Declutter My Digital Life – Challenge #1 Cutting Back Social Media

Tool Used:

  • iPhone Screen Time


7 days

I was aware of the excessive time I’ve spent on my phone. But I didn’t have a big motivation to change the digital lifestyle until I turn on Screen Time on iPhone. I highly recommend it. Literally looking at the time I spent on the phone is educational. It screams “you need change” right on my face.

After I turn on Screen Time, I realized this is how a typical day looks like. At 4:34pm, I’ve spent over 50% of my screen time on social media. It’s very clear if I want to be mindful of my digital life, this is where I should begin. Oh and I duck tape the actual hours and minutes because it’s embarrassing.

my screen time
my screen time

Before you start, you might want to figure out your own reason behind social media addiction. This is my way to figuring it out (click here)

Challenge #1 – Cutting Back Social Media for A Week

On the first day of the challenge, I tried to see if I could cut back an hour on social media just by the sheer will. It was hard, and I kept telling myself if I did it, I will get rewarded by using the hour I saved from social media time to enjoy some coffee and the great weather on the second day.

I did cut back an hour on the first day. So on the second day, I drove to a Starbucks near my place to enjoy that hour I saved from the first day. The thought is keeping the momentum going. The hour I saved from the first day will be used to do something that DOES NOT involve social media on the second day, and thus it feels like I automatically cut back an hour on the second day.

So there I was, in a sunny afternoon, I stepped into a Starbucks in Safeway. Oh look, they were running a promotion! I’ve noticed the Starbucks inside supermarkets run the promotions not listed in the Starbucks app. Perhaps local supermarkets subsidy this type of promotion to bring foot traffic. You need to be physically there to find out the promo. So that’s a great start. Who doesn’t love a good deal?

declutter my digital life - challenge 1 cutting back social media - an unexpected promotion

While I was waiting for the coffee and sous vide egg bites, I walked around Safeway and grabbed some deli food. There you go, “what’s for dinner” was answered.

Then I sat in the coffee shop. Before I started to enjoy the coffee and the egg bites, I felt that itch to pull out my phone. So I drove home immediately and forced myself to put the phone in the kitchen while I sat in the backyard and listened to the wind.

Yes, I just sat there, enjoyed my Frappuccino and egg bites, and did nothing. And guess what. I didn’t miss anything important. Our typical day won’t be turned upside down if we turn off the phone for an hour, and certainly won’t be upside down if we skip social media for a day.

declutter my digital life - challenge 1 cutting back social media - sit in my backyard and do nothing

Day 3

What would I do today if an hour was saved from social media time? I found that getting a book to read helps me fight the itch. So I picked up a book in the library and read it there. I also bought books from the “friends and family” section for $1 before I left the library. Just in case I need extra help. This is because mentally I associate boredom with Twitter. In other words, when I feel bored, I look for Twitter feeds. Reading books can also bring relief to my boredom, so it serves as an alternative. (And again here is the article about how I figure out my mental association with Twitter feeds).

Day 4

It’s Saturday! Cutting back social media gets easier over the weekend because I spent more time with my family. For an extra hour family time, we baked cupcakes!

Day 5

On Sunday, instead of scrolling for an hour on my phone, my son and I went to the park. We have an extra hour to spend there, so that’s 3 hours in the park. Got plenty of Vitamin D generated.

Day 6

I have tons of work to do on Monday, so in an ideal world, an hour not spent on social media should be used for work. But it did not happen that way. I found that when I was frustrated with work, the notifications from Facebook can get my attention right away: “Patty replied your comment on her photo.”, “Let Claire know if you will make it to xyz event. Madison is also going.” After a few days of detoxing social media, the tricks to make me click on notifications look a bit weird now. Why would I need to let Claire know whether I am going to an event RIGHT NOW? The event is 2 weeks away.

declutter digital life - social media notifications come every two to three hours

I ended up using the hour I saved from social media to listen to music while reading newsletters. There are several newsletters I enjoyed: Harvard Business Review, TechCrunch, Fast Company and Morning Brew. All of them are related to the business world, tech startups, and important news. They are better sources than social media.

Day 7

Last day of cutting back social media. I thought I would be glad it’s almost over, and it turns out I didn’t have much excitement to go back to the way I was. When thinking about those things I did with the hours I saved from social media, I felt happy. The coffee, the books, the cupcakes and the fun in the park. On top of that my Screen Time doesn’t look so bad anymore. It is easy to continue cutting back an hour each day and use that hour to do something I enjoy. So if you want to detox social media, try cutting back an hour a day, and use it to do something you would enjoy. It’s not too difficult, and very effective.

Onward to my second challenge: decluttering promotional emails.

How do I turn on Screen Time on my iPhone?

Settings -> Screen Time -> Turn On and that’s it. It will automatically record your screen time and show the percentage of time you spend on each category. If you want to fine-tune categories (for example WhatsApp was categorized as Social Networking, but you use it for work, you can read this post and learn how to fine-tune categories)

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