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How not to let social media and your phone destroy your life

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Phone addiction is a serious problem across all age ranges. Recently, a friend told me that they went to bed at midnight but were up till 3 AM scrolling Instagram. They said they lost track of time.

I suffered from the same syndrome and would constantly have the urge to check my phone every few minutes. Even in the middle of work. To the point that my phone and social media apps were distracting me from working

My average phone usage time would be close to 6 hours a day. I was in a bad mental state and my phone (read social media) addiction was making it worse. I wanted to reduce my usage of Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Discord, and Reddit.

How to use your phone without being miserable

There are two ways to cure your phone addiction. The first is to take the band-aid-like approach and pull it off in one go. Most people are likely to give up on this. I still recommend that you start with the "Quick and painful" approach and only use the milder method when it doesn't work for you. Regardless of the approach you take, I still think that these techniques are likely to help you.

Quick and painful

The quick and painful method is to uninstall all social media apps from your phone and only open them from the browser

Use social media only from the browser

Social media apps like Twitter and Instagram have never-ending feeds and timelines. We get addicted to them because they give us a small dopamine rush every time we scroll the feed.

I uninstalled social media apps from my phone. I logged into all these apps from my desktop computer. It helped because firstly, it took more effort to go to the browser and type in the URL. And secondly, I could use LeechBlock to restrict myself from opening social media sites during my work hours

You can also experiment by logging into these apps from your phone's browser. Since those web apps are not optimised for mobile devices they give you an inferior experience. If you hate the scrolling experience, you wouldn't want to scroll

taps head meme

If you hate the scrolling experience, you wouldn't want to scroll

This is how I got rid of using Instagram because the web version sucks. Try watching a story or two on Instagram web, you don't want to. It is slightly more difficult to uninstall system apps. The method demonstrated by XDA here requires caution. As long as you don't uninstall random things, your phone should be fine. This is how I got rid of YouTube and I still don't have it installed on my phone.

Put your phone on silent mode permanently

Sometimes I would get the feeling that my phone was vibrating even when it wasn't. I kid you not, this is a real illness that has been extensively documented and is a sign of mobile phone addiction.

The easy way out is to put your phone on silent mode and forget. Then when feeling like it is vibrating, you tell yourself that it isn't because it can't be.

Another way is to put your phone in silent mode and to leave it in a different room. Putting the phone out of your sight will reduce the urge to pick it up again and again because you don't see it that often

Mild and slower

A lot of these solutions revolve around using the app Digital Wellbeing (Play Store).

If it's not available for you on the Play Store, you can side-load the APK from APK Pure.

I recommend also using Nova Launcher. I like it because it is functional, customisable and doesn't do too much. You can also use Lawnchair Launcher.

Keep an empty home screen - out of sight, out of mind

homescreen

The problem was that whenever I turned the screen on, I saw shortcuts to those social media apps on my home screen. I would open them out of muscle memory. I would then forget why I picked my phone up and started scrolling whatever feed I had in front of me. The easy solution was to remove all home screen shortcuts. The only way to open those apps was through the app drawer. That would require extra effort which increased my resistance to opening the app again and again.

When I started, I built a special launcher for myself that would be boring yet functional. miny is still available on the Play Store but I don't use it anymore. You might want to give it a try. I haven't worked on it in a while so expect plenty of bugs

Turn off all unnecessary notifications

If you don't want to give up on the installed apps that quickly, another way is to disable notifications. You can go to Instagram's and Twitter's settings to disable alerts. Disable as many as you'd like. If you get fewer notifications, you are less likely to open those apps. I have notifications enabled only for Direct Messages. I have disabled all other notifications

You can also go to Digital Wellbeing and see which apps send you the most amount of notifications every day. There are also apps available that aggregate notifications for a few hours and send them all at once at times you specify.

notifications counter according to apps

Digital Wellbeing also has a focus mode that blocks notifications for specific apps. It gives you the choice to allow important apps to still send you important alerts. I like this feature a lot and use it while I am working. It prevents me from getting distracted

digital wellbeing focus mode

You can also use Android's DND mode and switch off all notifications. You can keep notifications for calls on so if there's anything urgent, someone is likely to call you

Use direct shortcuts to features instead of navigating

This is again if you haven't uninstalled social media apps from your phone. The launcher I use, Nova Launcher, has this cool feature that allows me to go to different parts of the app directly. This saves me the effort of navigating through unnecessary parts of the apps and going to where I want directly. For instance, if I want to message someone on Instagram, I can directly go to the chats screen rather than opening the app and getting distracted by the feed.

direct shortcuts from homescreen

I also use a Nova launcher extension called Sesame Shortcuts (it's a paid app with a free trial) that takes this idea to the extreme and provides a ton of other features. You probably don't need it but it's pretty cool nonetheless

Limit usage with digital wellbeing

an empty phone homescreen

I used Digital Wellbeing to set timers for social media apps. Once the assigned time gets depleted, Digital Wellbeing will restrict your access to those apps. They will appear greyed out and you won't be able to open them. It will also hide the notifications from those apps to prevent any further distraction.

You can start by allocating larger amounts of time for each app and then reducing the time at the start of the week until you have reached your desired usage.

How it has helped me

direct shortcuts from homescreen

I used to be glued to my phone for about 5-6 hours a day. I have now brought it to somewhere close to 1.5 hours. That is if you ignore the time spent calling. It's erroneously reported since that's the amount of time I spent talking to people outside of social media.

I don't believe that you should completely go off of social media. I do believe that you should restrict the time you allocate to it.

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