Social media has become a fixture in society. It’s difficult to remember what life was like before everybody and their mother had a smart phone. Remember in elementary school, when you would come home and try to get your homework done as soon as possible so your mom would let you go play soccer, ride bikes or jump on the trampoline with the other kids in your neighborhood? I remember calling my friend’s house everyday after school on the home phone with the long curly cord, asking if she could play. A typical day would include riding bikes with friends around the neighborhood, going to the park, passing a ball around, having a picnic (always with capri-suns and peanut butter and fluff sandwiches), chasing the ice cream truck, or knocking on neighbors doors to find someone who owned a Wii so we could play a few games of tennis or bowling.
But what about today? When was the last time you went out with your friends and didn’t look at your phone once? 52% of teenagers admit they’re addicted to their smartphone, according to a CNN article published this past July. And it’s not just a “teen” problem, it’s an adult problem too. While 78% of teenagers do check their phones regularly, 69% of parents do the same, according to the same CNN article. So, what? We check our phones a lot? Well, the University of Maryland conducted research that proved that people were less likely to participate in “prosocial” behavior after a short period of using social media because their fundamental need to connect with others was met through social media. At the University of Essex, researchers found that there was a lack of empathy and relationship connection if there was a cellphone even in sight during conversations.
Not only is it affecting your real-life social life, it is affecting your sleep pattern too. According to Fitness Magazine, when you look at your phone or any screen before bed, which a reported 95% of people do, you’re limiting your brain’s ability to release melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. When you regularly mess up your sleep cycle, you risk multiple health problems, including weight gain, depression and disease, as stated by Fitness Magazine. A typical teenager spends 2.3 hours on their phone and other technology for leisure every day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You’re probably thinking that you could not possibly be this “typical teenager,” but think of all those times you simply open your phone to snapchat someone back or do a quick instagram scroll. The little things add up quick.
If you’re looking to cut back on your social media usage, you have to treat the situation like a diet. You can’t just cut out sugar, gluten, dairy and fat from your diet in one day if you eat those things everyday. You’ll cave and be back to your old habits before you know it. You have to slowly cut things out. To start, pick up your phone and delete your least favorite social media app for a week with the promise of re-downloading it on the weekend. Then, gradually excavate your other apps until your phone is clean and clear. It’s okay, you can check Twitter and Instagram on the computer. Just make sure to not fill in the time you would spend on the app that was deleted, on an app you still have. Think you need social media apps to stay up to date with world events? CNN, Fox News, or whatever your favorite news source may be, has an app you can download to keep yourself informed.
When you’re having a conversation with someone, rather than holding your phone in your hand or placing it somewhere near you, put it in your back pocket or in your bag. This way you’ll eliminate any phone distractions and be able to fully engage in conversation without making someone feel neglected and ignored.
Phones can be especially distracting when doing homework. To finish all your homework without feeling the urge to snapchat your friends or get involved with twitter beef, turn off your phone or place it in another room. Your productivity will increase dramatically.
Car rides can be especially boring and seem like the perfect time to check your phone. But the next time you’re in the car and want to take the time to scroll through your phone, start a conversation with other people in the car, play Eye Spy or 20 questions, or turn up the music.
Since 95% of people check their phones before bed, you probably fall under this category. Remember as a kid when you would read books like Dr. Suess, Junie B. Jones, Magic Tree House, etc. before you went to bed? Reading before bed is a calming way to calm down before heading to bed, rather than checking your phone. So grab that book you’re reading in English class, a book you’ve always wanted to read, but “can’t find the time to read,” scripture readings if you’re of faith, or dust off that copy of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess that’s waiting for you in a box in the attic.
You probably also remember those alarm clocks as a kid that did one thing; set alarms. Instead of being tempted to check your social media after turning off your alarm in the morning, use an old-fashioned alarm clock, which you also probably have in the attic somewhere. Set your phone on a dresser that’s out of reach while you get your beauty sleep.
I find that when I’m stressed out and need a break from the world, I’ll find a comfy spot and scroll through social media. If you’re trying to fight the addiction, find another way to destress. Going running, reading a book, drawing, talking to your mom or a sibling, stretching, or closing your eyes for a few seconds with some deep breaths are just a few ways to destress. If you find yourself spending more than 15 straight minutes on your phone, you’ll want to find another hobby to replace this habit.
These are just a few ways to cut out social media and time on your phone. It’s necessary to remember you can’t do all of these things at once, because it’s hard to go cold turkey.. Start with the least daunting step, and then slowly add on. Spending hours on your phone every week is not the way to live life.