Over the past few months the way I use social media has started to bother me. I would find myself rather aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter over and over again for hours. Each time I wouldn’t see or learn anything new, it was just the same content over and over again.
Around October I decided I needed to start taking control of this behaviour after looking at my screen time and realising how much time I was essentially wasting every day. My first target was Facebook largely because of the sheer amount of negative press they were getting due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. I made the decision that I would simply delete the Facebook app from my phone rather than shut down my actual Facebook account. I made this decision for two specific reasons:
- My problem was that I would click on Facebook and scroll through my feed without really paying attention to what I was looking at purely out of habit. If someone were to ask me what I had just looked at on Facebook, it was pretty unlikely I would be able to recall anything I had just seen.
- Facebook is still useful for keeping in touch with family and close friends.
Unlearning the habit of unlocking my phone and immediately clicking on Facebook to scroll aimlessly was actually a pretty funny experience because I put Outlook in the place of where Facebook was. Every time my brain thought it was going to be going onto Facebook to do some pointless scrolling it was confronted with unpleasant work emails. Every time this would leave me feeling irritated but equally I was surprised by how often I was going through this motion.
My Facebook usage since then has become a lot healthier – Occasionally I find myself scrolling through on my desktop PC but otherwise I’m not plugged in when using my phone. I have probably used Facebook on my phone less than ten times since deleting it and largely this is due to the increased effort of needing to log in via a browser than I simply can’t be bothered to do.
About a week ago I decided it was time for a declutter on Twitter after listening to Naval’s recent Periscope. Naval explained that he’s recently went through the process of unfollowing a ton of tech, crypto, and political people and is trying to ensure his feed is focused on science, philosophy, and nutrition folks.
Similarly to Facebook, I would often find myself aimlessly scrolling through Twitter. However, I also found that my state of mind was being negatively impacted by the endless Brexit related doom and gloom. Journalists, politicians and friends would tweet articles about how Brexit would either be the best or the worst thing ever, and all the comments would be arguments. Frequently I couldn’t even tell if the comments were from real people or bots. Alongside that there were plenty of career politicians or political party shills who seemed to only tweet nonsense and fake outrage about the other party.
All of it was pointless noise and I decided it all had to go.
I scrolled through every account I followed, and if I thought there was even a chance they would tweet about politics they would be unfollowed. This took me a good 45 minutes to do and I ended up unfollowing approximately 600 accounts. It felt liberating by the end of it, and it made me understand why so many people like Marie Kondo and other minimalist approaches to things.
Since then my feed has felt a lot more informative and a lot less argumentative and stressful. There were a few accounts that slipped through, and when I’ve spotted them they’ve been immediately unfollowed too. While I still think I’m sinking as many hours as previously into Twitter, I actually come away from Twitter thinking positively about the tweets I’ve read rather than frustrated and stressed.
I’ve learnt a lot about my social media usage and the ways in which it subconsciously can take hold of you and will impact your mental well-being. I’m grateful Apple introduced their Screen Time feature, as it wasn’t until I saw the numbers in front of me that it really dawned on me how much time I had been wasting every day and how little I had to show for it.