You tell yourself you’re just going to check Instagram for a few minutes. You don’t remember hitting explore and going to Tiktok. And you definitely don’t remember spending an hour hitting “read comments” just to figure out who started the internet drama.
Your eyes are throbbing, your neck aches and you realize you still need to go onto your laptop to finish that assignment before tomorrow.
We’ve all been there.
In a world that’s increasingly online, it’s inevitable that our screen time has reached concerning levels. But it’s time to fix your habits once and for all. So turn on night shift, straighten your back and get scrolling - but for a good cause.
Step One: Tracking Your Time
It’s one thing to know you spend too much time online, but it’s another to see the numbers for yourself. If your phone is modern enough, it’s likely you’ll have a time-tracking feature built in to check your activity across apps. Figure out what you spend the most time on, and make a plan to limit this number by at least 15 minutes.
If it’s messaging - could you ask friends to call instead?
If it’s social media - set limits if possible (check your settings!), or unfollow accounts you don’t interact with or need to be following
If it’s gaming - try playing a sport instead!
On your computer, check to see your options!
Certain iOS devices already have screen time built-in - check your app usage!
If you use Google Chrome, download WebtimeTracker and track your browsing for a week. I’ll even share my daily averages below:
Yeah, Instagram’s #1 even after 400 days of tracking. In my defence, I don’t have it downloaded on my phone, and 20 minutes is not that bad compared to what it could be!
Step Two: Reducing your Usage
Now, you should have a rough idea of where your time is spent. Some of it is non-negotiable - we need to use certain websites for school and other commitments, so don’t stress yourself out if you see your total screen time go past 10 hours. For the majority, however, there are ways to limit your usage to a healthy amount.
Turn off notifications. Believe me, I’ve had my phone set to do not disturb for all of quarantine, and I have zero regrets. You can always follow up with someone later!
Check social media in rounds. I always check Instagram at the same times each day so that I can avoid waiting for people to reply, and just get back to them once they’ve made a response. Start with 5 rounds, and stop each round as soon as you’ve responded to everyone and finished your main feed. If someone’s online, allow yourself a few minutes to chat, but remember that you can continue the conversation later!
Turn your phone screen to black and white. This is a hack that may be a little extreme at first, but once the colours go away it’s hard to want to keep scrolling.
Stand up while scrolling. You’ll know it’s been long enough when your legs start to hurt, and you’ll save yourself from bad posture!
Fine-tune your algorithm so you save time searching. Hit “not interested” on any content that you don’t need. Eventually, your feed will adapt so you’ll only receive quality content!
Use apps to limit your time. There are hundreds of these online, so experiment and see what works for you:
Forest - a great app that limits your phone time based on the Pomodoro technique
StayFocusd - a website blocker that limits how long you have in the day to browse time-wasting websites. Pretty intense!
BlockSite - another website blocker, but with more customization, with options to block based on intervals and set a schedule!
Step Three: Remembering what’s important
We weren’t designed to spend all our time in front of screens.
I know I’m starting to sound like a nagging parent, but you’ve probably noticed the effects yourself - redder eyes, worse posture and having more and more trouble falling asleep. Decreasing your screen time may feel annoying at first, especially when it feels like you’re missing the entire world by not being online. But you’re saving yourself from even worse long-term consequences, like myopia, poor circadian rhythm, and general physical and psychological mal being.
With the time you save from not being online, use it to better your life! Practice self care, spend time with your family, or take up a new hobby. With the number of opportunities that are available online, I can assure you there are just as many in the real world :)
D'Avella , Matt, director. 6 Ways to Reduce Screen Time, YouTube, 26 Feb. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQQUo2gmUs4&ab_channel=MattD%27Avella. Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.
Alter, Adam, director. Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy | Adam Alter, TED, 1 Aug. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K5OO2ybueM&ab_channel=TED. Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.
Foreman, Joshua, et al. “What Does Science Say about Screen Time and Childhood Myopia?” Review of Myopia Management, Review of Myopia Management, 17 May 2021, https://reviewofmm.com/what-does-science-say-about-screen-time-and-childhood-myopia/.
Salk Institute. "Why screen time can disrupt sleep: Scientists uncover how certain retinal cells respond to artificial illumination." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 November 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181127111044.htm>.
Image Sources: “Anyway Frog, Rribbitt! – Line Stickers.” LINE STORE, https://store.line.me/stickershop/product/11448884/en?ref=lsh_stickerDetail.