I’ve come back to the idea of quality in what I read, in seeking out trusted sources of interesting and informative articles to read and enjoy in a quiet moment. I’ve gone back to podcasts I used to enjoy and discovered new ones.
And I’ve never had so many ideas for blogs and posts as I’ve had since this started. It’s like the part of my brain that always came up with these things went quiet, dulled with the constant chit chat of mindless social media but now I can’t keep up. In an attempt to really limit my screen time I’ve taken to scribbling down my thoughts on a notepad. I’ve filled pages in the last week, who knows when I’ll get to put it all down online somewhere. By trying to limit my own screen time I wonder if I will actually (hopefully) be increasing someone else’s as my writing continues to improve.