How To Curate Your Social Media Experience And Cut Down On The Amount Of Time You Spend On Social Platforms

14 November 2023 |
Episode 21 |
43:35

Episode summary

Want to improve your experiences on social media? Trying to cut down on the amount of time you spend on social platforms? In this episode, I share practical tips to help you enjoy a more pleasant and positive experience when using social media platforms. I also provide a step-by-step action plan to help you reduce the amount of time that you spend on social media daily.
 

Episode notes

In this episode, I talk about:

  • Why everyone should actively curate their social media experience
  • 6 practical tips to curating your social media experience, including
    • Being authentic in posted content
    • Switching off validation mechanisms
    • Consciously reacting to other people’s content
    • ‘Marie Kondo-ing’ your connections and subscriptions
    • Enabling personalised ads or paying to avoid them
    • Turning off unnecessary notifications
  • 5 action steps to reduce the amount of time you spend on social media, including:
    • Understanding your current social media use
    • Setting realistic targets for social media screen time
    • Establishing rules and boundaries for social media use
    • Using physical and digital blocking tools
    • Logging out of social media apps between sessions

Resources and tools mentioned:

 

Episode transcript

Expand to read a transcript of this episode

[00:00:34] Hey guys, welcome back to The Digital Diet Podcast. I hope you’re doing really, really well, and I hope that you’re having a good week. I’m feeling really good. It is that time of year, we have reached mid-November, and most of us are probably wondering where the hell the year went. It’s nearly Christmas. I’ve started to see Christmas decorations around in the shops. People are starting to talk about their Christmas plans. So it’s always quite a nice time of year. But I do find that by this time of year, people are usually in wind down mode. They are usually ready to get to Christmas, ready to have a break from work, have some time off, spend some time with their families, with their friends, enjoy all the festivities that normally happen around that time of year.

[00:01:20] Weirdly, this year, I found myself ramping up, and it’s a little bit unexpected, I have to say. But I don’t feel exhausted and I think that’s because I have really prioritised my wellbeing over absolutely everything else this year. And it has meant that I’m not necessarily where I want to be, but I do feel comfortable that I can get there and I can get there without burning out. It’s a little bit of a rejection of the whole “hustle harder” mentality. I’m going for the slow hustle, if you will.

[00:01:53] I’m really making sure that I’m looking after myself. I’m looking after my body. I’m trying to eat well. I’m working out again. I’m actually working out with a personal trainer because I am planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in January. So, I figured I should get myself in shape so that I don’t die on a mountain. Always a good plan. And of course, I’m also one week into the #TechTimeout Challenge. So I’ve really, really enjoyed creating space for myself and space for joy in an offline capacity in my life over the past week or so.

[00:02:27] Now, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then the #TechTimeout Challenge is a free 30 day digital detox plan that I created specifically for busy women. Basically, once a day for 30 consecutive days, you step away from all your digital devices and you do one simple offline activity instead that will take you anywhere from 5 minutes to a few hours to complete. And the idea behind it is that it’s easier to fit these small activities into your daily routine. There’s no special equipment required and all of the activities are proven to boost your physical, mental, and emotional health. And of course, I try to make them as fun as possible too, so you actually look forward to doing them.

[00:03:07] So, I’ve been enjoying myself for the last week or so. There’s still another three weeks or so to go. And if you want to give it a try, you can start the challenge at any time. All you have to do is head to thedigitaldietcoach.com/techtimeout-challenge. And when you sign up, you get immediate access to the step-by-step guide, plus loads of tools and resources to help you make the most of your digital detox time. I’ll put a link in the show notes, and if you have any trouble, you can always email me, all my contact details are in the show notes.

[00:03:43] There was something that was a bit broken in the system last week, and I’ve tried to fix it, but that’s what you get when you use technology, I guess. It was almost like technology was cock- blocking me, if that makes any sense! I’ve tried to create a way for everybody to just get a bit of digital wellness into their lives, have a bit of better tech-life balance, and of course it would be technology that stops that from happening for the people that were interested. So, if you can’t download it for some reason, if it’s not working, I think I fixed it, but don’t give up, drop me a message and I will make sure that you get your guide. I really want this to be available to everybody and I am determined not to let technology stand in the way.

[00:04:22] Now, on the subject of not giving up, if you completed the challenge from last week’s episode and you followed the decision chart to decide whether you should stick or twist when it comes to social media. And you’re someone that decided actually you do want to keep using social platforms, you just want the experience to be better and for it to be less of a distraction or a disruption in your life, then this episode is for you.

