Abandon the infinite pool.
Recently, a lot of us started receiving weekly reports on our phones about the time we spend looking at the screen. And let’s face it, the first time we got one of those, a wave of shame fell onto us. Really, most of us straight up refused to believe we are spending that many hours on our phones just scrolling through Instagram or Twitter. I had to do something about it.
My screen time
After receiving my screen time reports, I decided to take action. I found under the Screen Time menu on my iPhone an option to restrict my usage time on certain apps (Settings>Screen Time>App Limits). It seemed like a reliable option to help me with my experiment.
For social media, games, and entertainment apps I had set 30 minutes a day during the week and 1 hour during the weekend. Which meant that my screen time would be around 4.5 hours a week. Because I really wanted to decrease phone usage, this number still seemed like a lot. But I decided to look at it as a start and if I’m being honest, I still wanted to use those apps at some level.
I also added, during work hours, a pause setting for the majority of my apps (Setting>Screen Time>Downtime). During this time, I allowed only a couple of apps to work that I thought might be important for me to access during the day, like messaging apps. For me, this experiment was more focused on social media apps since those were the ones I was spending the most time on.
Follow the rules
After a couple of days with those setting, I was still motivated and was actually following the rules I set up for myself. Without my phone or apps, I was able to be productive and focus on what really needed my attention. I also quickly realized how much time I was actually spending scrolling on my phone during “dead time” when I was on the bus or simply between tasks at work. Every pause was an opportunity for me to grab my phone and start the endless scrolling. However, with the new settings, every time I grabbed my phone during a “break” and I would see all those apps blocked I deliberately put my phone down and carried on with my day,
Needless to say, I was surprised by how strickly I was following the rules. Even when the limit screen appeared to ask me if I wanted 15 more minutes on a certain app, I would just close the app. I very rarely clicked on this option. In fact, the couple of times that I did was because I surpassed my time limit but I wanted to show something to a friend. Of course, ideally, I would still have minutes to spare and be able to show stupid videos and memes to my friends. Maybe one day.
Ups and downs
The 30 minutes a day phone usage seemed like a lot when I was setting everything up, but I quickly realized it wasn’t. I was reaching my screen limit right in the morning, even before I reached my desk to start my day at work. And the problem with reaching the limit early on the day is that, once I left work, I couldn’t do anything on my phone.
I ended up being absent during the time people are more active on social media. My friend could be posting anything or even sending me something and I couldn’t see it till the next morning. But here’s the kicker: it wasn’t really that bad.
I’ve always been someone that, the moment I get a notification, I need to answer immediately. However, this time around I couldn’t answer or see what people were up to. And turns out, the world didn’t stop because I couldn’t like a picture or post a comment right away. The key, of course, is the right away part. Eventually, I was able to see the content and send all the likes and comments I desire.
I also started using the messaging apps ways more compelling to social media ones, since I didn’t have the first ones blocked. And instead of trying to figure out what my friends were doing through their Instagram stories — when I was able to see it -, I would just start a conversation to see how they were doing. Blocking social media apps somehow forced me to be more social.
I started this experiment because I saw how much time I was spending just scrolling on my phone. Social media apps are infinite pools that offer you limitless options, but at the same time is bombarding us with meanless content. Think about it, scrolling 5 minutes or 2 hours on social media gets you in the exact same place. And in both scenarios, it’s possible that you don’t even remember what you saw, commented or liked.
Don’t get me wrong, avoiding those infinite pools can actually do wonders for your productivity. But what I found the most interesting about this experiment was the mental health side of it all. In just a couple of days into it, my FOMO decreased immensely. I realized that there is a time and place to use social media and catch up with those I like to follow. And there’s nothing wrong or bad about wanting to do that.
I learned to use my time strategically and really think about what I wanted to see, like, or even spend a couple of precious seconds writing a comment. I would use the available screen time efficiently, and the moment the block would pop up I was able to carry on with my day.
And after a while, it all came naturally to me. I stopped being worried or obsessed with trying to consume all of that content every chance that I got. I could leave that infinite pool and use that time to do things actually useful and important to me.
Needless to say, my screen time has decreased by a lot. And it keeps going down.