Let’s start this post with the boring context-setting facts: over the summer I upgraded my mobile. It was goodbye iPhone 6S, hello iPhone 8 Plus (I like to always stay one or two models behind because it keeps me humble)(and lol I’m quite skint). With this upgrade I got not only a much bigger screen but also more memory, which meant that for the first time in about a year I’ve been able to actually keep on top of all the updates without worrying my phone might spontaneously combust overnight.
I thought the new updates might just give me more emojis to use when I can’t be bothered thinking of a good caption for Instagram, but there was one new feature that shook me to my core: the Screen Time tracker.
I noticed a couple of times little notifications that my ‘screen time’ was either up or down based on the previous week. ‘Leave me alone’ I thought, ‘you’re distracting me from whitening the background to my photos on FaceTune’. Then one day, probably after I’d refreshed each app seven times and realised that yes, I had completed the internet for now, I actually looked at the Screen Time tab in my Settings menu properly.
And what did it tell me?
Huddle closer, Are You Afraid of the Dark? style, dear readers.
It told me that over the last week, I had spent 25 hours on my phone. 25 HOURS. Over one WHOLE day, looking at my phone.
I rationalised with myself that it couldn’t be as bad as it looked. I use my phone for work, after all. I run clients’ Instagram accounts and regularly have to check things in the platform, rather than on the desktop. And then there’s the new book I was reading – yes, technically I was reading it on the Kindle app on my phone, but that’s good for my brain. A huge chunk of the time was likely to be that, wasn’t it?
Yes, some of the data was passable. 3.5 hours on the maps feature, which I use as I drive to work each morning to dodge motorway traffic. Another 3.5 hours on YouTube each week, which I have on in the background while I’m doing my hair and makeup in the mornings.
Around an hour and a half each on Facebook and Twitter, which seemed kind of okay. 1 hour 20 on my messages app, which at least counts as socialising time.
Instagram though, made me wince. In the week that I checked, I’d spent an eye-watering 5 HOUR AND 22 MINUTES on the app. I knew that only about an hour of that could be work-related, and I was/am clearly dealing with a bit of a problem here. Saying you spend too much time on social media has always felt a bit obvious, a bit stereotypically millennial – like saying you voted Remain and think you might actually be a bit intolerant to wheat. Like yeah, same as all of us hun. But faced with the actual facts in black and white made me realise that I really do.
And the main problem here is that it’s not a healthy use of my time. Yes I have a blog account to maintain as well as catching up on my IRL friends’ posts, but I know that a huge chunk of that weekly 5+ hours on Instagram is just mindless scrolling. And worse than that, comparing and envying.
So, I have put myself on a phone curfew. Yes, really.
With the exception of my phone and messages apps (for emergencies) and my Kindle app (for brainz), I’m banning myself from going on anything else after 10pm each night. It doesn’t sound like a huge step, but anything that stops the late-night how-the-fuck-have-they-afforded-another-holiday stalking binges and encourages me to wind down in a healthier way (like with Netflix, heehee) can only be a good thing. I’m also trying to be much more conscious of how often I needlessly pick my phone up throughout the day and avoiding things like the Explore tab, which just encourage me to sink further and further into the Insta-hole.
One of the big questions is what I should be doing instead, and if I’m honest I don’t really know the answer to that one. It’s not as if I forgo showering to watch YouTube or shun meeting friends for coffee to read Twitter threads – I like to *think* I’m still a well-rounded enough person.
But surely there is something more productive I could be spending that entire DAY per week doing? So if you need me, I’ll be trying to find out what that is. Preferably without the help of Google. TTFN.