[00:04:47] Today, we’re talking all about how to curate and cut down on the time you spend on social media. And we’re really getting to the crux of taking actions to make a positive change for your digital wellbeing and improve your tech-life balance, given everything that we’ve been talking about during this mini series on all things social media.

[00:05:07] This is really the, “so what?” What does it all mean? What does it mean I have to do? And if you’re new to the podcast and you want a little bit more context, you want the “why” part of the puzzle, then you can head back to episode 13 and listen from there to catch up. But today I’m going to be dishing out loads of practical advice for curating and cutting down on your social media screen time. So, let’s begin!

[00:05:33] As I said during the last episode, I don’t think there’s a single person that couldn’t benefit from curating their social media a little bit better, and I include myself in that. We’re constantly adding to the space. We have new friends, new followers, we make new posts, we put pictures, we put videos, we have new comments and new reactions to the things we’re seeing. And we very rarely take anything away. So it’s not really very surprising that things start to get very cluttered, and very noisy, and filled with content and people that we either don’t relate to anymore, or they just don’t serve us anymore.

[00:06:13] But the algorithms don’t know that. So they’re constantly using all of this information and all of this data to decide what to show us or what else to show us. Advertisers use the information to target their ads and their sponsored content, but of course if the information is outdated then it’s a waste of money for them, and it’s a bit annoying for you every time you log into social media. Because you’re constantly scrolling through content that has nothing to do with who you are today and no bearing on your real life, just to get to the stuff that you might actually care about, from the people that you care about, or from the brands or companies or causes that interest you.

[00:06:54] So, in a weird way, I think curation not only improves your experience of social media, taking away some of the negative effects that it may be having on your life, but it could also lead to you spending less time on social platforms because you don’t have to wade through so much rubbish to get to the good stuff. Now, you could argue that making it better might make you want to spend _more_ rather than _less_ time on social media. But, if it’s filled with stuff that is serving you, and that interests you, then I would maybe offer a counter argument to say that that time isn’t necessarily wasted.

[00:07:28] So, I’m all for curating and trying to improve the experience, if you’re going to continue using social media. And to do that, here are the six things that I think you could do, or you should do, to curate a better social media experience for yourself.

[00:07:43] Number one, think about the content that you are posting yourself. Ask yourself, why are you posting? Are you genuinely trying to share a moment with your friends and your followers? Are you trying to document something that you want to remember in future? Or are you seeking praise or validation from other people? Or maybe just seeking connection because you feel a little bit lonely?

[00:08:07] And I say this because, when you do or don’t get the response that you want to whatever you’ve posted, you’re feeding your dopamine reward system, and you’ll get trapped in that vicious cycle that can actually make you feel worse instead of better, and that leads to spending more rather than less time on social media. And the more that you document your life, or document every single little thing that happens in your life, when things change, you are opening yourself up and inviting people to ask questions.

[00:08:38] When you document things really heavily, people are getting invested in your life. So, if you’re constantly posting about your family or relationships, if you then start to experience difficulties in that relationship or you even break up with your partner, you’re inviting a lot of questions. People are so invested that they are going to start asking, well, why have you stopped posting that person? Or why have you gone back and deleted all of the posts that you shared that had them in it?

[00:09:06] And it’s the same when you excessively post things online and it just doesn’t match up to what’s going on in your life offline. So, if you are constantly posting these crazy glammed up pictures or posting things like you’re having this fabulous time, and you’re not. You’re masking your true feelings and you’re not really being authentic. So you really need to ask yourself when you’re posting, how authentic is whatever the content that you’re posting? Is that truly a moment that you want to share and celebrate and remember in 10 years time?

[00:09:37] If you’re putting pictures up of yourself and you are using the filters to really heavily edit what you really look like, are you creating an image or a persona of yourself that is actually creating an impossible expectation for you to live up to and maintain? Are you creating this image of yourself that doesn’t reflect real life, that you’re going to feel compelled to match up to? It’s really draining to do that.

[00:10:03] So when you think about posting, really think about why you’re posting, and think about being as authentic as you can, because this really is going to impact how you feel about yourself, which of course, as we know, is one of the biggest challenges with social media. This curated, highly-filtered, highly-edited version of ourselves, that makes it much harder for us to be authentic in real life and admit our vulnerabilities, and our insecurities, and be human towards each other. And it also makes us much less forgiving of these things in other people, so we become less empathetic, less compassionate. So really, what you contribute to the great big soup of social media is so important. Take a moment, take a beat, think about whatever you’re posting before you post it.

