When I wrote about screen time and my kids, a reader asked for my thoughts about screen time for adults, and what I specifically do to control my own screen time.
Just like with my kids, what I’m largely concerned about for myself is the type of screen time I’m having.
In general, I’m happy to spend time on a screen when
- I’m producing rather than consuming
- I’m building relationships
- I’m learning
Examples of things that feel valuable to me:
- writing blog posts
- making Instagram posts
- texting with friends
- responding to people’s social media posts (vs just scrolling by)
- editing photos
- reading helpful content
On the other hand, getting sucked into someone’s social media feed, scrolling the endless Instagram explore page, reading tons of news stories, or reading things that don’t really add value to my life feels like a waste of time to me.
Even though I know this, the siren call of useless, time-wasting screen use still can easily pull me in! So, here are a few ways I try to fight that.
I don’t have tons of apps on my phone.
They all fit on two pages, with room to spare.
Less stuff = less possibility for distraction.
I closed my personal Facebook account.
I do still have a Facebook account for my blog, but I have almost nothing in my feed on that account, which makes it largely for production vs. consumption.
I took Twitter off of my phone.
I’m mostly a consumer on Twitter, and having it on my phone made it too easy to open it all the time. Better to keep it on my desktop only, where I’m much less likely to check it over and over.
I seriously limit the number of people I follow on social media.
I figure that if something is going to distract me from my real life, it had better be important or really enjoyable.
So if someone’s feed isn’t adding value or joy to my life, I unfollow.
(And if that’s true of any of my social media feeds for you, I’d encourage you to unfollow me!)
Also, if someone’s feed tends to send me down too many rabbit-trails, I unfollow. I’m not strong enough to resist rabbit trails!
I have almost no notifications turned on.
Messaging is basically the only app I allow notifications on; I check everything else manually because my soul, those notifications make me want to pick up my phone more often than I should!
I installed Moment on my phone.
It’s a free app that tracks how much time I use my phone each day. What I’ve learned from this app is that small amounts of time add up to way more than I think they do!
The app doesn’t do anything magical, but it’s a helpful reality check. When I think I’m just popping in here and there a few times, Moment tells me, “Um, no, Kristen. Your “popping in and out” was actually 3 hours total.”
So, it’s useful in the way that keeping a food diary or a spending diary is helpful. We humans tend to estimate things in our favor, and Moment keeps me more grounded in reality.
Just so you know, even with all of these things in place, I do sometimes still spend too much time in a day looking at my screens, so please don’t imagine that I have all of this perfectly figured out. Screens are super addicting for our human brains, and I imagine that there will always be some struggle to find balance.
But I do think there’s value in fighting screen addiction, and the tactics I listed above do help me waste less time on my screen than I would if I just gave up without a fight.