What Consumes Your Mind Controls Your Life (and Finances)

September 14, 2015

consumes-mind-controls-life

What did you do this weekend? Did you get outside? Go for brunch or dinner? Curl up and read a book or watch a movie? While you were doing that, how many times did you check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and/or Pinterest and spend 10-20 minutes mindlessly scrolling through the latest and greatest of what your friends and favourite brands shared? I wish I could say my answer was 0 – or even that I do it just a few times. While I’m good about not looking at my phone when I’m with friends, the opposite can be true when I’m alone – and, in the past, it has cost me a pretty penny.

My cell phone plan includes 6GB of data. I don’t know how this compares to all my friends south of the border, but 6GB is practically unheard of in Canada. Most of my friends only have 1-2GB of data, and our smartphone plans are some of the most expensive in the world. I was offered 6GB for life (it’s on my account until 2036, for some strange and wonderful reason) when my provider screwed up something big on my account years ago, and I happily accepted thinking it was more than I’d ever need.

Until this spring, 6GB of data had always been enough for me. But I went through a bit of a rough patch from April-June and, as a result, lazed around and mindlessly consumed a ridiculous amount of content on my cell phone. When I woke up in the morning, I would reach for my phone and spend the first 20-30 minutes of my day reviewing what I’d missed while I was asleep. I checked it constantly throughout the day, despite the fact that I was already online for 12+ hours for work/my blog. And as soon as I was done work, I’d be lazy and stream Netflix on my phone in bed for more hours than I care to admit.

I don’t know what I was looking for inside all those apps; something to make me feel better, I suppose… or an escape, at the very least. Looking back, I don’t think I even realized how much more time I was spending staring at that tiny screen. I didn’t become aware of it until I got my cell phone bill in July, and it had an additional $30 charge on it, for the extra 2.96GB of data I had used in June – above and beyond the 6GB in my plan. I am one person. One person does not need to use 9GB of cell phone data.

How had I used so much? I blame what I call “digital flow”.

In university, one of my favourite classes was on media and cultural studies, and the first aha! moment I had in my entire program happened while I was writing a paper for that class on the topic of flow. Flow is another word for programming, and is the technique television networks use to keep people watching their channels. Originally coined by Raymond Williams, a Welsh academic who was well-known for his thoughts on mass media, flow describes the smooth transition networks setup from one television show to another (including the ads in-between), so you keep watching what’s on that one network.

For example, if you’re watching an episode of Property Brothers, the commercial breaks will likely include advertisements for stores that sell home decor items, appliances, etc. and then the network will typically share a clip or two of a similar show, like Love It Or List It. The final commercial will be a short clip of text that lists what shows are coming up after Property Brothers, which will be similar to that show so you have no reason to look for something new to watch. I love this show! And the next episode looks great. That’s what the networks want you to think – and it’s a result of flow.

From a television standpoint, a lot of people believe the old concept of flow is being challenged by the fact that we now have so many commercial-free options to choose from, like Hulu and Netflix. When we cancel our cable and opt for one of these options, we are in complete control of what we watch. Or are we? The term “binge watch” has been around since full seasons of television had a price tag slapped on them, but it’s been a common phrase for us all since the invention of Netflix. When was the last time you turned on Netflix and only watched one episode of a show? Yea, me neither.

Even though the term flow has only been used to describe television programming, I think we can take it one step further now and apply it to all forms of digital media – particularly social media. The concept of flow is to make you consume one thing for as long as possible. Television networks accomplish this by lining up certain shows and corresponding advertisements one after the other, so you never feel the need to pick up the remote and change the channel. But social media networks do similar things to keep you on their sites for hours… and maybe even buy something, as a result.

Let’s think about this.

When Facebook first launched, all you could do was fill out a short profile, share status updates (remember: “Cait is…”?) and poke your friends. It was created to help you connect with people and nothing more. Today, you can share huge photo albums and lengthy videos, create events, start groups and even host chats – that stuff is still all about connecting but it also keeps you online longer. On top of that, your news feed constantly refreshes based on an algorithm that tells Facebook what kind of content you like – and that includes targeted ads, based on the information this “digital flow” has provided.

Pinterest is my least favourite of all the social media networks out there, because I truly believe it is the biggest waste of our time – and marketers bring in a lot of traffic and make a lot of money because we waste so much time on the site. I don’t make many hard-and-fast statements like that here, but I just find it to be the least productive of all social networks. Its concept and design was created to keep users on the site for hours on end. And, similar to the way Facebook’s algorithm changes what you see in your news feed based on your recent activity, Pinterest shows you pins from other users you don’t follow based on what you’ve been pinning. Thank you again, digital flow, for keeping us online longer.

Twitter and Instagram are a little different. Yes, it’s easy to get sucked into both, and you are exposed to some ads. But you truly are in more control of what you see, as your feed fills up in chronological order with content shared by people you choose to follow. Don’t like the content? Unfollow those people and your feed will go back to being filled with the content you love. The problem with both Twitter and Instagram is the profiles you choose to follow could all be selling things – if not physical products then at least a lifestyle you want to have; this is where the money side of this argument comes in…

Not only does flow stop you from changing the channel, which results in a television network earning more ad revenue, it also exposes you to repeated ads for products that are specifically chosen to be pushed at someone who is interested in the shows on one network. While most of us don’t go out and buy something the minute we see it on television, seeing it repeatedly over and over again does plant the seed in our minds that we need it. Social media networks do the same thing, only it makes those items available to us with the click of a mouse. And considering that we now spend more time staring at our phones than watching television, it’s time to pay attention to how it affects our lives (and finances).

I can’t say I’ve bought anything through a Facebook ad, but I have definitely bought things I saw on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. For me, it was usually books. When someone would share a link to one of those “10 books you need to read right now” type of lists on Twitter, I would punch all the titles into Amazon, pick two I liked (so I could get the total over $25 for free shipping) and buy them. And if I only liked one book, I’d choose a second from the other titles recommended to me (another example of digital flow). That was $28-30 out the door because someone shared an article on Twitter.

Instagram and Pinterest* are where we can get into the most trouble, because visual media is often so much more powerful than what we pull from text. You might think following fashion or lifestyle accounts gives you inspiration or is just nice to look at, but what it’s really doing is setting an ideal that we can’t necessarily afford to achieve. What’s trendy now won’t be trendy forever, which means that following trends will require us to constantly have to spend money. And I don’t know if there are any stats on this, but following your favourite brands on any social media network surely leads to more impulse purchases being made. (Perhaps only our own credit card statements hold the proof of that.)

*We could also expand this to blogs and magazines, as ones in the fashion/lifestyle niche are very visual and also sell lifestyles we can’t always afford.

So, how can we take control back and avoid the effects of this digital flow?

I’m sure the phrase “what consumes your mind controls your life” was meant to prove that our thoughts can become our reality – especially if we have a positive or negative mindset. But considering the fact that we now spend more than 50% of our waking hours consuming media – and that number is expected to increase – we should be a bit more literal about this subject, and take steps to make sure that what we consume doesn’t negatively impact our lives or finances.

One common suggestion is to do a digital detox, where you give up your phone and/or don’t go online for a few days or weeks. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of this idea – and not because it makes me uncomfortable or I think I couldn’t do it, but because it seems like a temporary solution. It’s like an alcoholic giving up drinking for 7 days but knowing they can go back to it after – it won’t change anything long-term. Instead, I believe we should all be more intentional about which social media networks we use, how much time we give them and who we follow.

(Go Buckeyes!)

(Go Buckeyes!)

Personally, I made a few big changes:

  1. I deleted the Facebook app
  2. I deleted the Facebook Messenger app
  3. I deleted the Pinterest app
  4. I deleted the Netflix app (I can watch it on my computer or Apple TV)
  5. I deleted all the boards and pins on my Pinterest profile, except the one I have to use for work
  6. I removed the link to my Pinterest account from my blog + email list
  7. I removed the link to my Google+ account from my blog + email list

Oh, and I’ve always had notifications for all apps (except calls/texts) turned off.

Here’s what my phone looks like today, if you’re curious. Everything I use on a daily or weekly basis is outside of a folder, so it’s easy to access. I don’t use most of what’s in the folders often, but at least half of it can’t be deleted (stupid Apple) and the other half I do use occasionally. I always make sure it all fits on one screen.

Some of the intentional decisions I’ve made about how I want to use social media include:

  1. Facebook: I’ll still check the Facebook site sometimes, but I don’t want it on my phone anymore. I use Facebook for my blog’s page + some client work, but I don’t use it to share personal information very often. It’s my second least favourite social media network, after Pinterest, so I’m happy to limit the time I spend on it. (Oh, and I suck at Facebook messages. Don’t send them to me or they will probably disappear into a blackhole.)
  2. Twitter: I love Twitter, probably because I’ve always been intentional about who I follow/don’t follow. I don’t check Twitter after 6pm, though. Nothing interesting happens in the evening and replies can wait until the morning. (I also suck at direct messages. Sorry.)
  3. Instagram: I follow a lot of landscape photographers, hikers and travellers, so I mostly see pictures of mountains and the ocean. I can’t be tempted to buy those things. ;)
  4. Pinterest: I don’t use Pinterest, except for some work.
  5. Google+: Did anyone really ever use Google+? Bloggers had to maintain it for a while but, now that it’s been deemed redundant, I’m going to stop posting my articles there.

I’ve tested this new phone setup for a few weeks now and have already seen a huge difference in my productivity. In fact, I’m 12 days into my current billing cycle and have used just 566MB of data. I like to think of the 6GB of cell phone data I have access to as my emergency fund now; it’s there if I need it, but I’d prefer not to touch it. And I’m so glad the months of using 9GB of cell phone data + being charged extra fees are long gone.

cait-data-usage

The concern about how much time we spend online and on our phones is a hot topic in the blogosphere right now. Courtney Carver recently wrote about the possible addiction she had to her cell phone and suggested we all take a 24-hour sabbatical from it. (She’s also giving away a great book about this!) And my friend Anthony suggested we ban all technology from the first hour of our days, as well as delete apps (or at least move them around on the screen, so we break the habit of opening them).

