5 tips for cutting down on social media

Find that tricky balance between online and offline.
neon sign depicting an instagram like notification bubble with a zero
Checking your feed less often doesn't affect the number of likes on your posts. We promise. Prateek Katyal / Unsplash

Social media can connect you to friends and family, bring you the latest and most important news, and help you discover art, opinions, and places you would otherwise never have come across. But these platforms can also trigger negative emotions, make you dissociate from what’s happening around you, and act as a potentially dangerous time sink that distracts you from important tasks. 

Your first instinct may be to go ahead and delete your accounts completely, but finding a balance when it comes to your online life will allow you to reap all of the benefits while laying off the toxicity. 

Using some of these smart strategies will help you find that elusive sweet spot.

Follow fewer people

Chances are your social media feeds are packed with old friends and colleagues you haven’t spoken to in years. Some of them you might never speak to again. These contacts can add up quickly over time since we’re generally better at following than we are at unfollowing. Add in all those other junk accounts—from brands to places you went to once upon a time—and your feeds can quickly become a mess. 

[Related: It’s time to purge the worst people in your social media feeds]

The next time you load up your social media apps, take some time to unfollow the accounts and people you’re no longer interested in. This will make a big difference to how often you check social media—if you’re only following 50 people on Twitter, for example, you know that you’re not missing too much if you’re only checking your timeline once a day.

Turn off notifications

You might be surprised at how effective notifications are at dragging you back into social media apps throughout the day. Fewer notifications can help you keep your attention on the things that matter and create a healthy habit of checking social media only when you’re ready.

Notifications aren’t too difficult to control these days, and there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of which alerts you see and how. From Android Settings choose Notifications and App settings; from iOS Settings choose Notifications; from Windows’ Settings choose System and Notifications, and from macOS’ System Preferences choose Notifications & Focus.

Browse through the options you have inside your apps, too. In the case of Facebook, for example, you can turn off email updates about what’s happening in your network of friends and relatives by visiting this page and logging in

Set time limits

Setting time limits for social media apps on your devices isn’t a foolproof approach, as you can easily turn them off if the draw is too strong. Still,  you might find these limitations are effective at reducing the amount of time you spend deep in your feeds.

App time limits are synchronized across iOS and macOS. You can find the Screen Time option in iOS Settings and macOS’ System Preferences, and from there you can choose App Limits to pick how long you want your device to allow you on each of your social media apps.

If you’re on Android, head to Settings, pick Digital Wellbeing and parental controls, and then choose Dashboard. Set a time limit by tapping the hourglass icon next to any app. For Windows, there’s a feature called Focus assist under System in Settings, which will help you set specific times when you can open social media apps.

Change app settings

Several social media apps come with settings of their own to help you limit the amount of time you spend on them. Take a look into the options screens in your platform of choice, and see what’s available.

In the case of TikTok, tap your profile icon (bottom right), then the menu button (top right). There, choose Settings and privacy, Content & Activity, Digital Wellbeing, and Daily screen time. In Instagram, you can go to your profile (bottom right), tap the menu button (top right), then pick Your activity, Time Spent, and then either Set daily time limit or Set a reminder to take breaks (or both).

You can easily override or disable all of these settings whenever you want, so you’ll definitely need a bit of willpower as well. Still, you might find that they give you a useful extra nudge to back off your feeds when you need it most.

Uninstall the apps

Another way to reduce the temptation to open up your social media apps again and again throughout the day is to remove them from your smartphone. Don’t fret though—you’ll still be able to access these platforms on your browser (on both mobile and desktop) but the experience won’t be as slick or convenient, which will act as an effective deterrent.

[Related: How to delete Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp—and take your data with you]

If you’ve never had to uninstall an app from your phone before, all it takes on Android is a long press on an app and a drag to the Uninstall button at the top of the screen. On iOS, long press on any app icon on the home screen and then choose Delete app to remove it.

Just about every social media app out there keeps your posts stored in the cloud, so everything will still be there if and when you reinstall the app. It’s a more drastic option, but you can consider it a last resort in case some combination of the tips above is not enough to help you cut down on your social media use.