[00:10:50] The second thing I think you should do, or consider doing, is to switch off the validation mechanisms. On most of the platforms now, you can actually turn off comments and you can hide the like count underneath all of your posts. And I challenge you to do one or both of these things and see how this changes your experience. Because these forms of validation play into that reward system, and that’s what keeps you hooked on using social media. You’re hooked on receiving that praise, and receiving that validation and that reaction to the things that you post.

[00:11:24] And it’s a lose-lose situation. If you get that validation and that praise, then you keep posting because it feels good. If you don’t get it, you get that negative prediction error that we’ve talked about in previous episodes. And so you feel compelled to post something else, in an attempt to try and get that same validation that you were expecting but didn’t receive. So, again, you just stay in that really vicious cycle.

[00:11:48] And, of course, we know that people are mean online. People are mean online in a way that they are not necessarily mean in person, or they wouldn’t be to your face. So if you turn off the comments, which can contribute towards a negative experience for people when they have followers or even random strangers commenting on things that you don’t necessarily want commentary on, or you don’t want people’s opinions, or you don’t want negative opinions, turning off those comments will stop those negative experiences from occurring, period.

[00:12:20] You don’t have to do it for everything. But maybe if there’s something that you’re posting that you just don’t need everybody’s two pence worth on, consider turning off the comments, and then of course consider hiding the like counts as well. You can still see them, it just changes the visibility of it for other people. And again, I think when you do this, and you stop playing into these validation mechanisms, that will also alter what you decide to share, and maybe give you a reason to think more deeply about why you’re sharing it too. Which hopefully means that you’re really only going to be sharing things that you truly want to share with your friends and your followers and your connections, or that you want to capture and remember in years to come, as opposed to doing it simply for that validation, and for those likes and that praise.

[00:13:08] The third thing I think you need to do is consider how you react to other people’s content. And I’ve talked about this before in, I think it was episode 14. Your behaviour is continually providing data to the algorithms, which shapes the content that you will see based on what it thinks you like and you enjoy. And how you behave online also has an effect on all of the other people that you interact with.

[00:13:35] In episode 18, we talked about how we behave differently online and sometimes in ways that we would never dare to behave in real life; we become mean girls. So, when I say consider how you react to other people’s content, this is really about encouraging more of what you actually want, and being more like the kind, empathetic person that you are in real life, than just being someone who contributes to the big social media soup, and is very reactive, and potentially even ends up being mean, or jumping on the bandwagon in the comments, even though you would never do that in real life.

[00:14:08] So, although it’s probably a really ingrained habit that you don’t really think twice about, think about what you are willing to smash that like button for. Think about if you are applauding or validating negativity or gossip, because the more that you do that, the more of it you’re gonna get. And then you’re creating this very, very negative space, and that becomes your social media experience. I always encourage people to try to react with comments rather than emojis wherever they can. And it does require more thought and probably some practice, because you’re used to very quickly expressing how you feel with an emoji, but a compliment or a constructive criticism goes way further to building actual connections and, you know, you might even make someone’s day.

[00:14:56] There’s been loads of old friends that I’ve been able to reconnect with, when I’ve seen pictures that they posted of them going on a night out or they’re celebrating something. And it’s so much nicer to receive a message that says, “You look lovely in that dress, I hope you’re well.” Or, if something’s not going so well, “Oh, you broke your leg. Sorry, hope you’re recovering well. Can I help with anything?” Receiving a message like that is so different to getting one of 500 flame emojis or two million crying sad face emojis.

[00:15:30] I’m exaggerating, of course. But you understand that sending those actual, considered, thought through comments, can mean so much more to the person on the other end. It portrays you in a much better light, and you may even make someone else’s day. You’re starting a conversation and, as I said, it can help you reconnect with old friends. I’ve definitely had some of those types of conversations then lead to me arranging meetups in real life for people that I just haven’t seen for ages or hadn’t thought to contact. Not for any reason of having fallen out with them, it just, they kind of get off of your radar. As you know from when we talked about the Dunbar number, there’s only so many connections that you can maintain a consistent and stable relationship with at any one time.