Since I’ve read the facts and don’t necessarily believe we’ll all magically start consuming less media, my suggestion is to be very mindful about which accounts you follow online. If you find yourself constantly staring at images of things you can’t afford to buy or do, unfollow the accounts that post them. Then look for new accounts that post pictures that can inspire you to get outside… and put your phone down after, so you can go do that with the people you love. :)

Oh, and unlike/unfollow every store on all platforms. Even though you’ve been loyal to them, they won’t miss you – and your bank account will thank you.

How do you feel about your social media usage right now? Are there any accounts you think you should unfollow, or profiles you’ve been thinking about deleting? What are some steps you can take to be more intentional with your time online and on your phone?

105 Comments

  • Reply Neita September 14, 2015 at 4:36 am

    I recently purchased my very first personal smartphone. For years, the only mobile phone I used was a company-issued business phone. I bought a phone with a screen large enough for me to actually use for online viewing.
    At first, I was so excited about the different apps I could install and use. Eventually I went to download the Facebook app and (luckily for me!) I had trouble downloading it. That brief challenge was enough time for me to thing through: Do I really want Facebook that accessible on my phone?? Well, no I didn’t. I decided that (except for business needs), I would use social media only in a deliberate method – using my laptop at home.

    And, a thought on who you follow on Instagram re landscape photographers, hikers, travelers – I arrived at a different perspective. Seeing all those wonderful places makes me want to travel there, which entails a lot of money for transportation, lodging, food, access fees, etc. And even for awhile, I felt that my life was missing something if I wasn’t traveling to what I called “celebrity nature spots”. I realized that I can find wonderful nature and lovely hiking – in my own back yard, so to speak. Instead of budgeting travel for glorious nature spots, I am focusing on exploring the beautiful areas within a day’s drive for me. And spending a lot less money!

    Thank you for your post today. Great topics to think about!

    • Reply Amanda September 14, 2015 at 7:06 am

      I’m surprised to hear the negativity about Pinterest. I think that Pinterest is arguably the MOST useful of the tools you mentioned, if used correctly. I use it as it was intended, to save links/recipes/photos/articles that I’ve found online all in one central location. I also have used it to find recipes for specific things I want to make or to help me decorate for parties.

      Also I totally agree with taking Facebook off of your phone — I did this a few months ago and it was one of the best decisions I have made!

      • Reply Cait Flanders September 14, 2015 at 8:23 am

        I’m working on a separate post about how many links we save, Amanda, which may help explain where I’m coming from. My problem with Pinterest is that I once spent probably an hour/day scouring the site and creating these beautiful boards on my profile, and got no real good use out of it except that I felt I’d created this pretty little corner on the internet. I didn’t really do anything with that stuff. I might’ve made 1-2 recipes I found on it, and been inspired by a few quotes, but for the most part the boards just made me want a beautiful home that I couldn’t afford to buy/create. So I think there’s some great ideas shared on the site! But I also think it’s possible to do a search online only when you actually need those ideas and still find them, rather than spend hours accumulating a bunch of links we may never look at again. That’s sort of the gist of what my post will be about. :)

        • Reply Marian Daniells October 14, 2015 at 7:39 am

          I regularly go through my boards and delete pins – a virtually spring cleaning of sorts. I do think it’s a good resource for content (I refer to recipes frequently, and save gift ideas for others throughout the year), but tastes change and there’s no sense in keeping something I’m no longer interested in.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 14, 2015 at 8:17 am

      Yep, that’s a good point re: following hikers. Fortunately, as you said, I live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and have access to thousands of kms of hiking trails on this island. No lodging required. :)

  • Reply Kristen September 14, 2015 at 4:54 am

    I have felt a little too addicted to being connected lately. I have never been on Facebook or Instagram. I have very sparingly used Pinterest. I do have twitter. I have reduced who I follow by hundreds. I use it for a little entertainment, but mostly local news and weather and traffic. I check out the traffic usually in the morning and before I leave work (I have a very long commute without traffic problems). I have deleted apps I thought were wasting my time. And last week, I did the scariest thing of all, I disconnected my email from my phone. If I really need it, it is easy to add, but I found I just needed to keep checking it out of habit/obsession. I would check it on my phone and then have to go to the computer to answer. It was not a good scene. It wasn’t mindful and that is what I am going for! My only really obsession now is podcasts that I download at home and listen on my commute. My husband and I share 3G of data. It is more than I want (I actually wanted to give up data, but he didn’t) and to get them to lower my cell phone bill substantially this is the package I had to take. It was going to cost $40 more a month for less data – go figure! Congrats to you for decreasing your data use!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 14, 2015 at 8:27 am

      Ha, somehow I’m not surprised that changing your plan would’ve somehow cost you more… it’s so ridiculous but so something a cell phone company would do to keep you with them. (Plans have gone up so much here in Canada! I can’t ever leave my provider, or else I’ll end up paying the same for 1GB of data with anyone else.) Also, I am 100% with you on the podcast obsession. Working from home, though, I usually just listen in iTunes while I work. But you’re right to mention that we should always be connected to Wi-Fi if we are downloading them on our phones – they suck up data FAST.

