How to Spend Less Time on Social Media

Written by Steve Rose

Steve Rose, PhD, is an addiction specialist, counsellor, and rogue academic committed to making research engaging and accessible for all.

On the go? Listen to the audio version of the article here:

Do you feel that buzzing in your pocket?

Maybe someone liked the photo I just posted… Maybe it’s an important email… maybe he finally texted me back…

You can’t resist, so you take a peek.

No notifications.

But I swore I felt something! Why didn’t he text me back?? Why didn’t my picture get any likes??

You try to go about your day, but deep down, you’re wondering if everyone else just has it easier than you.

If you’re tired of feeling like a slave to your social media, you’re not alone.

According to a survey, internet users are spending around two and a half hours a day on social media.

So how can you spend less time on social media?

  1. Remove triggers from your environment
  2. Consider using an app to track and limit your use
  3. Find alternate forms of communication
  4. Reconnect with hobbies
  5. Consider trying a digital detox

Let’s explore what each of these things looks like in more detail.

Remove triggers from your environment.

Turn off push notifications.

One of the most significant environmental triggers to check social media are push notifications.

These are the constant automatic updates on likes, requests, emails, and instant messages, often coming with a ding or a buzz.

Turning off push notifications can free you from constant distracting updates, giving you more control over when you check your social media.

There are two ways you can limit push notifications: 1) from the app and 2) from your device.

Here is a step-by-step guide to turning off push notifications on the Facebook app:

Go to the dropdown menu:

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Go to Settings and Privacy:

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Go to Your Time on Facebook:

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Go to Change Notification Settings:

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Go to Push Notifications:

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From there, you can also turn off email or text notifications, if you are receiving those as well.

If you are interested in setting a limit on your Facebook use, luckily, Facebook has an option for that as well.

Go back to the previous section, Your Time on Facebook, then go to Set Daily Reminder:

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From this menu, you can enter precisely how long you would like to spend on Facebook before it sends you a reminder to take a break:

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Although Facebook has these advanced features, check the notification settings on your other favorite apps to limit the notifications they send you.

If you don’t want to go into each app, here is a shortcut:

You can control how your device notifies you by going into your phone’s settings and turning off notifications for each app you no longer want to see notifications from.

Since the instructions on how to do this may vary depending on your device, I would advise you to ask google for help with this one if you’re unsure.

Lastly, merely putting your phone on silent (without vibrations) more often can also do the trick.

Remove shortcuts from your browser or phone’s home screen.

Do you ever find yourself opening Facebook mindlessly?

I used to sometimes close Facebook, just to find myself opening it again a second later. So removing it from any easily accessible shortcut locations might be another way to avoid the mindless clicking/ tapping.

By opening Facebook less, you are less likely to be mindlessly drawn into its voyeuristically seductive stream of endless content.

I actually ran into this issue when writing this post. When going onto Facebook to get the screenshots for this article, I found myself drawn into the newsfeed, forgetting why I was there in the first place.

I ended up closing the app, quickly realizing I needed to get the screenshots. I opened the app again, being immediately drawn to read a couple status updates, before finally pulling myself away and getting the screenshots.

Apps like Facebook are designed and optimized to grab your attention and hold it as long as possible. If you don’t remove the constant triggers to check it, you may find yourself in the endless newsfeed rabbit-hole more often than you may like.

Consider using an app to track and limit your use.

If you want to get a sense of how often you are using each app on your phone, I highly recommend apps like Digital Wellbeing for android.

It also makes it very easy to turn off your social media app notifications directly from the app itself, so you don’t have to dig through your phone’s settings or open each app.

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If you’re using an Apple product, you can use the Screen Time app:

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If you would like a little extra power to limit your social media use, you can use the Stay Focused app. Although it may be a bit ironic to use an app to block apps, it can help you stay in control by specifically limiting when and how long you spend on any specific app:

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If you are using an Apple product, you can try Moment to balance your screen time:

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These apps give you back your time by making it easy to track and limit your screen time on each app.

But what if you need to communicate with people?

This is where the next old fashioned lesson comes in handy.

Find alternate forms of communication.

Rather than always communicating over social media, perhaps consider using direct messaging on social media as a way to schedule phone calls or in-person meetups.

This way, social media is a tool to enhance your social life, rather than take away from it.

Social media connects us with a high higher quantity of individuals than ever before, but we can’t forget the quality of connection.

When we talk about spending some “quality time” with someone, we typically don’t think about chatting with them over social media.

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Reconnect with hobbies

Since a great deal of social media use is triggered by boredom, it is important to consider connecting with a hobby.

Remember the days before social media? If you’re old enough to remember these times, what did you do for fun? Or is there something you once loved to do, but lost touch within recent years?

If you’re going to be using social media less, you’re going to be doing something else more. Without having a plan for what you’re going to do instead, it is a lot easier to fall back into your current habits.

quote-a-hobby-a-day-keeps-the-doldrums-away-phyllis-mcginley-19-38-68

If you want some hobby ideas, there is a great list here.

Consider trying a digital detox.

Yes, this is a real thing.

I first heard of the digital detox back in 2010 when a friend of mine and I decided to try giving up all things digital. It didn’t last too long, but all I can remember is a sense of things being generally quieter. Driving longer distances without the radio on was quite the experience.

Although doing away with all things digital may be may not be possible unless you’re on some kind of silent retreat, there are other forms of digital detox that might be helpful.

Perhaps you can try putting your phone on airplane mode and disabling the wifi for a period of time or part of each day.

Another form of digital detox might mean deleting Facebook or another form of social media for a period of time. A 2016 study found that quitting Facebook actually made people happier:

“By comparing the treatment group (participants who took a break from Facebook) with the control group (participants who kept using Facebook), it was demonstrated that taking a break from Facebook has positive effects on the two dimensions of well-being: our life satisfaction increases and our emotions become more positive. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that these effects were significantly greater for heavy Facebook users, passive Facebook users, and users who tend to envy others on Facebook.”

Digital Detox

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article offered some helpful strategies for decreasing the amount of time you spend on social media.

Although the amount of time spent on social media can often be an issue for people, it is not necessarily the primary indicator that social media use is problematic.

The most significant risk for problematic use is how you are using social media.

This is a topic I explore in my super in-depth article on social media use where I dig through the research on healthy vs. unhealthy ways we social media.

You can check out that article here: Why We Are Addicted To Social Media: The Psychology of Likes.

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Want to Try Online Counseling?

Here are a few options worth checking out:

BetterHelp.com is one of the most flexible forms of online counseling. Their main benefit is lower costs, high accessibility through their mobile app, and the ability to switch counselors quickly and easily, until you find the right fit.

It’s almost like having a counselor in your pocket, since you can text, voice-message, or set up video calls whenever you need support. 

For persons struggling with anxious thoughts, depressed moods, low self-esteem, low motivation, or loneliness, check out Better Help here.

Online-therapy.com also offers support for persons looking to optimize their mental toolbox. Click here to learn more about their program based on the evidence-based practice of Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT).

*As an affiliate partner with Better Help and Online-therapy.com, I may receive a referral fee if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

If you are looking for a specialist near you, use the Psychology Today therapist directory here. Although prices are generally higher on this directory, many of the practitioners accept insurance. 

As always, it is important to be critical when seeking help, since the quality of counselors are not consistent. If you are not feeling supported, it may be helpful to seek out another practitioner. I wrote an article on things to consider here.


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