5 tips to regain control over your social media addiction.
Unfortunately, the clock is ticking; the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.
It was one of those Sunday mornings. My wife was racing against time. Turning to our then two years old son, she soothingly addressed him, “Bobby, let’s hurry, time is going and we are almost late for church.” Nonchalant and in his innocence, the young man pointed his finger at the wall clock, admonished his mother in his sweetest kiddy tone, “Time ain’t going nowhere, time is hanging there.” That was over twenty years ago.
Indeed, how time flies, that three years kid is now a twenty-three-year-old man. Reminiscing on that incident, indeed time never flies, day after day, we are the ones who flying away. Time remains.
As we spend our time, so we spend our lives.
For many, the mobile phone has become the ultimate “time killer”. Used unwisely, this indispensable gadget has become an insidious double-edged sword, the ultimate life killer. It was not meant to be so, but that is what most users have made it to become.
The chart above listed 39 countries by their citizens’ “Average Daily Spent Time On Social Media” as of the year 2020. On this ranking, the Japanese are the most time conscious. They frugally spend an average time of 36 minutes per day on social media. The Philippines came last. Their citizens spend on average 4 hours 12 minutes per day on social media. My country, Nigeria, equally performed dismally. Here we clocked in at an average time of 3 hours 17 minutes per citizen per day frolicking on social media.
Worthy of note, these numbers do not paint the complete picture. For instance, the more productive and profitably engaged you are the less time you have to spend on the internet and social media. In my country, most citizens do not have access to smartphones. Ubiquitous as they are in the cities, many citizens still can’t afford them. The implication is that the average Nigerian that uses smartphones spends over 5 hours per day on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. The list keeps growing.
Spending 3 hours per day on social media is the equivalent of spending one and a half months binging on social media per year. If you spend 5 hours per day on social media, you are equivalently wasting over 20% of the days and years you have left in this very short lifetime on planet earth. What that means is that if you have hypothetically 10 more years to live, spending 5 hours per day on social media means that you’ve wasted well over 2 years out of every 10 years of your outstanding time on earth. That is sobering. Isn’t it? Yet some of us even waste more than that. And no one knows tomorrow?
In his book, Tony Reinke explained that, even though we don’t know what our phones are doing to us, one clear certainty is that we are being changed — by our phones. Unfortunately for most users, these changes are not for the better.
We have all grown so used to our smartphones and other digital devices so much that living our lives forward without them is almost like going back to stone-age existence. The internet thrives on speed. Modern life, businesses, and economies will literally grind to a halt without the instant input and immediate response characteristic of our digitally interconnected life.
Improperly used, these same tools have the potential to cut our lives short through one-click followed by another seemingly harmless benumbing habit-forming click.
These 5 steps will help you save yourself from yourself as you take back control over your life and the outstanding time you have left under the sun.
- Turn off unnecessary notifications. Only use social media to catch up when you need to. With your mobile apps’ notifications set to ON, a constant stream of endless social media bombardments will wear you off. With notifications turned OFF, you open your apps only when you want to, respond to relevant messages while dismissing not-so-relevant tidbits, half-truths or fake news. I have tried this, and it has helped me to cut out on how long and frequent I succumbed to killing time on Facebook and other apps. If your business requires a constant connection to social media, you may need to get creative about it. One way is to set notifications to ON only on your business line or during working hours.
- Stop using social media as an entertainment tool. You will only end up flipping from one interesting time-waster to more interesting time wasters. The internet is forever getting more creative at churning out ever more addictive programs and apps. If you are not creatively occupying yourself in productive live or online engagements, social media will always be on hand to help fill your insatiable void.
- Unhook yourself from social media addiction. Social media is inherently addictive. And, as with all addictions, the more you get addicted to unprofitable addictive websites and applications, the more you get hooked. You become insidiously programmed to want more in a self-limiting and self-consuming vicious cycle. The worst part of addiction is that the addict sacrifices time, resources, and relationships to attend to self-destructive cravings — one meaningless click at a time. You need to be deliberate and more disciplined in the way you use these tools.
- Recognize high-impact activities and devote more of your time to them. Discipline yourself to devote more of your smartphone time to activities that are more rewarding, in the long run. As explained by Carl Newport in his book, Deep Work Rules, “Willpower is limited, and therefore the more enticing tools you have pulling at your attention, the harder it’ll be to maintain a focus on something important. To master the art of deep work, therefore, you must take back control of your time and attention from the many diversions that attempt to steal them.”
- Reject the urge to excessive sharing and hyper-connectedness. In tune with Cal Newport, I’m not suggesting you quit social media or the internet wholesale. These tools are only as good or as hurtful as we make them be to us. Indispensably, some of these tools are “must-haves” and “must use” for some of our successes and happiness in life. You should be more stringent on how frequently you permit an app or website to infringe on your time and attention besides prying into your privacy and personal data. Most people will be better off using fewer or even none of these tools.
My goal is not to dissuade you from using social media (Who will ever imagine that?). Without self-reflection and curbing your addiction (You know it if you are) to social media, you may waste irretrievably the most productive time you have left in this very brief life of yours. Enough said.
- Copyright by ©Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance, Vintage Books, 1994
- Copyright by ©Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Crossway Books, 2017
- Copyright by ©Cal Newport, Deep Work Rules — Rules for Focused Success In A Distracted World, Grand Central Publishing, 2017