How To Stop Wasting Time on Social Media: My Hacks for Instagram, Snapchat, & YouTube

Everyone always wants to be more productive. We all have important things to do and the main thing that gets in our way is social media.

It’s no longer a secret that social media is designed to be addictive and the problem I have with most tricks for spending less time on social media is that they often on willpower or motivation to get through temptations. The problem with this is that willpower and motivation are not indelible. No matter how much you may want to achieve your goals and be productive, there will always be certain times when you just don’t feel like it right now.

If you want to eat healthier, it would be stupid to keep a cake in your fridge and just rely on a motivational fridge magnet to keep you from eating it. The smart thing to do would to either not have the cake in the fridge at all or to bake a healthier cake with better ingredients. The same goes for social media. Social media is such a big part of our lives and for many of us, quitting altogether or downgrading to a flip phone is just not going to happen. Just like no matter how well you want to eat, you will likely end up eating some kind of cake sometime in the future. So since we cannot get rid of social media entirely or give up our smartphones, what can we do? How do we make social media healthier for us?

Ideally, the social media platforms would stop putting content into “feeds”- the endlessly scrolling format that keeps us scrolling for hours on end- and stop making “suggestions” to us like Snapchat’s Discover page, YouTube recommendations and “Up Next,” and the entirety of Netflix. But this is never going to happen because that would be antithetical to these companies goal, which is to keep as many people on their platforms for as long as possible in order to sacrifice our attention to the people who run ads on their platforms. This means it’s up to us to make a change.

Also, I do not use Facebook or Twitter so I can’t really offer any insights on how to stop wasting time on those platforms. But if you do, please share it here by leaving a comment!

Instagram

  1. You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again: Keep the app off your phone. This goes for pretty much any social media platform from Insta to Reddit to Netflix (except Snapchat which I’ll get to next). We all instinctively reach for our phones whenever we’re bored or we feel awkward or anxious. Keeping the apps off our phones help to break this habit.
  2. Clean your feed. Mute or Unfollow Accounts. I follow less than 50 people on Insta and have less than 50 followers. I’ve never cared much for getting lots of followers and likes. I don’t have any posts on my account (the main reason is that I hate how I look in pictures). The most addictive and time-consuming part of Insta is the feed and all the scrolling. Previously, you would’ve had to unfollow a lot of people in order to clean up your feed. I can understand why people wouldn’t want to do that because a lot of people have this bizarre “follow for follow/tit for tat” mindset and they’ll unfollow you if you unfollow them. I don’t know why people are so concerned with their follower to following ratio but I guess that’s just popularity for you. Thankfully, Instagram added a mute feature where you can hide people’s posts and stories without unfollowing them. This lets you clean up your feed and keep your “friends.” I’d advise not muting or unfollowing only those friends who you keep in touch with regularly, like the people in your dorm or your classes, your coworkers, and close friends & family. If you follow any organizations or clubs and want to keep up with the events, leave them unmuted as well.
  3. Check it only once a week or once a day at the most. I check Insta probably less than once a week. I realize this isn’t going to happen for everyone, especially with stories. If you want to check Insta regularly, keep it to once a day at the most and set a time limit that lets you only stay on long enough to “catch up” on what your friend posted and their stories and to make a few comments.  This is why it’s important to clean up your feed first so your “catching up” doesn’t take 3 hours while you scroll through the feed from all 600 or 6,000 friends.
  4. Post via a 3rd Party. In the interest of transparency: I’ve never done this personally because I don’t post. If you’re an influencer or content creator and you feel like you have to be on Insta constantly, consider using a 3rd party posting software that will automatically post to Insta at a scheduled time for you so you don’t have to think about it. This lets you set up all your posts for the week at once so that you don’t have to constantly be on the app (which you should’ve deleted…) or the site.

Snapchat: How to “Hide” the Discover Page

Ok, so not brag but… Imma brag: I think I’m kind of a genius when it comes to this one. The most distracting thing about Snapchat isn’t the stories (which, only go through those once a day like with Instagram) it’s the Discover page. And what makes it so difficult to avoid is 1) it’s on the page with all of the stories and 2) you can’t delete the app off your phone because Snapchat is more of an “instant messaging app” whereas Insta is for making posts.

I was trying to figure out how to “block” the Discover page when I realized that 1) you can’t and 2) what you can block is all of the stories on the Discover page.

Image result for tony stark smug gif

What you’re gonna want to do is go to the discover page, long press (for iPhone at least) on a story, and when the next screen pops up, you’re going to press “Hide Story.”

