5 Ways to Break Your Social Media Habit

by Nicholas Pell on 15 October 2013 0 comments

The United States alone wastes 260,060 years on social media every month.

Take a week and pay attention to how much time you spend on social media. Now convert that into some unit of time that you could be spending doing something else. How many hikes could you take? How many books could you read? How many novels could you write?

Scientists are only beginning to study Internet addiction. However, we do understand that there are deep-seated causes at the molecular level of the brain.

No matter how you want to spend the time, one thing is clear: Social media is eating up time that you could be spending better. This isn't "better" in some abstract sense. It's "better" in a real and tangible sense, something that the above thought exercise is supposed to point out. (See also: 4 Tips for Doing More With Your Time)

Still, disconnecting from social media is easier said than done. How do you reclaim that time? Here are five simple things that will help you to use more of your time more effectively.

1. Automatically Shut Down Your Computer

There's a simple command that will automatically shut down your computer at a specified time. This command is only good for Windows and Ubuntu users. For Mac OSX users, go to System Preferences, set a time for the computer to shut down and… voila. No more Internet for you — unless, of course, you have a smartphone.

Just don’t forget to save everything and hey… if you really need to get back online, you can always restart.

2. Make a Schedule

For some people, totally disconnecting from social media just isn't an option. All your friends live on the other side of the country. You need it for work. Whatever the reason, you just can't cut the cord completely. The solution? Set times when you can use social media and stick to it. This allows you to get all your social media fix in one place without letting yourself totally get sucked into it.

Use a reminder application to let you know when it's time to get offline. Then listen to your own good advice.

3. Get Back to Basics

Social media doesn't necessarily enrich communication. In fact, there's a strong argument to be made that it impoverishes it. So instead of going on social media, use that time to write a letter, call home, or take up the fine, lost art of training carrier pigeons. (See also: 20+ Reasons to Write a Letter)

OK, so you're not likely to do that last one. But the point remains: Disconnecting from social media is a lot easier when you find other social outlets to replace it. Make time for the people in your life and you'll get a lot more out of it than you will on Facebook or Twitter.

Other ways that you can get reconnected to the real world? Try volunteering for a worthy cause, getting together with friends for pub trivia night or even that old, tried and true form of American camaraderie, the bowling league.

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4. Take Up New Hobbies

You know what's a great way to get off social media? Find new things to do. Set an alarm for a certain time, then go do whatever your new hobby is. Leave the smartphone inside and go for a bike ride, garden, take a walk, lift weights. Whatever it is that you've decided to do, take the time out and do it. (See also: 10 Great Money-Making Hobbies)

Give yourself something better to do than sitting on Facebook, arguing with people you barely know about the events of the day. After a couple weeks, you'll wonder why you ever spent so much time on it in the first place.

5. Productivity Apps

There are a number of productivity apps that will help you to reclaim your time. (See also: 10 Best Productivity Apps)

Pocket lets you throw that "must read" article to the side for later, when you're not working. There are a number of programs you can use to track how much time you spend on social media, including some that will start erasing your work if you don't meet a certain word count.

Several writing tools are designed to be "distraction-free," letting you get work done without the pesky interference of social media. What's more, the trend of "gamification" (making mundane tasks less mundane by turning them into games) has netted a number of apps that will make being productivity just as fun as Farmville.

Getting off social media might be a little bit painful, but it doesn't have to be. Any combination of the above can make you a lot more amenable to unplugging yourself from the new electronic babysitter and using your time far more effectively.

How do you control your social media compulsion?

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