[00:16:13] And of course, that goes for people that you know, people that you care about, people that you had forgotten about, but in general, just think about the comments that you write. And if you don’t have anything nice to say, then just don’t say anything at all. Now that doesn’t mean that you should hold your tongue on everything; if you have an opinion and you have something important to say, say what you need to say, be constructive, give context, but try not to get drawn into back and forths with people in the comments section beneath posts, especially when those people don’t want to listen.

[00:16:44] What’s that saying? Never argue with an idiot. They’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. So, don’t waste more time than you need to arguing with people in the comments – it’s just not worth it. And it will, again, make your social media experience so much more pleasant, if you’re not drawn into these back and forths.

[00:17:02] The fourth thing is a pretty big one and I like to call this one, “Marie Kondo your followers, and your connections, and your subscriptions.” Now if you’re not familiar with Marie Kondo and the KonMari method, where have you been? I don’t know if you’ve been living under a rock. But the KonMari method, which is from Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, basically says, if something doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. I’ve talked in a previous episode about the wardrobe analogy and it’s a great way to think about it.

[00:17:34] If we consider social media to be like your wardrobe, this is exactly what happens. When your wardrobe gets full of stuff that you no longer need, that you no longer use, or you no longer like, it makes going into your wardrobe a complete chore, especially when you’re trying to find something to wear. Plus, of course, you don’t have space for all the new stuff that is more you and that you’ll actually enjoy dressing up in. And that’s exactly what happens with your social media, your social media closet just gets full. It gets full with all of these people, all of these things from five years ago, ten years ago, that actually have no relevance and no meaning to you in your current, present, real life.

[00:18:14] So I suggest that you either go through your subscriptions, and go through who you’re following, and delete them. Or as people appear in your feed or your stories, use that as a prompt to stop following or subscribing to them. And, obviously, the latter approach works better if you’re following loads of people. If you’re following 5,000 people, I’m not expecting you to dedicate two weeks to clearing that out. It’s going to take you a really long time and you’re probably going to get fed up halfway through, if not sooner than that.

[00:18:43] Now, the people that you are connected to, the people you’re subscribed to, they could be individual profiles, they could be brands, companies, influencers. It might not even be profiles, it could even be groups that you were part of on Facebook. I have groups that were for software that I bought once and I guess it was meant to be a sort of member’s community, and a place where they could offer a bit of additional customer service, but I don’t have that software anymore… I still got all those groups. I have groups that I joined to get advice about places that I wanted to travel to, or when I’ve been going backpacking solo and wanted to connect with other travellers, but those trips are done and dusted. So, there’s just no need for me to have them anymore. So here’s the little mantra for you: if in doubt, clear it out!

[00:19:28] And of course, this is important because this is one of the ways that you get recommended friends or followers or accounts and suggested content. The algorithms are looking at who you already follow and who you’re already connected to. So if you want the relevance and the accuracy of those suggestions to improve, and therefore your social media experience to improve overall, then this is a really worthwhile exercise.

[00:19:52] Now, there may be some people that you don’t want to clear out, or you feel that you can’t, and that’s fine. We’ve all got those people in our lives who we love as individuals, but we don’t necessarily love their content, whether it’s because of the nature of the content itself, or just the frequency with which they post it. And there are people who we don’t love so much, but it’s more of a headache, and would be opening a can of worms, if you delete them. I get it. We’ve all got those people in our lives. The good thing is that every platform has got tools to help you manage these connections.

[00:20:26] Maybe you want to stay connected, but you don’t want to follow them. So you can do this by going to their profile, and effectively hiding posts from them or muting them. And then, depending on the platform, there are varying degrees to which you can do this. There’s lots of different toggles, and tools, and controls. Maybe you don’t want to see anything from them at all, or maybe you don’t want them to see or comment on the things that you’re posting. So, you can remove followers on Instagram and Instagram doesn’t notify people that you remove them. There are tons of different options and they vary from platform to platform, so I’m not going to go into all of them here. But play around until you find what works best for you so that you don’t need to hear from, or see people, that you have no interest in. And as I said, the best part is they never have to know. The platforms don’t notify them that you’ve done this, so you can save yourself that headache while also saving your sanity at the same time.

[00:21:19] That said, of course, for anyone that you despise or who repeatedly offends you, there is always the block option. Don’t be afraid to use it. You wouldn’t stay in someone’s company in real life if you didn’t like them, or if they were being abusive towards you, and it shouldn’t be any different online. So, don’t be afraid to use the block option, especially for repeat offenders. And once you’ve done this social media wardrobe clear out, it’s going to be so much better. Because this curation of your connections probably has the most dramatic effect on your experience of social media. You’re creating a space where you can be around people, and brands, and influencers that bring you joy. And it doesn’t get much better than that if you’re going to use social media.

