How I Reduced My Social Media Usage
I started reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport about a year and a half back and that’s when my journey of reducing Social Media Usage started. At that time, I had a Facebook account, an Instagram account, a LinkedIn account and a rarely used twitter account.
I was most active on Facebook. Between Facebook and Instagram I was spending more than an hour every day. I didn’t have a very active social life as I only have few close friends. My social media usage was not about social interaction, but mostly about scrolling through my feed. For me facebook was all about watching funny videos or cooking videos (cliche, I know).
When I was halfway through the book, I decided to apply it by reducing my facebook usage and evaluate how it affects my life. In order to do that, I planned to reduce the time I spent scrolling through Facebook. This turned out to be counterproductive. In fact, actively thinking about it increased my actual usage. I didn’t finish the book at that time and decided to instead focus on applying what I had read. At that time I was serving notice period in my job and since no new project was assigned to me, I had a lot of extra time that I would waste on useless stuff.
When reducing facebook usage didn’t work, I decided to deactivate my account for a few weeks. I did that, only to activate it again after 2–3 days, because I convinced myself that watching random videos is fun and there is no need to stop. This happened a few times and I ended up realising that I am addicted (even though I had told myself I was not).
With this realisation it was time for harsher measures. So, I changed my password to some random characters (so that I couldn’t easily activate it back) and deleted my facebook account. I instinctively opened the facebook homepage few times after that, but when I would realise that I don’t know the password, I would also remember why I am doing this in the first place. After a month (as per facebook policy) my account was permanently deleted. Since then, I have missed having a facebook account a few times (specially when some friend would tell me something about someone because of some facebook post), but mostly I am happy about it.
With my facebook account gone, I did not want to hurry with deactivating my other social media accounts, so I decided to give it some time before I made any other changes. However, I did remove the LinkedIn app from my phone (I would still occasionally check it from my laptop), just to reduce the number of notifications I got on my phone. Other than that I muted all notifications from Instagram and WhatsApp groups and also disabled notifications from all other random apps on my phone. I even unsubscribed from all random newsletters that I would get on my email account.
I started a new job about a year back. By then I was comfortable with not having a facebook account and the reduced notifications I was getting on my phone. My overall phone usage had gone considerably down (from about 2hrs/day to about 1hr/day) and I was happy with these results. My actual social interactions had also increased as I had more time at hand and I was less distracted in real life. Other than that, I had more time to do things that I enjoyed. I was reading more, I was trying out new things to cook with my husband, I increased my daily walking time and I even knitted a pair of boots and mittens for my new born nephew.
My overall mental well being was increasing and looking at that I decided to deactivate my instagram account as well. However, before I could get to that, COVID/2020 happened and a lot of the positive changes in my life went out the window. Suddenly, we were locked in our homes and the only way to stay in touch with people or have any social interaction was through Instagram and WhatsApp. For a month we didn’t leave the house, except for getting essentials, and that was also a strenuous affair. As expected, my social media usage increased again, however this time it was Instagram instead of Facebook. I was looking at stupid videos again and was becoming more and more distracted and less and less focused every day.
After a month, me and my husband decided that even though we are in lockdowns and we can’t meet people or go to the office, we can at least go for daily walks. Also, as a replacement for going out to restaurants we decided to order food at least once a week and started our weekly Friday night dates at home. I also ordered few books online as I couldn’t go to the bookstores anymore and I prefer physical copies over kindle versions. I started writing more as well, so that my need to express myself was satisfied. A few months passed and even with all of this, my Instagram usage was not going considerably down. This went on for few months and honestly, I was starting to feel like a fickle-minded distracted person.
Once again, it was time to put my foot down. I picked the Digital minimalism book again, (from where I had left it) and finished it this time. This helped me in prioritising why I had to get rid of Social Media and how it will impact me positively. Even though I did not want to deactivate or delete my Instagram, I still wanted to reduce my usage. So I set up limits on my phone, so that I couldn’t access Instagram for more than 15 mins a day. From my experience , I believe consciously reducing social media usage is hard. In fact just thinking about it actually increases your usage. However with the limits in place, once again my overall phone usage went down. In fact it went down to about 30 mins per day and on some days it went as low as 10-15 mins a day.
For a few days in-between I also started using twitter, but quickly deactivated it as I felt that I really did not want to read what other people think all the time. I mean, looking at pictures on Instagram is one thing, but hearing people rant and fight is straight up depressing.
For now, I am happy with my 30 mins a day phone usage (excluding direct phone calls), but I have still decided to deactivate my instagram account for a few days, just to take a break. I simply need a break from being virtually connected to other people. I have realised that even though I don’t actively think about things that I see others doing online, all of it stays in the background. The judgements are still formed. Sometimes I do get pissed at random opinions of random people that I see online and its really not worth it. Instead I intend to shift my time and attention to things that are more important. I have realised that I would rather spend time on being a socially responsible person, than being a social media active person.