Reprogram yourself to use social media in a positive way

If it wasn’t for social media I wouldn’t:

  • Have landed the job I’m in now (I saw the role advertised on Instagram)
  • Learn from people whose lives are different to my own
  • Access unbiased news reporting as easily
  • Be (relatively) well informed about current events
  • Know how to curl my hair (I still don’t, but with each tutorial I get a little better)
  • Have stayed in touch with friends during this pandemic
  • Have been given the opportunity to write the article that you’re reading


But, on the other hand, if it wasn’t for social media I also wouldn’t:

  • Be considering getting Botox at the ripe age of 24
  • Worry about how many steps I’ve taken today
  • Spend so much time scrolling when I should be sleeping/working/reading
  • Have 23,000 photos on my phone
  • Be so concerned with the image I’ve curated of myself online
  • Compare my achievements to those of others


These examples show how profoundly impactful social media can be – and how it has the power to better or worsen our lives – depending on the way and frequency in which we use it.

Without social media I’d be living in an embarrassingly sheltered echo chamber with my opinions unchallenged and my resources unchecked. And while I’d like to say that I’m not “addicted”, I wouldn’t actually know because I’ve never tried to refrain from using it.

Old habits die hard, and since I’ve been using social media on a daily basis since primary school, it’s safe to assume I’d have a hard time distancing myself if I tried to. Last week my daily screen-time average was five hours and three minutes, and I tend to justify such use by reminding myself that it’s not all mindless scrolling on Instagram. I also use my phone to keep up with current affairs on Twitter and to seek out light-hearted entertainment on TikTok when the news cycle is fraught with gloom (read: anything Covid related).

But, if you’re like me and recognise that you spend far too much time distracting yourself online, or that you’ve become too dependent on instant gratification (likes, views, comments) and use social media to fill a void within yourself – consider this a reminder that we should be the ones using social media, rather than letting it use us.

So, how the fuck can we learn to detach from socials to ensure that we’re only engaging with social media in a positive way?

Here are a few tips that can help you limit your screen time, one app at a time:

  1. Stop scrolling in the mornings. Stop checking Instagram as if it’s the daily paper. Because it’s not. There’s nothing on Instagram that you need to know urgently, and while Sammy Robinson’s workout routine may be interesting, it can wait.
  2. Establish a daily screen-time limit. Setting a goal to work towards will ensure that you’re more conscious of your usage and will make you notice how often you reach for your phone without actually needing it. Scrolling should not be our default setting.
  3. Utilise the ‘mute’ button on Instagram. If you find that there’s a particular friend, acquaintance (or an ex) that causes you angst or posts triggering content, remember that you can refrain from seeing their posts without having to unfollow.
  4. Turn off notifications where you can. I get it, we don’t ever want to miss out on the tea in the group chat or be late to respond to someone, but turning off notifications where possible allows us to use social media when we actually want to, and not just when we’re obliged And it provides an element of surprise when we do access our apps. Fun!
  5. Use your iPhone’s grayscale settings. I’d only recommend this for the highly addicted because using your phone’s black-and-white settings make it so fucking dull (but I guess that’s the point of the function). Without our brains reacting to the enticing, saturated colours that we’re used to seeing, using our phones becomes incredibly unappealing.
  6. Be sure to follow people for the right reasons. Sis I don’t need to tell you that you shouldn’t be hate-following anyone (your ex’s new partner for example), or obsessing over the accounts of people you envy. If certain influencers’ lifestyles make you feel shit about yours, unfollow them! You have no idea how liberating it will feel to not be reminded of your insecurities or the ways in which you don’t measure up to them. 

You know how people say that you’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with? Well, I figure that logic applies to who we follow too – meaning that you’re also the sum of the five accounts you consume the most. So make them count!

Make sure to only engage with accounts that educate, entertain or inspire you, because life’s too short to invest in anything else. And, if you need any other reason to abstain from using your phone: remember that it’s always the coolest people who have the smallest online presence. Being online 24/7 is so 2010.

Words by Sunny Chisholm @sunnychis

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