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My Response to The Social Dilemma

Sep 27, 2020 | Sustainability

Hi there! Chances are that you jumped on to this post from a social media link. Check your phone, you may have it running in your background. This post is not a review on the social dilemma. I highly recommend watching it on Netflix before you read this post. Essentially, the documentary talks about how social media has polarised the world beyond its founders’ wildest imaginations and how we are sleep-walking into an existential crisis of sorts by not keeping a check on the giant.

That’s enough for a synopsis on the Netflix original. Here’s something you may not have known about me. I used to be a social media addict. I have spent precious hours of my life on every platform from the age of MSN and Myspace. I think I have myself under control for the past year or two with occasional slips in between. This article is for me to avoid slipping back into the social media rabbit hole again and for you to follow through if you feel you are addicted to scrolling on your phone.

Tool vs Persuasion

The goal here is to categorise your phone/tab apps into three different types. If you paid closer attention to the documentary, the tech insiders themselves gave us the solution: Social media is an amazing tool to network however do not be their prime product (a.k.a a scrolling/swiping addict). How do you separate the tool from its persuasion?

Step 1: Watch the documentary

It helps! If you need the motivation to leave the meme galore, these kind of films give you the final push. Furthermore, it is always good to be armed with facts for the next family dinner.

Step 2: Get a whiteboard

Or a white piece of paper. Or your wall if your landlord doesn’t mind. Draw a table with three columns. Please remind yourself to be honest as this is for your own good. My go-to categories are as shown in the picture above:

  1. Tool
  2. Tool + Persuasion
  3. Persuasion

What kind of apps do you put into these lists? If you own an iPhone, go to the settings -> Screen Time -> See All Activity. Identify all the most used apps. The apps you use for work, reading the latest news and community events can go in here as long as you use them simply as tools for something else. The moment you feel like spending more time than needed on these apps, they’re not tools anymore as they have underlying codes and algorithms designed to keep you on the app.

Any app that you need but contain these addiction-inducing features such as scrolling, swiping, deeply hidden notifications, etc. will be classified under the second category. And apps you may use only to spend your time are put in the third category. Now that you know very well what app to use and what to avoid, the ones I felt like I had to be the most wary of are the ones in the second category. It is like a drug addict who needs drugs as a medical prescription. Each app in this category might require its own approach.

The third category is the persuasive apps that you don’t have any use for at the moment. This brings us to an important point. This list keeps on changing as time passes. You need to do it to yourself every month if you are a techie like me. But everyone needs to do it in every quarter. Make this a part of the quarterly audit on your life and your goals.

Application badges

What are the other cleansing procedures that I took to reduce my phone usage? I identified the ways in which these apps grabbed my attention (Some of these may be iOS related, but I think the systems work similarly):

  1. Lock screen notifications- I reduced the amount of notifications to almost nil. Even the news apps, yes.
  2. Application badges- What are these? These are the tiny superscript numbers in red you see on every app that have notifications. You can turn them off in the settings. I cleared up almost all of them except for very important ones. The use of red colour to grab our attention is a sneaky play from apple.
  3. Pings and Bells- I removed all notification sounds from the apps so that my physical memory does not dictate my action after hearing a notification bell.
  4. Out of reach- Keep the screens out of your reach when you go to bed. This helps you sleep a lot better and makes you put in an extra effort to use the phone past your bed time.

I hope that this article has been useful for you on your path to freedom from social media anxieties and addictions. Please comment down below if you have an idea that I didn’t mention in the post. Cheers!