10 Boundaries You Can Set to Stop Wasting Time on Social Media
By far, one of the biggest time wasters for me can be my phone, most specifically social media. Once you get on it, you can keep scrolling until the end of time and never run out of interesting things to look at.
Sometimes you can hop on with the best intentions (“I just need to look something up”; “Just a quick scroll to see how my friends are doing”; etc.) and find yourself still scrolling an hour later.
Usually the result is that you feel guilty for wasting time, and frustrated because you were so determined not to fall down the black hole again, yet you did anyway.
How does this happen?
While I won't go into all the technical details, it is proven science that social media apps take advantage of the same process in your brain that creates any other addiction. This is done intentionally because these platforms rely on advertising; therefore it is part of their business strategy to keep you on their platform as often and as long as possible. Negative feelings on social media actually contribute to the addiction as your brain builds up anticipation for the next positive feeling that will hit.
It's not that you have no self-discipline when you open up social media; it's that your brain is doing exactly what it is wired to do, and that is to stay mesmerized, continuously scrolling in anticipation of the next dopamine hit.
Depending on your genetics, your nutrition, and several other factors, this process will take place in some people's brains more quickly than in others.
So what can you do when you want to use your smartphone for good things but you keep getting sucked into wasting a bunch of time?
You can set boundaries for yourself that allow you to stay connected to your friends and family without enabling you to become entranced in an endless scroll.
Here are a 10 ideas for boundaries that you can set for yourself on social media:
1. Practice mindfulness
Fully engage your brain. Don't use your phone as a way to mindlessly escape from the pressures of the day. I get it. When you feel tired or stressed, you just want to check out for a few minutes watching some cute cat videos. But using these apps mindlessly is the quickest way to get sucked in and lose track of time.
2. Follow with intention
When your feed is cluttered with all manner of shiny things, it only contributes to the tendency your brain has to be anticipating that next dopamine hit. But when the people and pages you're following are on your feed for a specific reason, it's easier to keep your brain engaged.
-Am I learning anything or being encouraged to grow as a person by what this person shares?
-Are the updates I receive from this person truly helping me keep up with how they're doing or do they only share dorky memes?
-Am I angered or irritated by the things this person shares?
Unfollow anything that is not helping you grow as a person or keep in touch with the people you care about. Unfollow things that make you feel irritated and angry. Unfollow things that are simply shiny “fluff”.
3. Move apps from your phone's home page
Sometimes it just becomes a habit to open up your apps, even when you have no particular reason to. Moving them to a more obscure location on your phone will cause you to put in a little more effort to open them and hopefully think a little harder about why you're opening them.
4. Turn off social media notifications
Seeing those little numbers beside your icons or feeling your phone vibrate in your pocket is a trigger for you to immediately open up your app. There is no mindfulness involved which is a dangerous place for your brain when you're on an app specifically designed to suck you into its content.
5. Leave your phone off your body
Having your phone in your pocket can get you into the habit of mindlessly pulling it out all the time.
6. Replace checking your phone with a different action
Every time you pull out your phone and start to mindlessly open an app, start replacing it with a different action. Do a few squats, write a few lines in your journal, or read a chapter of a book.
7. Go on a social media fast
Choose a day, weekend, or week and go completely screen free except for necessary phone calls or texts. This will give your brain a chance to reset from mindless habits.
8. Use an app to restrict your social media usage to certain times of day
I use the AntiSocial app on my Android. I'm sure there are similar apps for iPhone. It gives me a lot of options for choosing which apps to restrict and when to restrict them. I asked my husband to set the password for the restrictions so that I can't cheat and log myself back in.
9. Give yourself permission to use social media at the right times
Don't view social media as the forbidden fruit, which only draws you to it more strongly. View it as the valuable tool that it is, and use it with intention. Using an app to restrict my usage has helped me be much more mindful and intentional when I do get on. I know that I only have a certain amount of time, so I'm careful to prioritize looking at and commenting on the content that is truly important for me to see.
10. Remove apps from your phone
If necessary, remove the temptation completely by getting rid of your apps altogether. If you do this, you might want to ask someone else to set a password on your phone for adding and deleting apps so that you won't be able to download them again.
There is no reason to feel guilty about using social media. It can be a very valuable, worthwhile thing when used with intention. I hope these boundaries will help you use your time wisely!
Social media isn't the only aspect of online life that can eat our time away. The good news is that with intention, there is a whole lot we can do to ensure we are accomplishing more with our time.
If you're tired of ending each day frustrated because you just can't seem to “get it all done”, then use the box below to sign up for a free 5 day email course, Time Management for the Busy Homemaker.