  • Reply isabelle September 14, 2015 at 5:08 am

    I am the exception, and it’s not even “cool” anymore. I don’t have a smartphone (just a flip phone for emergencies, always closed, kept in the car, with 100$ pre-paid on it for the year and not all used…). I don’t have a FB account anymore, deleted it last year because everytime I would go on it I would feel depressed for some reason. Do use Pinterest, but rarely, and for specifics searchs. Never been on Instagram, Twitter and all the rest….. Don’t have cable eighter. I have a tablet, that I use for Netflix, emails, reading blogs and the like. I have to admit that I feel “retarded” (technologically), but then when I read articles like this it makes me feel like I might be making the right choice (for myself) after all. I was checking to *maybe* buy an Iphone (and start texting because, let’s face it, I am out of the loop because I don’t), checking the prices… ouch! It’s really expensive, with 2-3 years contracts… not sure. I will have to “get on with it” at some point because I have 2 kids, 3 and 5, and they will want technology in their life, which is perfectly normal. I think the biggest issue for me, apart from a lack of interest in all of this, is just that I am so “behind”, I wouldn’t even know where to start…. I sended my first text EVER last week-end… yep……… (yes, I am 34, not 75….!)

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 14, 2015 at 8:39 am

      I have a few friends who lead similar cell phone lives, Isabelle! One of my girlfriends just got her first smartphone but still has zero profiles on any social media networks. Another has had a smartphone for years but only uses Facebook – nothing more. It is nice to text, but I sometimes get frustrated by that too and wish more people would just dial my # and have a 5-min convo on the phone vs. a 30-min convo over text. If YOU feel out of the loop and really want to learn more about technology, you could get an older smartphone now (iPhone 5S) which would be cheaper. But don’t do it unless you feel the need. While I don’t think we can avoid the fact that technology is going to play a big part of our lives forever now, I also don’t think we need smartphones to live a good life. ;)

  • Reply L September 14, 2015 at 5:08 am

    I’ve been trying to stay off my phone an hour or so before bed to let my brain “power down”, I still need to work on staying off it in the morning. I think because I no longer have an alarm clock with a radio I know use my phone in the mornings to 1. wake me up and 2. for the weather and news. I’m going to aim to not use it this week, other then the alarm, until after breakfast. I’m going to look at the number of apps I have on my phone tonight and maybe remove some as well. I turn my data off at work, which has helped me stay under my 1GB of data for the last 6 months.

    Great post!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 14, 2015 at 8:41 am

      Sounds like you’ve made some nice changes so far, L! I think we’ll always be a work in progress, when it comes to how we decide to use technology… but if we ever feel like we care too much about staying connected, we should take active steps to disconnect – even if it’s just for that hour/day. :)

  • Reply Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies September 14, 2015 at 5:19 am

    I really wonder what my life would be like sans smartphone. I waited a really long time to pull the trigger on one, and it’s kind of terrible when I stop to think about it. I try to keep it turned off for the first hour and last hour of my night. But even that took work! I also choose to keep my phone powered off at work (setting an example for students and all that), and it’s such a welcome disconnect sometimes. It’s amazing how quickly new technology, new social media, new apps, etc., can creep into our lives and take such hold that it’s hard to remember what it was like before them.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 14, 2015 at 8:44 am

      Not looking at your phone at all during the workday is a great idea! While you’re doing it to set an example, I can only imagine how nice it must feel not to experience the constant “twitch” Anthony calls it to check what’s new/great online.

  • Reply ashley September 14, 2015 at 5:31 am

    This is thought provoking. I accidentally went on a social media “fast” this weekend because my iphone was broken on Thursday. As a result my husband and I shared a phone. I think my social media consumption would have plummeted even if my husband and I had just traded phones. I would have to sign out of his accounts and signed in to all of mine for access. That caused me to pause long enough to realize that I didn’t really want to consume social media, I just wanted a diversion. I felt way more relaxed and recharged after this weekend because I had some quiet time for reflection.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 15, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      Sounds like the “break” was great for the weekend! Now, I’ll admit I’m curious how it’s affecting your budget. Are you getting a new one? Or is it fixable? :)

  • Reply Casey @Waffling September 14, 2015 at 5:32 am

    I cant believe you only got charged $30 for going 3GB over. That’s a good deal. Do you have wifi on your phone? My plan is I think 30 GB between 8 phones (corporate plan), but with wifi in the office and at home we never hit it.

