How many hours do you spend looking at a screen? Whether you’re starting at your iPhone, computer, television, or even your kindle, we now live in a society that cultivates consumption over creation. In this episode, Danielle explores how social media and technology are changing the fabric of society.
How many hours per day do you spend looking at a screen?
And how many of those hours do you spend mindlessly scrolling through social media?
Research shows that the average person spends at least 2 hours and 22 minutes on social media per day. That equals 16 hours per week, 70 hours per month, and a whopping 863 hours per year.
That adds up to over 35 days of your time.
That means we are spending over a month of our lives, every year, staring at our screens.
For the better part of a decade, I’ve worked in social media, an industry that has fundamentally changed the fabric of society. It’s a discipline often misunderstood, and as a social media marketer by trade, I have a deep passion for being on the cutting edge of these new technologies.
There are so many social networks out there since Facebook started the game back in 2004: Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tik Tok…the list goes on. Technology changes so fast, so I’ve always had to stay on my toes. Professionally, I love that about it.
But personally, during these last 10 years, I’ve also watched it evolve into a tool that cultivates consumption over creation. A tool that influences everything from our sense of self-worth to our political process. A tool that makes us almost feel required to stay connected around the clock.
From the moment I wake up, to the moment I go to sleep, I have a phone in my hand, in a reactive state, subconsciously terrified that I might miss something.
If you feel the same, I am here to tell you that it’s not your fault.
Harvard Research Supporting Social Media Addiction
Social media, by design, was meant to exploit consumer behavior and become addictive. Scholarly research from Harvard supports that there is a neurological response via rewards- and dopamine-driven feedback loops.
In fact, Facebook’s former Vice President of User Growth said, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works.”
I want to highlight some points from that Harvard study. It states, “Dopamine is a chemical produced by our brains that plays a starring role in motivating behavior. It gets released when we take a bite of delicious food, when we have sex, after we exercise, and, importantly, when we have successful social interactions. In an evolutionary context, it rewards us for beneficial behaviors and motivates us to repeat them…And social media platforms leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible.”
Something in your brain has to clear out those red notification bubbles. Whenever you open those apps on your phone, you have a reasonable expectation to be rewarded, which is why we do it so often.
So after using these platforms for so many years, it’s almost like we don’t have a choice in the matter. Our brains are addicted, and we have an addiction to satisfying that psychological craving.
Talk about a disconnect.
We’re more hyper-connected than ever and simultaneously out of touch with our internal power and our greater sense of purpose in the world.
We’re basically being programmed to look for stuff we had no need for or intention of finding.
When was the last time you mentioned something you wanted in a conversation with a friend, only to log into social media and find an advertisement for that exact thing only a couple hours later?
Research has also shown that there is an undeniable link between social media use and negative effects on mental health and self-esteem.
If you think about it, social media is the living, technological form of the quote “Comparison is the thief of joy.” On the outside, it can feel like everyone is living a polished, happy life. People constantly share when they are traveling, falling in love, purchasing homes, adopting dogs, having babies, losing weight…a million positive things.
It creates an extreme amount of social anxiety and FOMO, the fear of missing out on something seemingly better.
We curate the very best, picture-perfect aspects of our days, leaving us thinking that other people’s lives are better than ours.
It’s a tool to distract us and keep us living without intention, even changing our behavior on a psychological level.
New research shows that too much social media can even alter our brain chemistry.
Even though it might not be our fault that we developed this addiction, it’s our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable and change our behavior, so we can reclaim our time and spend the hours we get back to work toward what we really want in life. Social media isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon, so it’s time to question our habits.
Which leads me to the 5 tips I have to share with you that you can take action on today, to help battle this consumption culture and use social media and technology with more intention.
Over the next three days, take stock of how you spend your time each day, from the moment you wake up, until the moment you go to bed. Literally log every single thing you do on paper. Write this down in a journal or notepad – don’t type it or use your phone to track it.
If you’re an iPhone user, I also want you to go into your Settings and find a category called ‘Screen Time.’ From there, turn on screen time so you can start aggregating your numbers over the next three days. Your phone will deliver you a report each week that shows how much time you spend, and on which apps. While I’m not an Android user, I believe you can also check your screen time by going to Settings > Battery > Show full device usage.
The point here is to understand how you spend your time and pay careful attention to how often you reach for your phone. Be honest!
Avoid checking your phone at all costs first thing in the morning.
80% of people check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up, and it’s one of the worst things you can do. Keep your phone out of reach. Bonus points if you can put it in another room.
