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April 20, 2020

How to Stop Spending Too Much Time on Social Media

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I think we can all relate to the dangers of social media consumption. We almost unknowingly open up the app just to quickly check our notifications and find ourselves swiping for another 20 minutes thinking “How the heck did this happen?”. If that sounds like you, give this a try.

Move your social media app icons to a different place on your phone. It’s so simple, but really powerful. Over time, we’ve become conditioned to opening social media as an outlet to earn a quick hit of dopamine, or to easily access entertainment. And the repetition of reaching for our phone for these reasons ends up encoding as a habit on a subconscious level. By moving the app icon, you disrupt the normal subconscious habit, bringing your awareness to the activity, and introduce some friction to exercising the habit itself.  

What all of this does is it makes opening the app a conscious decision. In that moment when we realize we can’t execute the subconscious habit, our conscious mind takes over and asks, “Do I really want to be on social media right now?”. It gives you the power to choose when your social media apps are open instead of just realizing that you’re on social media again minutes after you started.

This is a philosophy shared by two of my favorite habit formation brains, James Clear who’s the author of Atomic Habits and Nir Eyal who authored Hooked and Indistractable. James Clear calls it making the response more difficult, and Nir calls it an effort pact, but they both function the same. It’s about bringing your awareness to the moment of action, which usually occurs with little conscious processing, so that you can make the decision for yourself.

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