    I am pretty good I think with my phone usage. I play some games on the subway and maybe a few in the evening when watching my umpteenth baseball game with the BF. I never pull it out when I am with friends! However I do spend way too much time in front of the computer at home, which is just as bad. :\

  • Reply Berin Kinsman September 14, 2015 at 5:37 am

    At the beginning of the summer I closed out my Facebook account, and now have an account with no friends that I use to administer work-related pages. It has been wonderful! Friends interested in truly connecting with me, rather than casually tripping over me on Facebook, call or email, and Ive maintained some great correspondance. Closer relationships with fewer people, with none of the distractions of bad news, trolling, and general nastiness!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 19, 2015 at 11:10 am

      I didn’t use Facebook for 8-9 months once and found all those same benefits! The only downside was I did truly miss seeing what my friends/family were up to (especially friends’ kids) because I didn’t live in the same city as most of them. Now, I just limit what I post to my personal page, and typically only take a quick look around when I’m working on business pages.

  • Reply Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor September 14, 2015 at 5:41 am

    Great post. This is one of the reasons I’ve put off getting a smart phone. I know I sound like a dinosaur, but everyone I know with a smartphone (which is everyone) checks their phone way more than I check mine. I really like feeling less connected that way. I can still get sucked into pointless FB posts on my laptop but it’s way less frequent because I’m not going to sit on my laptop while people are over, or during meals, etc. I know I’ll have to get a smart phone someday but I’m hoping my dumb phone habits will carry over so I’m not over-consuming content.

  • Reply Sarah September 14, 2015 at 5:49 am

    Girl, you know my stance on social media right now. It’s SUCH a huge distraction for me. After I tracked my time and realized I’d logged into Facebook more than a dozen times and didn’t even ABSORB any of the information in my feed, I realized that it was a huge issue for me. I don’t know how to deal with it (since I cut off data on my phone for this exact reason) other than to use a blocking app. I’m not great with the willpower to keep myself away from certain things and my mind goes on autopilot and my fingers go to keys…

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know that this came at a good time and that it was a super thoughtful post.

  • Reply holly September 14, 2015 at 5:50 am

    I recently updated to a smart phone & I really love instagram. I guess I’m a visual person, and I love seeing food & design pics. For some reason, I don’t feel envious of these people. I find it very inspiring & even relaxing to look thru some amazing shots. I only use Pinterest to save recipes from blogs. Facebook is one site I could do without. I’ve deactivated more times than I can remember. I get nothing positive out of facebook aside from seeing some news from friends on-line. News that we could actually share in person, but don’t seem to these days, because its easier/lazier to just post a status for everyone to see. Facebook actually makes me feel more disconnected to my friends. I try & check it less & less, and hopefully one day I will just quit that social media site for good.

  • Reply Tonya@Budget and the Beach September 14, 2015 at 5:56 am

    So you know how there is that app for scheduling/connecting for fincon? I asked someone about the leader board and how someone is ranked, and someone told me it’s about doing all this stuff in the app-bookmarking, tweeting, yadda yadda. My first thought was, “no way in hell I’m winning an iPad mini.” The LAST thing I want is to stick my head in my phone MORE with another app. One of my main “laws” for fincon is to be present when I’m around people (unless I’m using the app to check the schedule). That is a gift these days ya know….being present for someone. I know it’s a little off track, but it’s sort of related. I agree that just having a detox is not enough. I did one month of no using my phone (other than as a phone for calls) when I’m outside of the house. I felt great about it for a month, then went right back to my old habits. I need to make little changes that happen daily. 6 gigs holy crap lady! lol! :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 19, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Agree re: the app! The minute I realized what I’d have to do to be a “leader”, I knew my attention (and presence, like you said) was worth more than an iPad Mini.

  • Reply Stephanie September 14, 2015 at 6:03 am

    Mine is YouTube! I can’t watch beauty bloggers on there without wanting to buy what they recommend. Which is crazy, because I don’t even wear makeup every day.
    Otherwise I’m really good. I use my phone for sports score checking, pretty much! I’m not sure what our data is, but I’m on a plan with my parents and we don’t hit 1 gb between the 3 of us.

  • Reply Mrs. Budgets @MrandMrsBudgets September 14, 2015 at 6:22 am

    I just discovered Unsubscriber from otherinbox.com. Basically you have to link it to your email, but all you have to do is drag and drop the emails you wish to unsubscribe from in the folder and it will unsubscribe for you. I’ve only been using for a few days but love it.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 19, 2015 at 11:13 am

      Oh yea, unroll.me works the same way! It’s a fantastic way to remove some of the digital clutter we see every day.

  • Reply Lauren September 14, 2015 at 6:37 am

    I thought it was interesting that you view Pinterest as the least useful social media tool. When it first became popular, I was just starting to plan a wedding, so I’ll admit, more time scrolling through images than I needed to. Now I use it more like a research tool than for social purposes. If I’m looking for a new way to season some veggies, I’ll search Pinterest before Google. Or if I need a gift idea for a friend, I’ll look at her Pinterest boards. And because my boards are so well used, I revisit them when I’m looking for closet inspiration, a new recipe, a DIY project, etc. We walk such a fine line when we use social media, so I am doing my best to only use the different outlets in positive, life-improving ways.

    xoxo,
    Lauren

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 19, 2015 at 11:16 am

      You do bring up good points – and it’s very interesting you search Pinterest before Google! I’m working on sort of a follow-up post about “pins” and bookmarks, specifically, but will also address more of my thoughts on Pinterest. It does sound like it’s useful for you – and I’m sure it’s useful for many people! I think I just lived in the “dark side” of it for a long time, hehe, so I’ll continue to avoid it.

