“Technology evolves so much faster than wisdom.” -Jennifer Stone
Raise your hand if you wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is grab your phone and start checking various apps, quickly becoming entranced in the zombie-like scroll. Raise your hand if you’ve spent entire evenings or afternoons mindlessly perusing your phone, and felt an overwhelming sense of ickiness, as Cher Horowitz would say, in the aftermath?
When your “Screen Time Report” pops up and tells you you spend an average of 3-5 hours a day on your phone, consider how else you might use even half of that time: getting into amazing shape, deep cleaning your house, improving your home, emailing potential clients to generate more side income, reading books, training for a marathon, or to do the splits.
Maybe you find yourself compulsively diving into an internet black hole filled with exes, or you find yourself comparing your life or your body to someones perfectly curated page, their perfectly angled, lighted, and edited postures, and torture yourself with feelings of inadequacy?
Our phone habits, which seem compulsive and beyond our control, are 100% decisions we make, and we are the only people with the power to change them if they’re making us feel like crap.
The New York Times released an article earlier this month, Putting Down Your Phone May Help You Live Longer, which looks at our cortisol-raising phone habits, and how they put our long term health and wellness at risk when left unchecked.
Have you found it hard to “quit,” your habits, thinking about all the things you could be doing with those hours a day instead? First of all, you’re not alone, because we’ve all been guilty of this. Secondly, you can make new habits, and actually crave and seek out that phone-free time.
Many years ago I had my boyfriend at the time install a 6PM Facebook and Instagram block on our internet connection so I wouldn’t be tempted to scroll in the evenings, and could instead unwind in the garden, do some writing, reading, walking, or just workout without checking my phone every five minutes.
Years later, the pull of social media is still strong, and I have to check my habits daily, but I can say with certainty that it’s no big deal to set my phone out of reach to have hours of uninterrupted time to write, hike, read, or just relax.
It took a lot of time to get here, but it’s so worth it to reign in your habits, clean up your apps and social media feeds, and prioritize living in real life and not just for the social media post.
I never regret social media and phone breaks. I never turn my phone back on and think “Oh shoot! I missed this monumental event and notification in live time!” Most of the time, time spent away helps me sweeten up my real life, and the more time I spend away, the harder it is to justify or be entertained or numbed by hours of scrolling.
You may learn that you like having massive parts of your life you don’t share on social media that are just for you and the pleasure they bring you. You may enjoy your friendships more without needing to post them. You may find that cute outfits that never make it to the web are just as delightful, as are day trips and amazing meals. It’s ok, and it’s good, to save some things just for you. Not everything must be a performance for social media. Don’t live your life for others. Just because you’re not posting about it doesn’t mean it’s not real, valid, or valuable.
In fact, oftentimes, social media can actually deter from our enjoyment and presence. Start doing fun and exciting things you don’t share online. See how it feels.
Social media is an amazing resource for staying in contact with friends, sharing our lives with others, finding new connections, art, inspiration, and even free mental health resources. There’s some pretty incredible things happening on the internet, more than we could individually consume in our lifetime.
There’s also a lot of weeds. There’s a lot of Photoshop, a lot of models, a lot of sales, a lot of sponsorship, a lot of drama, hating, anger, fake news, click bait, etc.
Maybe you’ve been on the “explore” feed on Instagram, following the black hole of despair, wondering why your butt doesn’t look like that in a bikini and maybe you are unlovable after all. Dude. No. Stop. Please.
Just check out this guy who faked an entire Coachella trip on Instagram with Photoshop, and don’t believe everything you see.
When I was in Los Angeles, I saw “influencers” out and about, professional photographers in tow, all over. I saw many taking endless “action” and “candid” shots to get them exactly right. I saw dates where neither person looked up from their phone, and people who were rude to waitstaff and seemed rather miserable taking smiling selfies with their green juice immediately after. Don’t believe all the images you see.
It is IMPERATIVE we clean up our feeds and our habits around social media. There is being well-informed, and there is filling our brains with unnecessary amounts of cortisol-raising news. Choosing one local issue you can impact (say, planting more trees or volunteering at a local animal shelter) has more value than being angry and fired up about everything going wrong in the world, and being informed about it all.
Learning to Decipher
There is being motivated, and being triggered. There is admiring, and there is comparing, and failing to see the reality behind perfectly angled and edited bikini and workout pics. There is getting fashion inspiration, and there is hating your body for not looking like a fashion model. You have to be honest with yourself about what you’re consuming, why, and where it’s leading you.
