Cyber Safety: Guest Blog on Limiting Social Media

The New Year’s Resolution of a 20 Year-Old: Limit Social Media

January 8, 2020 / by Liz Repking

(Source—CyberSafety Consulting) We have been looking for someone “in the trenches” to provide some thoughts on what it is truly like to grow up in this hyper digital age. Thank you to Jacob Kelleher, who is our guest blogger, and wrote this insightful article regarding his struggles around his social media use. We wish Jacob great luck in his efforts to be mindful in this new year and hope he will keep us updated on the progress and results of his resolution.

What’s my 2020 New Year’s resolution you ask? The answer is simple: I want to reduce my social media and screen time. Let me guess. You think I am a 40 some-year-old man who is going to explain to you why the young kids of this new, crazy generation should follow in my wise footsteps and reduce their screen time. Would it surprise you to find out I am only 20? Yes, that’s right. I am a 20-year-old kid who, of my own volition, is choosing to put down my iPhone and log out of my social media. At risk of being shunned by my peers, I want to share a little bit about how and why I came to hold a position that is so seemingly radical for someone of my age.

It all started in the last three months (or so) of 2019. I found myself engaging in behaviors and habits that I was beginning to realize were not all that healthy with regard to screen time. I found myself scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or Snapchat mindlessly, and I mean that in the most literal sense. I would scroll through my newsfeed on a platform, exit out because I got bored, and almost immediately reopen the app and start scrolling again. Even though I had just decided I was bored, I found myself going back just to scroll. I also found myself having an actual reflex to take out my phone and scroll through social media. If there was a lull in conversation or I wasn’t 100% engaged in conversation, I would open up a social media account just to scroll without even thinking about it. I even began noticing moments where my friends and I would be sitting in silence, all looking at social media on our phones. It was becoming clear to me that these accounts and my phone were becoming a crutch for me to avoid idle time or even social interaction. That was not ok with me.

So in response, I decided to make this idea of less screen time my New Year’s resolution. We all know how easy it is to drop a New Year’s resolution. In fact, recent research shows 88% of people fail to stick to a New year’s resolution. In the hopes of not becoming part of that statistic, I have laid out goals for myself as well as plans for how to achieve them.

My goals are to not use social media for more than two hours each day, not to use social media while spending time with friends or family, and not to use social media just because there is nothing else to do. I think that three specific goals are an appropriately challenging, yet an appropriately attainable amount to aspire for, and I think each one will uniquely help me reduce the problematic habits I have developed over the last few years.

As for the how, the easiest strategy is screen time restrictions. The new iOS software for iPhones allows users to create a list of apps and a time limit. My phone will then lock me out when the combined amount of screen time spent on all those applications in one day reaches the limit. I have made a 2-hour time limit for Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok. This will force me to only use the applications when I think it is worth my time. For if I don’t, I may get locked out early in the day and be unable to use social media later in the day.

As a second strategy, I’ve also decided to stop charging my phone right next to my bed each night. By putting it out of reach, it prevents social media from being the last thing I see before bed and the first thing I see when I wake up.

The last strategy is the hardest: self-monitoring. It’s on me to continue to be reflective and notice when I am using my phone. If I want to use it less with friends and less in general, I need to be able to notice when I am failing at that goal and put my phone down.

In the end, I am 20 years old. Like many of my peers I love social media and I think (perhaps somewhat naively) the positives vastly outweigh the negatives. However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I am hopeful that as technology and development continue to accelerate my peers and the next generations can join me in capitalizing on the benefits of social media while also keeping a watchful eye out to prevent it from taking over our lives.

Jacob Kelleher is a 20 year-old junior at Boston College. He is currently double majoring in Secondary Education and Mathematics and minoring in Educational Theatre. He also is an avid participant in the Boston College Theatre Department and has worked professionally in Chicago as a Stage Manager. He hopes to one day be a high school theatre teacher.