  • Reply Alyssa @ Generation YRA September 14, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Oh my goodness, social media – the love/dislike relationship I have. I always enjoy observing people when I’m in public spaces, and this weekend when I was traveling to Sacramento we took a bus from the airport to the car rental port. On that bus out of 20 people, 18 were on their cell phones (less my co-w0rker & I at the time, but I believe he then grabbed his phone too to check his email). Phones & technology do not discriminate at all whatsoever! This bus included people of all ages, backgrounds, demographics, and all. It very much so makes me sad, because a lot of what we consume features the “buy-in” mentality which is devastating to our finances, and the glorification of the “comparison factor.” There is so much I could bring to this topic because I, too took many media landscape courses (yay, Communication major)! There is actually an anonymous photographer from Portland, OR that started the “Socialty Barbie” Instagram account, which is a parody account attempting to show that what people display is an unhealthy perception. Life is not just about the high points we post on social media, there is much running in the background to people’s lives as well. A few measures I’ve been taking to decrease my time on social media: put down my phone an hour or more prior to bed (helps with sleeping!), intentionally focus on the places I want to be and do not fall into the cyber wormhole of following link after link, set aside my phone and/or leave at home when I am out with people. I am such a sucker for face to face communication that’s not distracted, that I try as I might to nurture it. :) Whoo! You’ve got my brain working on a Monday morning, Cait!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 19, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Oh yes, I randomly found that account when there were only 4,000 followers, haha. It’s blown up since then, the same way the blog Stuff White People Like did, and I love it. How different would we feel about people if we all just posted the ugly moments of our days? Could be an interesting experiment. ;)

  • Reply Cari September 14, 2015 at 6:47 am

    What timing! I read Courtney’s post yesterday, I deleted Facebook, Facebook Messenger, games, numerous news apps and organized my phone. I’m trying to practice Mindfulness and this is a necessary step. :)

  • Reply Heather September 14, 2015 at 7:13 am

    I’ve had this problem too (as most of have I assume). I also got burnt out on checking my social media all the time a while ago, and now I have to remind myself to check them and post once in a while now that I’ve started a blog and am using them for that. And I also try to be careful about who I follow, because I’ve also bought things in the past that I saw on social media accounts/ads. I know you were specifically talking about phones & social media, but another thing I’ve had to do it unsubscribe from store emails too. In the past, every time I would make a purchase from a store online, or even in the store if I have an account or membership with them, they follow up by sending a bunch of emails to get me to buy more, so I have to be diligent about unsubscribing every time that happens so I’m not constantly being tempted in my emails. I completely agree that we have to be very mindful and purposeful about what we pay attention to.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 19, 2015 at 11:22 am

      Oh yes, as soon as I decided to do the shopping ban, I unsubscribed from EVERYTHING that was coming to my inbox – even if my friends’ owned the stores (sorry, friends!). In order to spend less/save more, we have to actively try to consume fewer ads. It’s hard, but we are in control of some of it!

  • Reply Alicia September 14, 2015 at 7:50 am

    I’ve been working on this – I rarely go on Twitter any more, and I am working on lowering my FB consumption. Pinterest isn’t a problem with me, but don’t get me started on Reddit… Way too much time is spent reading through some super interesting things, but it isn’t adding much to my life.

    Re: your 6 GB of data – I know this isn’t the point of your post, but you can turn your phone to grab wi-fi when you’re at home so you’re not actually using your data. That’s how we share 250 MB of data between the two of us. At home, it goes to wi-fi. At work for me, it goes to wi-fi. Going to my parents place for the weekend? Wi-fi :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 14, 2015 at 8:13 am

      My old 4S didn’t connect to Wi-Fi for the last year or so of it’s life. (We can thank countless stupid iOS updates for that.) So it wasn’t an option. Even though my new one is always connected when I’m at home, I truly try not to look at it unless I’m texting with a friend. Most data is still used when checking social media and sharing pics when I’m out. I want to keep cutting back on how much I do that, though. We’re a work in progress, I suppose. :)

  • Reply Michelle September 14, 2015 at 7:51 am

    I am not terribly satisfied with my social media use. There will be times when I’m holding my baby or feeding her when I feel the pull to check in on Facebook or to write one more Tweet. It’s really disheartening how addicted I’ve become.

    One of the best things that I have done, however, is to delete over 90% of my Facebook “friends.” I found that I was being consumed in the lives of people I met maybe once or talked to every other year or so (or less!). Cutting down on the friends and follow list at least gives me some peace that I’m not just mindlessly reading statuses or seeing pictures. I’m actually seeing the lives of my friends and family.