[00:22:04] The fifth thing that I would suggest is that you allow personalised ads, or you pay to avoid ads altogether. Now, this is slightly controversial, so bear with me. I’m not saying that you should allow apps to track you, which is a newer feature of Apple’s latest iOS operating system; you can say if you want to allow specific apps to track your data or not. But I like to think about it like this…

[00:22:30] Social media companies are just that, they’re companies. They’re businesses that need to make money to continue to provide the platforms and the services that you like using. If they can’t make money from you directly in the form of a user fee, then they have to make money in other ways, i. e., by making you the product and selling your attention to advertisers, as I discussed in episode 13. Like it or not, that’s the business model. If you don’t like it, you can always quit social media. But if you’re going to stay on social media, then unfortunately you have to accept one of these two realities. And previously you didn’t even have a choice; it was the advertising model, and that was it.

[00:23:09] So, I think it’s a good thing that on some platforms you can now have that choice. For example, you can pay for YouTube Premium and do away with all the annoying ads that roll before you start your video, in the middle of your video, before the next video plays. And I have said before that I personally won’t pay for it. The reason for that is that the ads don’t really bother me that much, relative to the amount of educational content I get for free on YouTube. But I also like that, as a platform, YouTube shares the ad revenue with the creators, so with the people that have made those videos. And so I kind of feel like they’re getting something back, relative to the other platforms that don’t offer this. I’m getting my education that I’m looking for, I’m getting tips and hints to do certain things that I want to do in my life or in my business, and they get paid. But that’s just my personal opinion, and the choice is yours.

[00:24:01] So, decide if you’re willing to pay to get rid of the ads. And if you aren’t going to pay to play, you’re going to see adverts anyway. So, I figure that they may as well be for things that you might care about. And I know that that’s controversial because you’re still allowing your data to be used. It’s controversial because it might lead to you going down a rabbit hole and spending more time online than you intended, or even spending money on things that you don’t necessarily need or that you’re not necessarily able to afford, because those things that you’re seeing in those adverts is more likely to be of interest to you.

[00:24:34] But for me personally, I do love the discovery element. Whether it’s new products or services, or artists, finding out that there’s a sale at my favourite store, or that the flights to a place that I’ve been dying to visit are on sale. I don’t think it’s all bad. And I know that that’s controversial, but that’s just how I feel. There’s a British comedian called Munya Chawawa who I discovered via Instagram. And I love him, and I think he’s absolutely hilarious. His satire is always on point, and he never misses. But I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have discovered him, if it hadn’t been for sponsored content or recommended content being shown to me.

[00:25:16] I’m not really a big comedy person. I don’t watch a lot of TV. But having discovered him on Instagram, I then went to see him live last month at a preview gig for his tour, and it was brilliant. And I just know that I wouldn’t have had that experience without Instagram introducing me to him and his content. And it’s the same with Trevor Noah, who I’m also actually seeing later this month; I’m clearly on a bit of a comedy kick at the moment. I used to watch clips on YouTube from The Daily Show, when Trevor Noah used to be the host. That show doesn’t air in the UK, so again, there was no way that I was ever going to see that on TV or elsewhere. And when it comes to Trevor, obviously I’m going to see him, but I’ve also bought and read his book, Born a Crime, too. It’s an amazing book, he’s absolutely hilarious. I will actually put a link to it in the show notes.

[00:26:04] But you can see what I mean about the ads being relatable and being relevant. I still think that that makes the experience better than if you’re constantly seeing things that you are not interested in, when you’re trying to view other content that’s posted by the people that you’ve actually chosen to follow. So, do whatever feels right for you, but for me, I’m okay with the personalisation.

[00:26:25] The sixth thing is to turn off unnecessary notifications. And I would say that along with Marie Kondo- ing your social media, this is the other big, big one. And I will die on this hill. Notifications are the bane of modern day existence. 90% of them are either not necessary, or they don’t actually require your immediate attention. And yet, that’s exactly what they get. They’re so disruptive to you when you’re doing focused work. They’re distracting if you’re trying to be in the moment when you’re physically with the people that you love and you care about. And they create so much anxiety and stress in you with their big red badges and the rising notification counts, that you just feel compelled to address them, even though it’s probably not relevant to whatever is going on in your life there in that moment.

