How to take back control of your social media
A notable rise in self care was peppered throughout 2018. Saying no more, drinking less alcohol and spending time being present were set as daily intentions across. Self care has become the balm for our fast paced, information laden connected lives.
With the decline of trust in Facebook, doubt of social media’s benefits and concerns about the lasting impact on our mental health and attention; it’s no wonder people are taking a leaf out of Gwyneth Paltrow’s book and ‘consciously disconnecting’.
There are benefits to social media and smart phones. For example, Thankyou successfully used Facebook to generate viral campaigns to lobby major retailers into stocking life changing water. In 2017 Rose McGowan’s call on Twitter for all women who have been sexually assaulted sparked #MeToo. One tweet drove a global movement of unprecedented conversation.
However, it’s increasingly difficult to be connected all the time. Attention spans are diminishing, focus is continually interrupted and thoughts are hijacked. The simple joy of ‘no phones allowed’ recounts the magnetic energy that a Jack White crowd adopted when mobile phones were banned from the concert arena.
The effect was immediately noticeable upon entering the concert bowl. Aside from the time-travel-like strangeness of seeing a crowd devoid of blue screens, there was a palpable sense of engagement, as though—and it sounds so strange to say it—everyone came just so they could be there.
We live in an age where your attention is worth dollars. The term 'attention slavery' is being used by Technologists like Craig Mod (coined in the Hurry Slowly episode: 'I want my attention back'). Research found people spend on average, 135 minutes a day on social media and we touch our phones anywhere up to 2,478 times.
It's no wonder there’s a resurgence of unplugging and disconnecting. These apps are designed to keep you scrolling, clicking and consuming content for as long as possible. Developed in partnership with gambling companies, the audio built into social apps is developed to sound pleasing to reward our pleasure centres. I’m the first to admit, I love the sounds Facebook messenger plays. It’s understandable how we have become addicted to our phones. Designer Jake Knapp said it perfectly: “My iPhone made me twitchy”.
The good news is we can change our behaviour with a few tricks and tools. We can, and people do, use social media properly. In moderation. With intent. Less time will be wasted, more cohesive thoughts had and more real-life experiences lived. A quick social media tidy up can have immense benefits.
Take back control of your social media
Here’s 6 practical ways to curb the vicious cycle of liking, scrolling, checking. They will ensure your time online is spent with intent whilst ensuring you get the good bits of social media without the black holes of scrolling aimlessly.
1. Clear the junk from your Newsfeeds.
The algorithms that determine what content you see don’t have your best interest at heart. Facebook and other researchers have discovered the content we see in our newsfeeds can affect our mood, confidence and mental health. No surprises there. Do a clean up of your Facebook newsfeed and get rid of the crap that makes you feel like shit.
Do a review of the pages and profiles you follow. Unlike those that no longer serve you, who make you feel self conscious or who you ‘hate follow’.
Use Facebook’s Friends Organizer Tool to star the people that matter so you see family and friends first.
Stop clicking on content you don’t love or get value from. The algorithms will continue to show you the stuff you engage with.
Hide the content that you really don’t like (and friends too!).
The alarmist, negative clickbait and useless junk you scroll past that subconsciously alters your mood can easily be removed with 15 minutes of clearing out the clutter. Almost instantly your newsfeeds will be a clearer, more positive space.
2. Make the apps harder to access on your phone and desktop - avoid the auto scroll.
We’re auto-reaching, fingerprint unlocking and face scanning our way into Gmail and Facebook before we know it. The trick to avoid this is to make it harder for yourself to get into the apps in the first place.
Move your Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Snapchat, News and Instagram apps into a folder on the last screen of your phone. This stops you auto-clicking on the apps when you are bored or need a distraction. Once you've become accustom to where they are and find yourself auto-opening, move it again. You’ll get about 3 weeks out of each 'movement' and when you become aware of mindlessly opening, move the folder again.
Moving your apps give you an extra nano second before you realise you're in the Instagram newsfeed for no reason. Every time you subconsciously open Facebook or a social app – think – what do I want from this? Distraction? Entertainment? Validation? No - sorry, look at a tree or do some thinking instead. This will become more of a habit the more you practice it.