    Also, I think you know this, but I LOVE your Property Brother’s reference!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 19, 2015 at 11:23 am

      I had to talk about our guys. ;)

  • Reply Shelly September 14, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Wow!! It’s like you’re in my head. My husband and I do have an iPhone, but he uses it 99.9% of the time. He doesn’t use it that much. We have practically nil cell service at our house, but my downfall is that I can connect to my home WiFi because my workplace is in my basement. I recently purchased a class on Creativelive by Tiffany Han called “Social Media Sanity”. It’s about how to manage your time on social media(as an effective tool for growing your business). I watched some of the class as it was streaming live but haven’t had time to sit down and watch it all through yet. Too busy on Facebook and Twitter and checking my email. Isn’t it ironic! Ok, now the Alanis Morissette song is in my head! Maybe I’ll go check out the video on YouTube…..but I don’t have a problem….

  • Reply Our Next Life September 14, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Cait, I love this post! You touched on so many things that I feel strongly about, and have direct experience with. Plus, you just inspired me to delete some more apps and move everything on my iPhone onto one screen, which I did about halfway through reading your post. :-)

    On the marketing flow piece, I work in advertising, and the intrusion of ads is worse than most people even realize, and it will only get worse. It’s crazy, and is part of why I’m in such a big hurry to exit my career! Expect to see a lot more products marketed within content (product placement on steroids), plus sponsored content that becomes less and less distinguishable from editorial content, especially on news sites (this makes me the sickest). The ads that stalk you are old news now, but they will stalk us across more and more sites, and could find ways into editorial content. I’m sure there’s worse stuff coming that I don’t know about yet!

    On the influence of media and blogs on our purchasing, my experience with this was in the last blog I wrote, and eventually abandoned. It was in the home blog space, and I found that just blogging — not even all the Pinteresting and reading other blogs — made me feel like I had to spend money. Maybe it was to make the blog look super beautiful, or to have enough projects to write about, or to keep up with trends — but it was BAD. So it was hard, but I gave that blog up and stopped reading home blogs altogether.

    Hope you have a great week!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      Oh my gosh, I’ve been approached about doing sponsored content that could be so discrete you’d barely know I was doing it, and the thought just makes me feel sick. Sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy, because it would easy to make that money… but I just hate the idea of selling out and making money off something like that. So I believe you that it’s out there! :(

  • Reply Kathy September 14, 2015 at 9:09 am

    I’ve recently started to logout of Facebook on my phone. This was to stop me opening it without even realising I doing so. Now I have to stop and think for a second, then enter my password if I really want to continue.
    This has helped a lot.. I hate fb.. But am afraid to leave it as it’s the social media I am use and I’d never have found your blog if it wasn’t for it. So, for now, I’ll continue to try and control my use.
    Great read, thanks!

  • Reply Connie September 14, 2015 at 9:18 am

    I don’t have a smart phone, but I text tons. The only social media I use is pinterest once a week to see what my sister has pinned. Figure it saves me from looking thru all the stuff, plus I’ve gotten some great ideas & recipes this way.

    I had 2 friends on Friday night have me over to make plans for Saturday. They spent 30 minutes on Facebook…oh look we got 22 likes on our lunch pictures …yadda yadda. I left before any plans were made.

    I think social media has a time & place, but not when you have a chance to be social in real life with real people. My 2¢ worth

  • Reply Steve Miller September 14, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Wow, you are using lots of data. I normally use about a half gig a month. Here is how I’ve curbed that:

    1. When at home, make sure you are connected to your WiFi
    2. Turned off my background refresh (this keeps things from running when not connect to WiFi). To do that, tap Settings / General / Background App Refresh. Then unclick most of the apps there.

    That will free up some bandwidth!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 14, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Yep, I do both of those things, Steve. As I said in another comment, my old iPhone 4S wouldn’t connect to Wi-Fi so that wasn’t an option. I should’ve used my computer instead, if I’d really wanted to consume all that information – I was just being careless about it.

  • Reply CJ September 14, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Hi Cait, love this post! We just recently started following you after CBC did a thing on ya!

    Anyway, I’m surprised that you didn’t address one of the ways social media costs you money is by simply sucking your time you can spend doing other things. We’re renovating, and every hour we spend on social media is an hour less we spend working on renos, which in our case means more time paying for the storage locker (where our basement furniture etc is, as we were forced to gut our finished basement!), or means we hit a time crunch so we end up outsourcing/hiring certain tasks, or we’re not spending that time checking out the local used building supply outlet for needed materials…. the list goes on. Or that time can be devoted to a hobby that creates income, or repairing something that needs repairing, or even just getting a good night’s sleep so we’re not feeling like we “need” coffee in the morning.

    The other thing we need to be conscious of is that in social media, we’re ultimately the product that is consumed. That’s why we don’t pay for these platforms, but the data that is collected is invaluable to marketers and advertisers, data which is used to perpetuate the consumption cycle. If we’re being conscious about our consumption, we also need to be aware of how we are being consumed.