[00:27:15] So turning off all unnecessary notifications is game-changing. If you can turn off all notifications, then you’re truly winning at life, and you’re a better person than I am. But at least turning off the ones that are not serving you is a major step towards reclaiming your social media experience. And I’ve said before that Instagram is by far the worst for this. By default, when you create an account, there are all these different notifications turned on for every single possible thing under the sun that could happen on Instagram. And while on the one hand you might think that this is giving you more control, what it’s actually doing is overwhelming you with so much choice that most of you will probably just give up, and you won’t bother curating your notifications at all. And you just end up putting up with them and reluctantly deleting them.

[00:28:03] So I feel quite strongly about this one, in case you couldn’t tell, and I am here to be your cheerleader and say stick with it. Particularly when it comes to Instagram. You don’t need app notifications and emails, that’s the first thing, so pick one or the other. And then turn off every single type of notification that you don’t need. So for me, I don’t need to know that someone who I went to high school with, but I no longer talk to, just posted for the first time in a while. Who cares? That notification was one of the first ones to go. And as a side note, this is why connection curation is so important, because if you’re not connected to all these people that you don’t care about anymore, you’re not going to get notifications associated with them in the first place. It’s just not going to happen.

[00:28:49] And I think that that’s actually a nice segue into how to cut down on your social media time in general. Because you’ll remember in episodes 14 and 15, I talked about the triggers for going on social media, and how some of these are external, and some of them are internal. And notifications are obviously a big external trigger. So by reducing the number of notifications that you get, or getting rid of them altogether, you’re removing a huge trigger from your life, which in turn reduces how much time you spend on social media because you’re simply going there less.

[00:29:23] So notifications being turned off is game-changing. But, more broadly, there are a couple of things that you can do to help reduce the time you spend on social media. And a lot of it actually comes down to mindset, or at least that’s my take on it. So, here’s how I recommend that you approach it, if you’re trying to cut down.

[00:29:42] Number one, know how much time you’re spending on social media. It is impossible to know what cutting down means, if you don’t know what your current social media use looks like. Use screen time on Apple devices or Digital Wellness on Android devices to look at how much time you’re spending daily, weekly, monthly, and on which social media apps you are spending that time. Get to know what your social media use looks like, and how big or little the problem is, and which apps are causing you to spend the most time online.

[00:30:17] And then number two, set yourself a target time to spend on social media. Again, if you don’t have a goal, you’re not going to know if you’ve cut down your time on social media successfully or not. And as I said in episode 16, the recommended daily amount of time on social media is 30 minutes. But, as I’ve also said many times before, it’s really personal and really individual. It really depends on what you’re doing on social media. There’s a huge difference between watching YouTube videos to learn something, or networking on LinkedIn to find a new job, and watching a looping reel or a TikTok of a dog playing the piano 50 times.

[00:30:56] So, decide how much time daily would be right for you, and would make sense for you and your personal circumstances. And be realistic, you can’t go from five hours a day to five minutes a day overnight. You are setting yourself up for failure if you even try. So, try to find a goal that feels achievable for let’s say the coming week. Maybe you just want to get a 30 minute reduction, rather than a three hour reduction. And then you can always keep setting new goals, and reducing further week by week, until you get to whatever you feel comfortable with as being your ideal daily amount of time to spend on social media.

[00:31:33] The third thing is to set some rules and some boundaries for yourself and then, crucially, you need to stick to them. Rules and boundaries make things easier because you don’t have to think. If you create a few basic rules and boundaries around when and where you’ll use social media, you’ll automatically cut down on the time that you spend there because you’ll be reaching for social media less frequently, and therefore getting lost in the doom scroll less often, as a result. But as with the time, and as with the notifications, these rules and boundaries have to make sense for you and your life. So, I’m going to give you some suggestions of what those rules and boundaries could look like, but again, these are just rules and suggestions. You’ve got to figure out what is going to work for you.

[00:32:16] So first off, when will you go on social media, and when will you not? So maybe you won’t go on Instagram before 9am, or before midday, or maybe you won’t go on it after 9 o’clock or after 10 o’clock at night. Maybe you won’t go on TikTok on Tuesdays. Maybe you won’t go on social media when you’re on the toilet. And that is a real thing. The amount of time that people spend on social media when they’re on the toilet is huge, so that legitimately could be a way to cut down your social media use. But also maybe you won’t go on Facebook when you’re eating, or when you’re eating with other people, or you’re sitting at a dinner table or a breakfast table.

