For the last, well ever really, I have used my phone and social media as a numbing tool. I always claimed, ‘I don’t have an addictive personality’, I’m just using social media for ‘work’’, ‘I’ve got a community on there.’ And these things are true, in part.

I mean as we all know, and all keep saying, last year was like nothing we had ever known and I know, that during that time I was using my phone to find a connection, to fill a void.

Recently I’ve read Sarah Wilson’s This One Wild and Precious Life and Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and it’s opened my eyes to, well so much really but one thing is my use of my phone. Sarah told this story of a man reaching for his phone before saving his children from a house fire and Brene told many stories of people in the service industry being completely ignored while people pointed out their orders, refused to have eye contact all while remaining on their phones.

In an episode of The Happiness Lab podcast, that I listened to in early pandemic days, I recall hearing that small moments of incidental contact are something that contributes greatly to our happiness. So why are we so incessant on staring at the screen in the palm of our hand?

Early January this year, we went to visit friends. This women is someone I’ve know for upwards of ten years, we lived together at uni, we meet our now husbands during the same week (but under completely different circumstances), and our only children are born within two months of each other, but I know, and am happy with the fact that she will rarely answer her phone when it rings. If fact she’s so bad with her phone, that her answering machine says so, and asks that people send her a text. Spending a few days with her really made me rethink my phone usage.

We actually chatted about it, as a group of adults once the kids were in bed and talked about apps that I could use to reduce my time on my phone. When I looked at my screen time, I saw that I was spending upwards of 8 hours a day on my phone. Most of that on Instagram. And most of that time, I was picking up my phone, opening Instagram, only to find that there was obviously no new stories or posts uploaded since I last picked up my phone 30 seconds ago.

So once home from that visit, I added a screen time limit for Instagram. Deleted facebook off my phone, because the only thing I really like about Facebook is Marketplace and I find that if I check that on my desktop then I look and walk away. Since that visit, I have read more books, started meditating again, spent more time playing games with Elliot, I have been listening to podcasts and actually calling friends. Honestly, I’m still spending around 2-3 hours on my phone, most of that Instagram. I’ve put a limit on it so that I essentially get kicked out at 45 minutes, sometimes I leave it at that and sometimes I go for another 15 minutes. The rest seems to be incidental picking up, phone calls, calendar, messages etc. And I have to be honest, I really like Instagram. I like the actual real connections I have made with people I’ve never met, or when I finally do meet it feels like we’ve known each other for years. I love the beautiful pictures I get to see from creatives all over the world. I really do love the community feel, the DM chats and the recipes I’m inspired to try or books I add to my reading list. I am very conscious of needing to be in control of my viewing of Instagram. 

Here’s some things I do to reduce the amount I pickup my phone. I by no means am the best at this, as I’ve said above but I am working on it.

  • We never have our phones in our bedroom. We have a charging station in the kitchen where phones get plugged in before bed. We don’t have a clock in our room, we’re early risers and tend not to need an alarm. We both read on kindles, and often I check the time on that if I need to.
  • Have something else near by to pick up instead of picking up your phone. To get out of the habit, carry a book around, or have a colouring book at the dining table, or a fidget spinner.
  • I’ve been utilising the timed limits you can create. For me it’s 45 minutes on Instagram. Some days I give myself an extra 15 minutes, or ignore the limit completely but it’s a conscious choice I make.
  • In the past I have deleted the app of my phone after using it. I’m not doing that at the moment because I’m loving creating Reels and have  bunch saved in my drafts which will all get deleted if I delete the app. I know of a lot of people online (Venetia LaMana and Jess Quinn) who delete all social media apps off their phones every weekend.
  • Use the mute function on Instagram. As I went through stories (arguably one of my favourite elements of Instagram) I took note of whose stories I was just quickly flicking through and muted them. If I was flicking through their stories and posts I unfollowed. If I felt icky about unfollowing I simply muted. People don’t know if you’ve muted them, used this function to its fullest!
  • Don’t get stuck in the explore or Reels page. Look at and engage with who you follow and get the hell outta dodge!

I’d love to know your thoughts on using your phone/social media as a numbing tool. Have you looked at your screen time? What ways do you stop yourself from binging Instagram?

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