Smartphones. They’re a wonderful thing in so many ways—all kinds of information in a compact little package, right at your fingertips. But could it be that these devices also have a detrimental effect on us? I think they do, and I think that effect comes mostly in the form of lost time.
You’ve probably caught yourself doing this dozens of times—maybe even dozens of times within the same day. There’s a pause in conversation, or you’re watching a movie, waiting in line. Maybe you’re even trying to be productive, sitting down to your desk and getting done whatever work needs to be done for the day. But invariably, often unconsciously, you find yourself reaching for your phone. Sometimes you flip it on, look at a couple of things, and put it back down again. Other times, you pick it up, tap your favorite social media app, and before you know it, an entire hour has been lost to scrolling through text and images that you aren’t even really absorbing. You’re just scrolling as a habit or as a way to pass the time.
What you’re not doing is accomplishing anything. This is the time that can be spent in so many ways—getting work done, spending time with friends and family, or even working on something creative, like photography.
This is a habit I’ve found myself falling into, and with the prevalence of smartphones, with nearly everyone on social media these days, I’m sure I’m not alone. So let’s discuss smartphone usage, its effects on our time and our creativity, and some solutions to help you kick the habit!
How Much Time Do We Spend on Social Media?
So how much time do we spend wasting time on our phones, anyway? Looking at my iPhone, the screen time tracker says that I spend around 11 hours each week looking at social networking apps and websites. When I think about it, that is a lot of time, almost half a day each week devoted to mindless entertainment when I could instead be doing something more productive with my time.
And looking at research from other sources, it would seem that not only am I not alone, but my usage is also well below average. Recent reports indicate that average adult Americans spend three hours per day on their phones, with the biggest majority of that time going to social media and web browsing. Three hours—when you think about it, over the course of a week, that adds up to 21 hours, or almost an entire day each and every week lost to mindless browsing. Just think of all the things that we could be doing with even a small portion of those hours!
How This Lost Time Hurts Us
The most obvious effect of all this social media browsing is all that lost time. Some social media browsing is a good thing because it lets us keep in touch with loved ones, and there is value to entertainment, too. But perhaps when we’re spending half a day or an entire day each week on these activities, that stretches a little too far. There are other things we can be doing instead. For photographers, we could be looking at art as a way to learn or gain inspiration, or we could be reading literature on photography to help polish our skills. We could be creating, too—either out actively taking photographs or using that time to edit our digital negatives.
One effect that doesn’t always get a lot of attention, apart from the wasted time, is the effect on your mind. Social media is one of those things that tends to promote the perfect side of life. You’ll scroll through photos of your friends’ vacations, and pictures of celebrities and none of us can help but to compare ourselves to these perfect images that we’re seeing. That comparison often leaves us in a negative mindset, and negativity, as we all know, isn’t conducive to creativity. That, and all this time spent browsing social media opens you up to politics, current events and other issues, some of which are known to raise our blood pressure in their own right. Again, these things tend to breed negativity, and while it’s good to stay informed, too much of this, too much negativity, has harsh consequences when you need to put your mind into creative motion.
What You Can Do to Kick the Habit
So how do we kick social media addiction? The best way that I’ve found is to limit social media on my phone. I actually went through several months ago and deleted all social media apps from the phone. It’s true that there are other time wasters on the phone—the web browser, email, games and so on—but by deleting the social media apps that I use most, I found myself spending a lot less time on the phone and a lot more time doing other, better things.
With this, I also went through and turned off most notifications—all those little beeps and chimes that tell you something new just came in. Of course, certainly leave on important alerts, like texts from your loved ones or your calendar so you can keep track of appointments, but all the rest that you don’t have to tend to immediately, like emails and so forth, can safely be shut off. These two things combined have saved me even more time.
This doesn’t mean that you need to ban yourself from social media entirely! Just make it harder to access it constantly. Wait until you get home and sit down to your laptop before you check social media. Then, you’ll have a chance to think about what you post before you post it, and by scheduling time in the day for this, you’ll curb the amount of time you spend on social media.
Social media is an essential part of life, these days. But, we don’t need to let it dominate our lives. If you’re like me, and like so many other people, there are probably some things you can do to cut back on the time you spend browsing so that you have more time left to create!