[00:32:54] It’s up to you to decide and then what happens is in those moments where you find yourself tempted to reach for your phone, you’ve already decided that this is not a moment when you will use your phone. This is not a moment when you will accept going on social media. So you’re not forced to make that decision in the moment, and you should trigger a memory that you are not supposed to be doing it.

[00:33:16] The next one is to set a boundary around how you’ll go on social media. And you’d be surprised at what this can actually do for you. These days, most of us access social media via our phones. But, of course, you can also access social media via a tablet, via a laptop, or via TV. So think about how much time you could cut down, if you decided that you could only access Instagram on your computer, or you could only watch YouTube on a TV. When your access to social media is not carried around in your pocket, i. e., it’s not on your phone, you’re making it harder to get online, and you’re helping to break one of the most ingrained habits that we all have in the digital age. It’s so easy when we just reach for our phones. So think about maybe setting some boundaries around how you’ll actually access social media, because that can be a great way to reduce the amount of time that you spend there.

[00:34:09] And the last boundary or rule, which is kind of related, is think about where your devices are physically allowed to be, and where you’re not going to allow them to be. I am a long-time advocate of keeping devices outside of the bedroom. I don’t take my phone, I don’t take my laptop into my bedroom, I don’t have a TV in my bedroom, and it’s really, really deliberate. Social media is particularly disruptive for my sleep and for my productivity in the mornings. So, this was a really easy fix for me. It meant that I didn’t stay up watching TV late into the night, or watching Netflix, or watching YouTube, or whatever it might be. I didn’t end up scrolling through Instagram first thing in the morning when I wake up and delaying my start to my day. It was one of the best things that I did for myself.

[00:34:56] Yours doesn’t have to be exactly the same, I’m simply saying think about it. Think about where your devices are physically going to be allowed, and where you will not allow them to be. Maybe for you, it’s that you don’t allow your phone in the dining room or at the dining table. Or maybe you don’t allow it in the bathroom, so it stops you scrolling through TikTok while you’re on the toilet. Maybe you don’t allow phones on the table when you’re dining out with people. Or you don’t even allow your device in your pocket, they have to be in your bag. It’s up to you to decide, but just making it more difficult for you physically, can help you to cut down on the time that you spend for social media, because it’s harder to reach for your phone if it’s not on your person.

[00:35:38] The fourth thing, which kind of takes this concept a little bit further, you can make it harder for yourself to get online by using physical or digital blocks. So, when we talk about physical blocks, we are thinking about things like timed lock boxes, where you can lock your phone away and you can’t physically access it until the timer runs out, and it gets to zero. You decide how much time, so maybe it’s going to be 30 minutes, maybe it’s going to be an hour, maybe it’s going to be a few hours. And I’m pretty sure that there is a way to override it for emergencies, if you absolutely need to get at your phone or at your devices, but you get the picture. You are physically locking away and having no or restricted access to your devices, so you can’t get on social media. If you can’t touch it, you can’t use it. And there are even some that are big enough for you to put in a laptop or a tablet too. I’ll put a link to some in the show notes for you, if you think that you maybe need to physically lock your phone away, to stop you from reaching for it and getting on social media.

[00:36:39] Physical blocks aside, there are also loads of options for digitally blocking yourself. There are lots of different names for it, sometimes it’s called Focus Time, sometimes it’s Do Not Disturb settings, but all iOS and Android devices now have this functionality to digitally block certain apps built into the device. You can set daily time limits for each app individually, so you can tailor it to the apps that are the worst offenders in your life. And then when you reach that amount of time of being in the app, you automatically get booted out.

[00:37:14] Again, you can choose to override this, especially if it cuts out when you’re in the middle of doing something. But in general, this is a good way of limiting the amount of time that you spend on social media apps, or at least making you more aware of how much time you’re spending. I think there is a kind of snooze feature on some of them. So, let’s say that you restrict yourself to 30 minutes of Instagram a day. Once you’ve hit that 30 minutes, whether it’s all in one sitting or through constantly going in and out of the app over the course of the day, you get booted out. And you may be able to extend it for 10 minutes, 5 minutes. A bit like when you press the alarm clock when it goes off and you just need that extra 10 or 15 minutes. But essentially, you are having to actively choose to still be there, which makes you much more conscious of actually you are spending time there, time is flying by, and maybe that’s not something that you actually want for yourself.

