Arts and Culture

Social media is dominating our free time - here's how you can cut down

A man browses through books at a second-hand book market in Lima, Peru September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo - RC15E8DED1A0

How does your social media usage compare? Image: REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Emma Charlton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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From scrolling through photos on Instagram to sharing an article on Twitter, social media has become a ubiquitous part of our lives.

Most of us can relate to opening an app like Facebook and browsing for longer than we intended, resulting in “dead” or “lost” time. We carry our phones with us constantly, or are connected via smartwatches or other devices that send push notifications to draw us back in.

Globally, digital consumers spend an average of 2 hours and 23 minutes per day on social media, according to GlobalWebIndex’s Flagship Report for 2019.

Image: GlobalWebIndex Flagship Report 2019

But the tide seems to be turning, with the report also showing people are becoming more aware of the addictive nature of social media.

New apps that track social usage are proliferating. Among them is one from Omni Calculator that calculates your screen time and tells you how many books you could have finished if you focused on reading instead.

Have you read?

Cutting out three 10-minute social media checks a day means you could read as many as 30 more books a year, the calculator shows.

Apps that monitor screen time are proliferating. Image: GlobalWebIndex Flagship Report 2019

Digital monitoring tools are a major trend. Google users can now see data on their screen time usage and Android users can set app time limits. Apple, Facebook and Instagram all offer similar functions.

More than 75% of people felt happier about their phone usage if they used a digital well-being app, according to Google.

The Omni Calculator also looks at other ways you could repurpose the time you spend on social media, calculating how many calories you could burn if you exercised instead, or listing alternative skills you could master.

Break time

“Just a couple of five-minute breaks every hour are hundreds of hours yearly,” the Omni Calculator's creators say. “You cut your social media time by half, and you still get plenty of time to read, run or earn money.”

It recommends turning off push notifications that appear on your screen, deleting some apps, calling your friends rather than messaging them, and taking short holidays from all social media once in a while.

“There are many benefits to social media,” Omni Calculator says. Even so, “there are plenty of studies that focus on how social media affects our brains, relationships and productiveness.”

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