Saturday night, bar conversation with a friend who refuses to give in to technology. She doesn’t use contactless payments with her credit card. Not only I do, but I now often pay directly from my phone. She doesn’t have apps on her phone. Not only I do, but I use app-based services on a regular basis. She doesn’t have any social media accounts. Not only I do, but I made a living out of it.

We live on the same planet. Country. City. But our approach to digital couldn’t be more different. Where I lean in, she resists as long as she can. And it’s a trend I have observed in many other people. Some prefer going back to a “dumb”-phone to avoid notifications and temptation. Some shut down their Facebook accounts. Some try to control however they can their time spent on Twitter, Instagram and such…

Has social media become the enemy?

Like with many other things, it is important to distinguish the tool from the way people are using it. The tool isn’t bad. The usage of the tool might be sometimes, at best, questionable.

In their 20 Pros and Cons of Social Media Use article, Success Magazine references a 2015 study where “participants checked their phones an average of 85 times each day and spent 5.05 hours per day using their smartphone.”

Apple released a nifty little tool with their new iOS. Screen Time allows you to evaluate how much time you’re spending on your phone and where.

Over a week, I spent an average of 2h05 per day on my phone. 14h40 minutes total. 3h35 minutes of which were on social networking apps. 1h25 minutes of which were on Instagram (my social media of choice lately).

Compared to the study above, it doesn’t seem outrageous. But two hours per day… How many things could I do if I had two additional hours per day?

Dr. Cal Newport, in his book Digital Minimalism, proposes to take a 30-days tech cleanse: for 30 days, you take a break from every optional technology in your personal life. All social media, reading news online, video games, anything that is optional and that claims your time and attention. When your 30 days period is over, you have enough space and you can start rebuild your digital life with only the essential.

And he’s not the only one to argue against information overload and other notification nightmares. There are dozens of challenges and books out there encouraging readers to take control back.

Where is the happy medium? How much time is too much time? Is there “good” social media and “bad” one? Who am I to judge?

My mom always tells me: “you can do everything in moderation“.

Today, social media allows me to access and interact with worldwide communities of like-minded people with whom I build meaningful relationships. But that takes “effort” (like traveling across the globe to actually meet them in person, which is an effort I’m always ready to make) or chatting on web-calls. And that is not something I’m ready to give up (not even for 30 days, sorry Dr. Newport & co).

Still, there are a few things that I have implemented to help control the influence of social media on my daily life, such as turning off notifications from most apps. I also try to remember not to check my phone while walking, which is something I picked in Jonathan Fields’ How to live a good life. Not always easy, I must confess.

But using “dead-time” (like a public transportation ride) to look at inspiring pictures of amazing landscapes on Instagram or to catch-up on what’s going on in my friends’ lives, I say “why not”.

What about you? Is social media a friend or a foe? How do you manage your interaction with the various networks?

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL