Essays & Confessions

How I Decreased My Social Media Use From 5 Hours To 5 Minutes A Day

By Thursday, June 24, 2021

When I found out the average time spent on social media is 145 minutes (2 hours and 25 minutes) a day, it didn’t surprise me.

When I found out the average time spent on Instagram (only) of those 2+ hours was only 29 minutes, that did surprise me. Considering that, out of all my apps, I spend the most time on IG. And I mean way too much.

The Habit

Prior to my social media cleanse, I spent an average of 3 1/2 hours to upwards of 5 hours a day on Instagram alone.

Oh, and I have a full-time job, a proud pet and plant mom of two, and somewhat of a life. At least I think I do.

I don’t even know when and how I became fixated on Instagram and doom-scrolling. I don’t even have a bad shopping habit or anything (though, to be fair, I’ve purchased from an IG boutique or two in the past.) 

If anything, I do think Instagram offers a form of visual escapism that works well for my mental health and anxiety. Sure, there is Twitter, but it’s mostly text via tweets. There is Facebook but seriously, FB is so freaking busy and obnoxious and doing way too much for me. I have yet to sink my teeth into TikTok, which is probably for the best because I’ve heard it’s the new “it” app and I don’t need another social media addiction. 

But then there is IG. Wanderlust videos and pics of places I’ve yet to travel to, luxurious homes and lifestyles I aspire to one day live, food from posh eateries I’ve yet to taste, and of course, the funny reels. Plus you can easily save all your favorite posts and revisit them later, which I find wonderfully convenient and right in line with my hardcore filing and organization habit. 

Now, the concept of living vicariously through social media standards is an unhealthy one. I know this because nothing on Instagram — or social media, in general — is ever as it seems. There have been plenty of people who have debunked the myth of perfection through their “On Instagram vs. Real Life” comparisons. And yet, I still loved being on there constantly.

But as you can see, I spent way too much time on there.

So of course it was time for an IG detox. From the pic above, you can see my weekly average was 3+ hours a day, with my more obsessed days being upwards of 5+  hours.

The Gameplan & Goal

So I went into my IG settings for “Activities” and set my cap time for my first week to be 20 minutes a day. After all, I had to be realistic. 

Afterward, I went down to 10 minutes and then 5 and then no social media for my final week:

According to Statista, as of February 2021, the average time adults spend on their phones daily is about 5 – 6 hours for activities outside of work. This let me know several things:

  1. We’re a doomed bunch if we’re spending 5 to 6 hours a day, outside of our already unhealthy habits of being overcommitted and connected  to our jobs.
  2.  I’m not alone when it comes to my phone obsession.
  3. What the hell could one possibly be doing on their phone for that long, if not checking emails or replying to the work chat? Are they on other apps? Are they listening to podcasts? Playing games? Or are they on another social app, since apparently IG only takes up about half an hour of everyone else’s day?

Either way, I was over it. And I was ready to make a change to my habits and life. And so I did.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. Set a daily time limit in your IG settings that will notify you once you’ve reached max time. For most users, this is located in the upper right corner, wher ethe 3-line drop-down menu is. Click that —> select “Your Activity” —> go to the “Times” tab —> Click “Manage Your Time” –> Adjust in”Set Daily Reminder.” 
  2. Turn off all push notifications to minimize temptation (this is often under “Notification Settings.”)
  3. Pick a designated time to do your entire IG scrolling (tip: pick a time where your favorite pages have already posted all, if not most, all of their content so you can scroll at once).
  4. Scroll, enjoy and log off.

The Results

Weaning >>>> Cold-turkey. 

I repeat: Weaning is key to breaking any bad habit over cold-turkey cut-offs. If you have amazing self-control, kudos to you. I mean that. At one point in time, I was probably once like you. Now, I hold myself more accountable for my habits and my limits, and weaning works for me.

The first five days I limited myself to 20 minutes was easier to stick to than I thought. I think the trick was picking a time where I could get the most out of my 20 minutes. So, instead of going to social media the second I woke up, I chose to have my scroll-time be a “lunch break” or “end of day” treat. By then, all of my favorite pages to follow uploaded their interesting content, so it was a matter of just overviewing them at once. 

What I learned was, prior to this cleanse, I spent so much time checking in to see when influencers and pages I followed posted on their feed or stories. Instead of doing this, I check-in closer to mid-day or evening to just do an overall recap.

Bigger than that, here’s what I learned about myself:

  • I used Instagram as a means of escaping my own reality, to an unhealthy point. It’s okay to have a stress-reliver, but all my time spent on IG left me no time to actually work on myself.
  • While IG eased my anxiety temporarily, it also heightened it tremendously. While scrolling, I thought of all the things I could be, should be and would be if things were different or if I lived an alternate reality. But once I logged off, I felt worse about my life. My detox made me have fewer moments of feeling less than worthy. I was way less hard on myself and embraced my present accomplishments more when I didn’t compare my life to others as much. I also felt more hopeful about the future.
  • You actually can get a lot of “social-media time” in, in a short period of time. It’s all about how you use it and navigate through it.

By the time my final week rolled around, I turned off all my push notifications from IG and removed the icon from my home screen. This is not to be confused with deleting the app itself. In the end, I found I hardly missed it at all. Again, one of the many benefits of weaning. I hardly missed IG at all by that point, but I still made sure to follow positive pages that include affirmations, interesting stories (like Humans Of NY) and anything else I feel I could be inspired from.

Have any of you ever tried a social media detox? If so, how’d it go and what are your tips, if any?

Shauna is a former editor turned full-time freelance writer who is loving her life as a proud dog mom of one (Ziggy). Packaged in New York and now living in Florida, Shauna hopes to have an ‘Eat.Pray.Love’ experience in her very near future.

Image via Unsplash

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