Social Media Diet

Stop me if you’ve been there before.

You just left a stressful Zoom call. You lean back in your chair, take a deep breath, and your phone finds its way into your hands. Twitter is open. You’re scrolling.

You blink, look at the tiny numbers in the corner of your phone screen displaying the time and immediately sit upright, shocked. Thirty minutes of your life have evaporated, never to be seen again. You didn’t even read anything worth remembering, and you have nothing to show for it.

You finally got the kids down for bedtime after winning tonights battle against the many bedtime complaints. “I’m not tired,” “I need water,” and “I have to pee!” You pull your phone out of your pocket and tell yourself you need just a few minutes to decompress, then you’re going to brew a cup of tea, sit down and read a chapter in the book you were so excited to read. But Instagram has its hooks in you. Or TikTok. Or YouTube Shorts.

You scroll, and you scroll, and you scroll some more. Some of the videos make you smile. None make you laugh. You send others to friends. All the while, you are telling yourself this is a waste of time but the dopamine hits hard and your brain craves more. No video is good enough to give you that final, lasting high but each one is good enough to keep you thinking the next one is the last one, it’s got to be.

You scroll some more.

It’s a tale as old as time.

I wish I could tell you I had a solution to the above. The obvious answer is “just stop using social media” - but I believe certain types of social media do have value. How can I extract that value while escaping the time-sucking, attention-sucking, fun-sucking trap that is the rest of social media?

Lately I found myself falling into the above traps all too often. Rather than lay down every night disappointed with myself, I made a conscious decision to go on a social media diet.

Not a social media ban, but a diet. And well, like all good diets, that includes some outright bans on some things and moderate amounts of others. Like food, not all social media is created equal.

Here is my diet plan:

  • Remove all social media apps from my phone.
    • This includes Twitter, Mastodon, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, etc. YouTube stays…for now.
    • I exclude Snapchat (not because of their “We’re not social media” campaign, but because it’s the primary way I send photos and videos of our kids to family members)
  • Zero tolerance ban on Tiktok-style endless video content. I don’t use TikTok, but for me this includes Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.
    • YouTube makes this difficult because there is no way to hide shorts from the platform. As such, this means no opening up YouTube to “browse” - but only using it for specific purposes.
  • Log out of all social media websites on my phone and computers.
    • If I decide I need to use social media, I need to log in first. When I am done, I log out.
  • Allow myself a dedicated five minutes per morning and per evening to check in on the above social media, only on my computer, and primarily as a way to see if I have any pending messages or “notifications” that I actually need to see. No scrolling feeds allowed.
  • Allow myself to post some content on an as-need basis. I don’t believe social media is inherently evil, and for many people it’s an incredibly useful tool. But I do believe our little monkey brains are not equipped to handle the fast-paced, instant-gratification treadmill we have created. The primary goal is to slow down the consumption of “nutrition-less” social media content.
  • Allow usage of “small web” social media. Reading blogs via RSS feed, updating a “status” on, writing my own blog posts and sharing them widely.
  • Undecided: Hacker News. It’s not truly social media, but its social enough. I do find it far more valuable than many of the other social media products I use, especially for my work. For now I will restrict my HN usage to computer only.

Here’s a handy metaphor:

Processed, sugar-filled “junk” food is bad, and for the most part we all know that, but some of us still like to bake and share cakes and tasty baked sweets with friends. I will let myself bake as many cakes as I want, and consume handmade cakes from other people I know and care about, but I won’t be eating any prepackaged cake or sweets from the grocery store.

In this metaphor - I will allow myself to create content and share it online (making my cake), browse content on the small web (eat cake from friends), but I won’t waste any time scrolling the feeds (eating prepackaged garbage from the store).

I’m going to give this a go for a month and see how it goes.

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