If you were already feeling sheepish and a little concerned about your social media use, the revelations from The Social Dilemma on Netflix will probably have left you downright disturbed. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the gist – it’s a documentary full of informative, confronting and frankly scary information and forecasting about our collective social media use and its pernicious hold over our lives. The genius part – it’s brought to you by former tech executives who are the very same people whose job it once was to cleverly design and hook us all in to using their products in the first place.
The key point I took away is we are all constantly being seduced and manipulated and some (way, way too many of us) are now addicted to these multi-billion dollar platforms. The fact some of these tech designers and engineers won’t let their own kids near social media is a pretty significant tell. And it’s easy to concede defeat. A friend of mine said “I’ve thrown my hands up. There isn’t any point in trying to get off it because I know it isn’t my fault I’m addicted”.
But you don’t have to abandon hope. Apart from the ubiquitous calls from the techsperts in the doco to turn off all notifications on your phone, there are other tricks to spending less time hooked to someone else’s design of your precious life. Think of these as forming your ‘Social Toolbox’.
*Keep devices out of the bedroom. This will greatly reduce your exposure to artificial blue light and enable you to get to sleep easier. The key is to also leave the phone charger elsewhere too. That way the temptation to plug your phone in and take a little peek at it is eliminated.
*Delete social media and gaming apps from your phone. It is just too easy to mindlessly scroll through your multiple feeds and lose 30 minutes of your day. Exercise your ‘won’t power’. You can’t fall prey to seduction if it doesn’t exist right? Instead, only peruse social media on your laptop or PC and minimize the damage.
*Allocate ‘time zones’ to social media use. Decide on a time each day (or each week) and a duration of use. Enjoy your time on your favourite sites knowing you have set yourself a limit.
*Turn your phone off for one hour each day. It is a greater inconvenience to check something of no consequence if you have to repower your phone each time. This is a great opportunity to do something really fruitful. Immerse yourself in a work project, go for a walk, enjoy your lunch, play with the kids, listen to some of your favourite music or take a nap (the gold standard for me!). Before long 60 minutes of going without distraction will morph into two hours. Think of how productive you will be?
*Download the ‘Moment’ app to your phone. This was created by software developers who became aghast at their own addictive behaviors. It tracks not only the time spent each day on your phone but crucially the number of times you pick it up and turn it on. It is super easy to set yourself goals and monitor your progress. It’s the little man on your shoulder keeping you honest. Chances are you are using your phone way more than you think. Moment can set you straight.
I would also strongly recommend ‘Digital Minimalism’ by Cal Newport and Adam Alter’s ‘Irresistible” to anyone wanting a good book on digital and technology addiction.
The encouraging news is you don’t have to be a slave to your electronic device. It doesn’t have to be a digital pacifier. Making the effort to minimise your time spent on social media will pay off. It is challenging to begin with but gets much easier. And the benefits are immeasurable. You might even have time to phone a friend!