Then, you have to be relentless in weeding your feed so it’s nutritious brain food, and not a bunch of Twinkies that are making you sick. A Twinkie every now and then never killed anyone, and can be a fun treat, but everyone knows how you feel if you eat too many.
Maybe your goal is to get to a place where we can view WHATEVER and have it not fuck with our vibrations. We can handle every color of the rainbow that life has to offer and it doesn’t fuck with our sparkling inner guidance system, but it’s ok if edited and posed fitness models make you feel bad about yourself. They are designed to so that you buy something, and those bodies are unattainable in reality so you keep buying things.
Cleaning it up
We are human, and the easiest way to feel good more of the time is to welcome in what feels good, and delete, block and avoid that which doesn’t. The same is true for your social media feeds.
Even advertisements that trigger you can be tailored by hitting the three dots on Instagram and asking them to not show you the Ad. Reasons range from “It’s inappropriate” to “I see it too often.” While you may not be able to make Instagram Ad Free, you can at least curate the algorithm a bit so you’re viewing uplifting content.
If someone’s feed creates anxiety, guilt, resentment, shame, anger, jealousy, unhealthy comparisons, or triggers you in any way that doesn’t feel good, I don’t care who they are- you do not owe anyone your “following” or attention on social media if it’s negatively effecting your well being.
Of course, it is our responsibility to take a good honest look at why something makes us feel bad, and see how we can shift our perspective, and where we can grow, but there’s no shame in tailoring our lives to be filled with what feels good naturally.
If your grandma is posting political rants and “outrage porn” and it feels like a swarm of bees in your chest every time you see it, it’s ok to unfollow or “mute” her, or “hide” her posts. You can love her with some distance between you. You can still thank her for the killer potato salad at family reunions, and hug her and love her from afar.
Same thing goes for people who struggle with body image, or have a history of disordered behavior with exercise or eating. Are you following accounts that promote feeling and looking like a unicorn by drinking squeezed celery teets for breakfast, $30 mushroom powder smoothies for lunch, and steamed kale with lemon and garbanzo beans for dinner? And it’s making you feel like a failure because sometimes you just want to eat a snickers bar, but like, you’ll eat some kale later? UNFOLLOW. You are not a failure, treats have their place in a relaxed, moderate, healthful diet.
Does the “fitspo” you follow actually inspire body hatred more than it motivates you to get in shape, get healthy and feel good? Do not chase perfection and sacrifice living and enjoying your life in hopes you’ll look like a fitness model. Even fitness models can’t look like their post-worthy selves all the time. Check out the #instagramvsreality hashtag regularly, or just check out these Google Images of the hashtag.
Do you follow a “frenemy” that makes you feel weird every time you see their posts? Unfollow. Mute.
Following your ex that posts women hating memes on the reg? Buh-bye.
YOU DO NOT OWE ANYONE A FOLLOWING. If the person even notices, they will get over it.
Replace and Curate
Think of your phone like your dream magazine, filled with articles that inspire you, art that lifts your spirits, and fashion that makes you want to bust out your rhinestone studded cowboy boots. Of course, there’s going to be some stuff to skip over, but you get to choose what you view. Choose wisely, and choose what feels good.
When you fill your feed with art, nature shots, puppies, unedited bodies, self development accounts, things that inspire and uplift you and turn you on or make you laugh, social media becomes a mecca of high vibe shit that makes you feel good and inspired. And even then, a lot of it is still selling something, so as always, consume with moderation.
You can still have too much of a good thing, however, so here are some tools to use to make sure you’re getting the most out of social media, without letting it negatively affect you and your life.
How To Create Better Phone Habits
You know the feeling. When you realize it’s your day off and it’s 1PM and you’ve basically had coffee and breakfast and it’s lunchtime and all you have to show for your day is some screen shots of your new favorite memes and you get a little panicked, seeing your future and knowing you want more than screen shots to show for it! It’s ok, it’s happened to literally all of us. When this happens, it’s important to notice it. Is it just habit, or are you avoiding something?
Start paying attention to the moments you reach for my phone, and make an effort to ask yourself what you are feeling (or, more often than not) avoiding feeling. Some regular things that come up: procrastination, sadness, any sort of discomfort, or feeling of being unsure of what to do next. If you’re reaching for your phone when you need comfort, are feeling lonely, or bored how else might you fill that need? If you’re numbing out, how can you instead lean into and process what you’re feeling and then move on? There’s always more solutions. Start utilizing some of them.