When we first wake up, our brains switch from something called delta waves, which are associated with deep sleep, to theta waves, which is more of a daydream state. In this state, our brains are most susceptible to change, and it’s considered an ideal time for improving emotional intelligence, creativity and problem-solving.
In other words, you have a very short window when you wake up to set yourself up for a great day, so don’t waste it! Buy a traditional alarm clock, if you have to.
I personally use this sunrise lamp that I got from Amazon. I set my alarm, and the lamp actually mimics the sunrise over a half-hour period. For example, if I set my alarm for 6:30, the sun starts to rise at 6:00am with deep red colors to encourage me to naturally wake up, landing on a bright yellow with birds chirping. I really love it.
Rearrange the apps on your phone, and rearrange them often.
I want you to arrange your apps on three screens.
On the first screen (what you’ll see as soon as you unlock your phone) put only essential apps, like apps for navigation, calendars, reminders, and your alarm clock. Essential apps are not considered email and social media. Try to limit apps on your first screen to no more than 12.
Hide your nonessentials on the second and third screens. Your second screen should house anything that boosts productivity or anything considered aspirational, also kown as replacement habits.
Your third and final screen should be all the big time-wasters.
For example, on my home phone screen, I have my calendar, reminders, as well as music and podcast apps. My second screen is business-focused, with things like email, Google Suite tools, social media management software, and financial apps.
After your apps are arranged on three screens, go ahead and categorize them and put similar apps in separate folders. Bury them within the second or third pages within the categories you create. Hide your biggest time wasters on the second screen of that folder.
Social media is hidden on the third screen of my phone in a folder I named “time suck,” and I only have LinkedIn as an app showing on the first page. I physically have to swipe to get to the rest, which is often enough time to remind me that I have no need to be looking there.
Rearrange them OFTEN, to trick your brain and avoid having the location of your apps become muscle memory. It will give you just enough time to ask yourself, “Is this really worth my time?”
- How to Configure Your Cell Phone for Productivity and Focus
- How to Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You
Turn off notifications for everything non-essential (I’m looking at you, chronic email and text message checkers).
When you start your day immediately clearing off those red bubbles, you aren’t setting yourself up for success because your brain is hard-wired to stimulate you to repeat this behavior throughout the day.
We’ve discussed how checking these things literally triggers a neurological response.
I want to take this tip a step further and even encourage you to fully delete any app on your phone that is nonessential and that you can access from your desktop, like Facebook. If you’re like me and social media is part of your job, consider downloading Facebook’s Page Manager app instead.
I understand the anxiety this induces, because I feel it myself. You think to yourself, “what if there is an emergency?” If there is a true emergency, think to yourself, “Would I hear about this on social media first, or would someone close to me be calling?”
One of the best things I ever did was turn off the notifications for my text messages, so I would only see them when I got if I physically opened my Messages app.
Remember, this is an exercise to assess your habits, and all I’m asking is for three days of your time.
Remember Tip #1 when I asked you to take stock of your time? Revisit that and highlight every single time you picked up your phone, watched TV, or looked at a screen.
Then, go back into your phone’s settings and schedule in downtime away from the screen, app limits, and communication limits to reclaim your time.
Now what you do with those newly freed-up blocks of time is up to you, but for the purposes of this exercise, I want you to focus on creating something instead of mindlessly scrolling. It could be journaling, painting, meditating, cooking, anything.
Set aside just one hour a day for the next week, and put your phone on do not disturb mode during that time so you can be fully present and focus.
I recommend doing this in the morning, before you ever check your phone, so you can start your day in a positive, proactive way rather than a stressful, reactive way.
Let’s recap the steps I want you to take over the next three days:
- Take stock of how you spend your time each day in 30-minute increments.
- Avoid checking your phone in the morning at all costs.
- Rearrange the apps on your phone.
- Turn off all nonessential notifications.
- Set aside one-hour blocks of time aside every day that you’d normally spend scrolling, and create something instead, ideally in the morning.
Just imagine what you could accomplish if you reclaimed the time you spend on your phone. Suddenly, things like, “I don’t have time” become an excuse. Because you would literally have an extra 35 days every single year to work toward your goals and be the best possible version of yourself.
If you had an extra month per year freed up, how would you spend your time?
If you do this exercise over the next few days – and I hope you do – please head over to my Instagram, and send me a DM to let me know how it goes.
If you know someone who constantly has their phone out when you’re spending time together, feel free to share this episode with them if you think they’d find it useful.
Finally, I want to leave you with this: Life is short, so do your best to make today count.