Social media on your terms: Break the habit and reclaim your life

Are you spending too much time on social media? How much time is too much time?

The average time an adult spends on social channels is now 2 hours a day. Some people more. Three hours is not unusual.

Two hours per day has become ‘normal’. However, I’m not here to judge whether the time you spend there is a good or bad thing.

However long you spend there, it’s a question of duration versus value. How much of that time is spent really connecting, creating on purpose and adding value to your life or the lives of others, and how much is mindless drifting, scrolling time that you wish you could claim back?

If you feel like you’re wasting too much time on social media, the first thing to realise that it’s not your fault.

The tech companies that build these platforms know exactly how to keep our attention. They understand the science behind dopamine delivery and they will continue to leverage it to kingdom come.

On top of that, you have content marketers like Gary Vaynerchuk, whose mission is to build – to use his very own words – an “ATTENTION DEATH STAR”.

How dare these channels and aggressive content creators steal our most precious, valuable commodity?

Not to put the frighteners on you, but look at this (inspired by Tim Urban):

Life is short.

So let’s take the average 2-hour-a-day social media habit, and look at the simple yet horrifying maths. It adds up to 730 hours per year, which is the equivalent of 91 x 8-hour days. That’s 3 months of work, per year. Think of how you could use those 3 months…

3 months starting a business
3 months building a muscular body
3 months reading Penguin Classics
3 months learning a language
3 months building a tree house
3 months planning the rest of your life

Let’s get down to business

A habit is a learned behaviour, and just as they are learned, they can be unlearned. You can train your brain to stop wanting so much dopamine from social media. The process will be difficult and take time, but not as much as you think it will. Think of what’s at stake, and what you’ll be gaining – more of the most precious, valuable thing in your life: time.

Without time, you don’t have a life.

Here are some steps you can take to reduce your time on social media and reclaim your life for more useful and important things.

1) Track your usage

You can use an app like Stay on Task, Space or Moment to find out how much time you actually spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. When you see the real number of hours, you may be horrified and more motivated to reduce it.

2) Do a value assessment

What value are you getting from each channel? How much of the time you spend there is useless to you? Write down what you want to get out of it. This will help you make your visits more intentional, taking back control. You may even decide to cut one or two channels out of your life completely.

Unsubscribe, unfollow, unfriend: Assess your connections and cull the ones not creating a feeling of joy or value.

3) Engage your prefrontal cortex

Habits form when the planning and decision-making part of the brain hands a task over to the basal ganglia – the part which takes instructions and makes them routine. Your prefrontal cortex is vital in creating new instructions which will replace the old habit.

So make a plan of how you will use social media in the future, and be really specific. Which channels, what days of the week, how long for and why?

For example:
Facebook – Sundays 9am-9:30am – catching up with real friends and family
Facebook – Wednesday lunchtimes – 10 minutes – fun & fluff
LinkedIn – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – 5 minutes – checking job listings

A good thing about social media, is that you don’t have to be there 24/7, you can catch up with it. You’ll be surprised how much you can ‘get done’ in 10 minutes on Facebook.

4) Set up your environment for success

To help stick to your new schedule, consider removing the apps on your devices, perhaps only having them accessible on one laptop or tablet.

Make the apps even harder to access, by creating new passwords that you cannot commit to memory, and LOG OUT. Store passwords on a USB stick or piece of paper in a hard-to-get-to place.

Add an extension to your browser like StayFocused to limit the time on each channel. You can also block channels by adding them to the firewall settings on your wifi router.

5) Make a promise to yourself

If you fall off the wagon, you must get back on it. Only by picking yourself up after a ‘failure’ and carrying on, over and over again, will you re-programme the basal ganglia. After a few times it will go on autopilot and your addiction to social media dopamine will be a distant memory.

If you’d like more support in re-claiming your time by developing new habits and working towards goals that are important to you, send me an email 😉

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