After doing this for about an hour, I realized that I had hidden all of the “official” stories, you know, the ones from magazines and news outlets and sports leagues.

You’re also going to want to go to your settings in Snapchat and click on ‘Manage.’ From there, click on ‘Ad Preferences’ and toggle both options off if you don’t want to give the Snapchat algorithm any ammo to distract you.

 

After that, go back to the Manage page and under ‘Ad Preferences’ is ‘Lifestyle & Interests.’ Go into Lifestyle & Interests and scroll to the bottom. Hit clear for both of the suggestions, again so the algorithm won’t give you “good” (aka distracting) suggestions. But do this after you’ve spent an hour hiding all of the stories. That way, you hide the stories that were being recommended first since those are the stories the algorithm knew would get you to click.

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Eventually, the algorithm won’t know what to show you and you’ll get this:

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But it will come up with something. And after you’ve hidden all of the stories from companies, it’ll show you stories from individual accounts, mostly people, but also those meme accounts or “girly posts” accounts. However, I find those much less distracting like the stories from real companies are. Although I must say, it is rather addicting in and of itself to “Hide” stories. I found myself hiding individual stories just to keep going (which is futile because it will never end). It’s like playing whack-a-mole.

Subscribe to the stories you want to keep. For me, that’s the Bitmoji stories, my former university, WSJ and Harvard Business Review but don’t feel pressured to sanitize your Snapchat into something educational and “productive.” If you want to stay subscribed to Harper’s Bazar or ESPN then, by all means, do that. And don’t worry about never being able to see a certain story again. If it was that important, I’m sure you’ll remember the name of the story or person at which point you can search for it and subscribe to unhide it. Also, you can’t hide “Sponsored” stories because those are ads and businesses have paid Snapchat to put them there.

It’s not a perfect solution or an instant solution but I think it’s the best solution we have so far aside from going to the “extreme” of not using Snapchat at all (which for me is impossible because that’s the only way how I stay in touch with my friends from university).


If you think that taking the time to hide all of these Snapchat stories or to mute/unfollow hundreds, if not thousands of accounts on Instagram, is a waste or that you’re too busy, watch this:

Multiplying your time means doing things today that will give you more time tomorrow. In terms of hiding and muting accounts and stories on social media, think of how much time you spend each week scrolling and swiping through these platforms. Is it 5 hours a week? 10? 20?

If you spend a couple of hours to hide the stories and mute the accounts, I’m sure that you will see a return on the time you invested within 2 weeks (assuming you don’t unmute everyone on Instagram; I think unhiding all of those stories on Snapchat is impossible unless you remember the names of them all). And if you really don’t want to spend the hour, outsource it; give a sibling or a friend $5 to do it for you.


YouTube

  1. Keep the app off your phone.
  2. Unsubscribe from the channels that you don’t really watch or that you believe are time wasters. As much as it’s fun to follow accounts that poke fun at pop culture (like Kurtis Connor, no shade), I don’t think those videos are worth my time. I stay subscribed to channels of the people who give advice that I can learn from and are relevant to the lifestyle(s) I’m into. I use YouTube as a learning platform but it doesn’t have to be an academic type of learning. I follow channels with dating advice and a fun lifestyle channel from a Harvard grad. For you, learning may mean being subscribed to CharismaOnCommand or a fitness channel like Yo Elliott.
  3. Check it once or twice a week for new videos.
  4. ImprovedTube Chrome Extension. If you don’t use Google Chrome as your web browser then I can’t help you. What are you doing with your life? For those of us with our priorities straight, we can download the ImprovedTube extension. It’s free and it lets you do things like hiding the “Up Next/Recommended” videos on the side, hiding the comments section, and automatically redirecting you to “youtube.com/feed/subscriptions” when you go to youtube.com so that you don’t get distracted by the home page.

Bonus: Email

Email is kind of a nightmare. You sign up for an email list for a discount one time and then the email just never stops. Do this for several sites and everything just snowballs. I like keeping my email clean and I can’t stand seeing that little red icon with the number of unopened emails above my mail app.

The one simple trick I use to declutter my email is every time I get junk email, I open it, scroll to the bottom and hit unsubscribe. Then, move that email to the junk folder

It’s that simple. After a week or two, you should notice that you don’t get as much unimportant email and you’ll have trained your email to send such emails straight to the junk box so you won’t even have to deal with them. This lets me multiply my time and keep my inbox organized.

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