You could take a bath. Call a friend. Make Plans. Go to a coffee shop or somewhere nearby and make conversation. Reach out to family. Send a letter or a card. You can play with or take your pet for a walk. Work on projects. Garden. Window shop. Lay in the sun. Make some art. Clean your house. Write a love letter. Bake a cake and give it away to someone you adore.
Take Social Media Free Sundays. I’ve yet to implement this on weekly basis, but I love the idea of taking a full day off once a week.
Take a Full Week Off From Time to Time. Even a few days will help you “reset” and begin building a better routine. You’ll be amazed and not only what you can accomplish, but how much time you can spend doing things that make you feel good with your added free time.
Get Wet and Hang
Get in the water. You can’t have your phone in water, so make it a practice to hike in the rain, take up swimming, or kayaking, or something of that nature. This will force you to forgo your phone and it will be awesome because you’ll build these breaks into your life.
Seek out No Cell Service
Take day trips, hikes, and camping trips out of cell service.
Be Present and Put Your Phone Away With Others
It’s important to get out of your phone and INTO life. Don’t live for your phone.
We’ve all seen (or been) the couple out at dinner, not speaking, and completely immersed in their phones. Do you really want to be that couple?
So many people find themselves excited to do something new, and before they even do the thing, they’re planning the social media post in their head. Whaaaat?
Instead of enjoying and being present with our friends and family, we’re staging photos and taking videos. I get it, a photo lasts forever, but get more into how your body feels than what your social media followers are thinking and seeing.
A moment shared with friends is just as, if not more valuable than a moment shared on social media. Let the memory and the experience be enough. It is enough.
Leave your phone in your car. Make an effort to look into your friends eyes, and be with them. Learn to treasure moments that aren’t shared with your followers. They are still just as valid when they are your memories, and you’ll experience them more vividly.
Set up a tracker on your phone that tracks your time spend on your phone. If you’re spending two-three hours a day, that’s enough time to get in amazing shape, write a book in your spare time, get a dog and take it for three walks a day, make a cake and decorate it like a Candyland, rearrange your furniture, clean your closet, or start a side business.
Read The Craving Mind by Judson Brewer, a psychiatrist and addiction expert, who writes about mindfulness and meditation for overcoming our addictions and compulsions, including social media.
“Likes” and comments on our social media posts give our brains a dopamine hit, and activate reward centers in our brain. If we’re not careful, too much social media can cause a warped view of reality, and takes up time we can never get back. Treat it with respect, and use it wisely and moderately.
Use Instagram like a vision board.
I think I first heard this idea from Gala Darling (who I adore, and you should check out!) and it’s to use your Instagram like a vision board, projecting and collecting things you want more of, and creating and visualizing your dreams for yourself and your life. Keep it real, be genuine, and then step your game up in real life to match your vision!
I think this is so beautiful, and shows just another way we can turn something that can easily be toxic into a tool for our greatest good instead. Beautiful!
To Sum it Up:
Unfollow. Go on a freaking unfollow spree. Check your friends/ following list. Clean it up. Or, as you scroll, if something makes you feel icky, for whatever reason, check the account, see if it’s a regular occurrence, and if it is, Unfollow. #thankunext
Replace with Goodness. Seek out art and photography that makes your soul sing. Spark up new and old hobbies and follow accounts where you learn something or get inspired to level up. Find motivational or self help accounts that keep you in a good head space, and remind yourself to watch your thoughts.
Take breaks. Take breaks every day. Take breaks every week. Take long breaks every month, every season, every year. Reset. Reevaluate
Figure Out What You’re Really Looking for and Give it to Yourself or Ask for It
Are you looking for connection, inspiration, validation, compliments, company? Give it to yourself, or ask someone!
I love social media, and Instagram, I really do. I love memes, I love inspirational quotes, I love art, I love selfies, I love stylized photography, and I love being able to connect with people far and wide. I love having an entire world at my fingertips and in my pockets and I realize it is a privilege. I also realize, and hope you do, too, that we should seek balance, our wellness, and guard our free time like the precious resource that it is.
It is important, though, that we look at our relationship with our phones, create some boundaries, and give it the house cleaning, space, and respect it deserves.