3. Use technology to be a conscious consumer.
Download an app that limits social time/internet browsing to assist in breaking the habits of automatic scrolling. There is plenty out there. A handful are:
Offtime (iOS, Android) to block apps and filter notifications when doing focused work.
Moment (iOS) to set daily unlocking limits and monitor your usage (scary).
SPACE (iOS, Android) for a life/phone balance to stop you spending too much time on there, monitoring unlocks and time in apps.
Kill Newsfeed for blocking the Facebook newsfeed on Chrome so all you can do is respond to notifications.
Forest to gamify focus for deep work. Plant a tree and grow a virtual forest based on how much time you spend in focus mode not touching your phone.
I use a combination of Kill Newsfeed for my personal laptop (Implemented in September 2017), SPACE for phone usage, Forest for focused work and my social media apps are often moving around in a folder on the third and fourth screens of my phone.
4. Sleep with your phone on do not disturb or aeroplane mode.
The Australian Sensis social media report found that 57% of Australians are checking social media first thing in the morning. This can be extremely detrimental to your day. Allowing content to hijack your mood, make you feel self-conscious or distract you from important personal thought. It also leaves no chance for a peaceful morning routine.
I’ve been charging my phone in another room so I don’t look at it when I wake up. I honestly feel this is an underrated practice for creativity. I want to take in my life as mine and not be bombarded by the world. I’ll sit and watch the sun rise with no distractions and listen to the sounds of the world waking up.
I sleep with my phone on aeroplane mode from 9pm - 7am and just those few hours disconnected make all the difference. Being able to listen to my own thoughts and pursue what’s important to me in the first hour of waking has become a precious ritual I rarely sacrifice for a quick scroll.
5. Turn off all push notifications. They are actually pulling you.
Your phone may ding when someone likes a photo. Maybe you receive push notifications from CNN and are being bombarded with a constant stream of bad news? Constant pings vie for your attention before you even had the desire to be on social media. The need to be constantly connected and plugged in is fairly recent and scientists and psychologists are just starting to study the long-term affects of this.
Turn off all push notifications for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
Turn off badge notifications for the apps you don’t need to visit frequently as well.
Turn off all push notifications for news apps and any other apps you don’t need.
Delete the apps you don’t really need, apps the create responsibility just for the sake of it.
For hardcore users, you could try a week of a distraction free phone like designer Jake Knapp
If you see something that interests you on a feed, use it as a prompt and go to your preferred media outlet. Be in control of what media you consume, not the other way. Think if this as a push rather than a pull.
6. For the professionals - use the business tools when you are in business mode
Social media is extremely valuable for small businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. It can be hard to seperate your personal and professional social media usage. When you're working on clients profiles or online for work, use the social tools provided for business use.
Download the Facebook Pages app for iOS and Android to manage your business pages and put the Facebook app in a folder on another screen that isn’t your home screen.
Use Facebook Business Manager and import all your pages there, that way you don’t have to go to your personal newsfeed. Don’t stay logged into your personal accounts at work and turn your push notifications off for your personal accounts (or all accounts).
Staying in business mode helps staying out of the rabbit holes we can get stuck down when trying to work or focus.
7. Do a digital detox or take a small break.
Each time I check my notifications appears seemingly harmless – rewarding even, as each Facebook Like or Instagram heart sends a rush of dopamine to my brain.
Yet in reality, hours of my day mindlessly disappear before my fingertips. Take back control of your social media usage.
Delete the apps off your phone for 1 day, or 7 days and see how it feels. Leave your phone in your bag at social get-togethers, not on the table. Be phone free at home after work.
Taking control of your social media for 2019:
Tidying up your algorithm and the content you are served gives you more control what you are exposed to daily. Select what sources you expose yourself to.
Being a conscious consumer of social media, actively deciding when you use it for and why means you are spending less time engrossed in a hand held device. Make the apps harder to get too.
Breaking the habit of mindlessly scrolling can save time and emotional energy. Actively choosing to not be on your phone can also bring us back to a place where we don’t need to be entertained or distracted at every moment.
Use technology to your advantage setting reminders or tools to monitor how long you spend on social.
Use aeroplane mode or do not disturb for a phone-free night time routine
Having a healthy relationship with social media and the internet is crucial for a finding balance in this connected world.