[00:38:09] There are also loads of options for other apps that can help you do the same thing. There is software that blocks your use of certain URLs when you’re accessing social media via a web browser. Some of them are free and some of them are paid. I don’t personally use any of them, so I can’t personally endorse any of them at this time. But, for completeness, I will put a link to a few of the ones that I know of in the show notes. And, of course, if you do check them out and you do find that they help, then definitely let me know and maybe I will check one of them out and do a deeper dive and maybe a bit of a review on a future episode of the podcast.

[00:38:46] But, as I said, iOS and Android devices all have these features built in natively now, so you really don’t have an excuse not to use them, if you’re struggling. And in these tough financial times that we’re all living through, you don’t have to spend any more money either. You have the tools, right there at your fingertips for free. And these tools, these digital blocking tools, these physical blocking tools can be really useful, especially at the beginning of your efforts to cut down. Because at that time you’re trying to break the worst and most ingrained habits, and they’re really still familiar to you. And using these tools means that you don’t have to rely on your own willpower, and on trying to overcome your brain’s reward mechanisms when you’re tired, or you’re bored, or you simply forgot that you’re supposed to be cutting down the time that you spend on social media.

[00:39:36] It’s a bit like when you forget that you’re not meant to be eating junk food, and then someone offers you a bit of cake or offers you to pick a crisp out of their crisp packet, and you just forget. You’re a bit absent minded, you’re a bit tired, and then you end up doing it and you break your no junk food eating rule. All these tools and these apps will do that hard work for you, while you’re in the business of trying to form new habits that don’t involve social media.

[00:40:00] My fifth and final bonus tip is to log out of social media apps when you finish a session of using them. And again, this is surprisingly effective. You’re making it much harder to get online, and a lot of the time you’ll just give up when it’s not just a tap away, right? That’s how we got into these bad habits in the first place because it was made so easy for us. But no one can ever remember their usernames, no one can ever remember their passwords for all these accounts that they created ages ago. So, often after a few attempts, you’ll probably just admit defeat, and give up and go and find something else to occupy your time.

[00:40:39] And if you do go to the trouble of actually logging back in or resetting your password to get back in, then you’re going to know that it’s because you really, really want to go on social media for something specific that simply cannot wait. And that’s fine because you’re just trying to cut down your time, you’re not trying to not use it at all. But this small little act of logging out, every time you use your apps, will definitely make it much harder for you to get in, and therefore help to cut down your social media time by extension.

[00:41:10] So there you have it, that’s 10 practical tips to help you curate your social media experience so that it’s a more pleasant place for you to be, and to cut down on the amount of time that you spend on social media in general.

[00:41:24] That’s it for today’s episode, and there’s no “official” challenge this week, but obviously if curating or cutting down your social media use is something that you’ve decided to commit to, then I hope that you’ve found these tips helpful, and you’re feeling inspired to get started right away this week.

[00:41:41] Next week, I’ll be diving into how to properly take a break from social media and go on a little digital detox. And then in the final episode of the mini series, I’ll be breaking down how to go nuclear and break up with social media for good. You don’t want to miss these episodes, and of course, all of the awesome digital wellness stuff that is still yet to come. So make sure that you subscribe to the podcast, wherever you’re listening, so that you automatically get notified whenever each episode drops.

[00:42:09] And, as always, I’m curious to know how you get on with curating or cutting down your social media use. I’d love to know if any of these tips have helped you. Maybe you’ve bought a lockbox, or you’ve had a cull of who you’re following or who follows you. And the place to let me know and to discuss this episode is in The Digital Diet Lounge, my dedicated community space for all things digital wellness. I will put a link to it in the show notes, and you can find the show notes over on my website at thedigitaldietcoach.com/021.

[00:42:45] I’ve really enjoyed this episode and I hope that you’ve enjoyed it too. I know you’re busy, and your time is incredibly valuable, so as always I thank you for choosing to spend a little bit of your day with me, and I’ll see you next time.

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Marisha Pink

Meet Marisha

Marisha Pink is a Certified Digital Wellness Coach who is on a mission to empower women everywhere to live life more intentionally in an age of digital distractions. She helps women create healthier digital habits that better balance the technology in their lives, so that they can take back control of their time, reclaim their happiness, and live their best lives offline.

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