DEAR ANNIE: I’m feeling conflicted about my phone. Recently, I deleted all my social media apps — Instagram, TikTok, Twitter — because I was getting so frustrated about all the time I waste on them. I would just open and close them 100 times a day and waste hours endlessly scrolling. Out of all the content I consumed, probably 95% of it was useless. It was just a convenient distraction.
I really liked having no social media. I spent more time reading and socializing face-to-face, and I was able to focus on schoolwork more. The problem is that all my friends use these apps constantly to socialize and make plans. I felt out of the loop, and I found myself not getting invited to as many social events because I wasn’t in the Instagram group message.
I ended up redownloading all my apps, but now I’m worried about falling back into the old pattern of wasting hours every day on them. Any advice?!
— Striving for Moderation
DEAR STRIVING FOR MODERATION: Social media companies — very intentionally — make moderation nearly impossible. These apps are designed to suck you in and keep you spending more time on them. If you want more of a behind-the-scenes look — and some scary information about how your personal data might be used against you — check out the documentary “The Social Dilemma.”
For young people, it’s especially hard to opt out of social media entirely, because of the reasons you mentioned. There are ways to mitigate your use, though. iPhones offer a function to set “time limits” for certain apps, locking you out once the time limit is exceeded. You could also simply delete the apps from your phone and only access them on a web browser when you have access to a computer. This way, you’ll still be in the loop, but you won’t be dialed in 24/7.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.