    Thanks, and keep up the great work!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      Yea, it would’ve been a great point to add to the post, but you did the work for me in this comment. Hehe ;) But you’re right in that it’s also a huge waste of our time, which could be spent doing so many more productive things. And the fact that we are all just data… yes. I have friends who work for startups that collect data like that and “think of all the things we can find out about people with this stuff”. How scary is that to think about? :S

  • Reply Maggie @ Northern Expenditure September 14, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Excellent post! I love the intentional decisions you’ve made in this arena. I’m definitely struggling to find a good balance. I want to get rid of personal facebook so badly, but with kids, I’ve found all the invites, PTA updates, etc. all happen on Facebook. When I go off Facebook for a period of time, my kids miss out. I hate that! So I’m stuck with that. (Glad we’ve moved on from the days of poking.) I do need to rethink my media time and use. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply Daisy @ Simplicity Relished September 14, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Haha “did anyone ever use Google plus?” Agreed.

    I completely agree also about your main point, that the accounts we follow– the people we allow to whisper in our proverbial ear and whom we take with us everywhere– can affect our spending habits and our priorities. Being overly connected in all these different ways can be useful, but also detrimental. Loved this post, Cait!

  • Reply Annie September 14, 2015 at 11:16 am

    That is an excellent point about how stripped down Facebook used to be, and how they gradually added more and more features to get us to spend more time there. Pinterest is the same way–remember all the brouhaha when they announced they were adding “buy” buttons? Soon people will forget how it used to be, and never remember a time before buy buttons. Yet, if Pinterest had had them from the beginning, it may never have taken off. These social media companies understand how to get us hooked on a simple, free/ad-free experience and then add more nefarious features so gradually that we don’t notice it’s happening–or are too entrenched to leave, if we do notice. We’re the frogs in the pot of water, and it’s getting hotter and hotter in there. This post was a great reminder that we CAN jump out.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      There are “buy” buttons on Pinterest!? Clearly I’m not paying attention, haha. That makes my decision to stay off it even more permanent! Thank you, Annie.

  • Reply Jill D September 14, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Have to ask: Why is there an Ohio State app on your phone?

    For me, my phone only has apps for use in my business (Square is insanely terrific for taking credit card payments from clients) and hobbies (the Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell’s institute of Ornithology is stupendous — bird calls and all — but it takes up a lot of space). Never did do Facebook (gasp!) because I don’t care to be connected with people I went to grade school (or middle or high school, for that matter) or with clients, who tend to abuse social media contacts instead of making an appointment. LinkedIn seems to be necessary if only because people I meet on business matters want to “connect”, for whatever it’s worth. Never got into Pinterest or Instagram, because I figured I had more than enough time sucks in my day. Once went over my 1G and Verizon instant messaged me that I could have another 1G every month for free. ? So said yes, but rarely use that much.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Ha! Good question. I dated a guy in Columbus and he turned me onto college football. (Go Buckeyes!) Oh, and I didn’t even think about LinkedIn, but I’m off that too. Setup an account years ago but never used it, so I deleted it and haven’t looked back.

  • Reply Revanche September 14, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    I was about to be impressed at your 9 GB usage, though that wasn’t the point, but then I realized I don’t actually know how much I use. Granted, much of my work requires that I have online access but I do use it for personal stuff as well. :)

    Speaking to the larger issue, SM use can so easily morph into an all consuming creature and with that in mind, I’ve been very careful to curate both my current accounts as well as which accounts I’m active on. There isn’t a lot of time to waste and it’s so easy for the useful aspects of each SM account to be lost in the noise. So I average 10 minutes on Facebook a year to catch up on photos of friends that are only shared there, up to 20 minutes a month on Pinterest for the blog and finding recipes that I actually use, maybe 30 minutes on Instagram a year from incidental use. Most of my online time is concentrated on Twitter and certain blogs, and we maintain a no-phones at mealtimes and on vacation rule that’s largely followed with minor exceptions. My favorite rule is “begin as you mean to continue” and stay mindful of usage-creep. Being deliberate about when I open an app from the start of my interest in anything helps prevent the regret later :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      Wow, I love that rule, lady! That really made me think… thank you for sharing it here. :)

  • Reply Jill D September 14, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Oh, also a tip for those of us who are book (over)buyers: click on the book but just add it to your Wish List and let it percolate for a while. Gives you a chance to find it at the library first, and really think (what a concept!) about whether it’s a book you need to buy.

    • Reply ShinySugar September 17, 2015 at 5:55 am

      I always add books to my Goodreads list!

      • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:04 pm

        Oh man, Goodreads – the site that made me feel like I’d never find the time to read all the hundreds and thousands of books that look interesting, haha.

  • Reply middle class September 14, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    I have a very bad habit of turning on my phone first thing in the morning and it’s the last thing I check at night. The phone is always with me but I actually don’t text or get that many texts compare to most people. I’m kind of old-fashioned in that I prefer email for communications. I’m not on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. I know I’m out of the loop because I miss out on updates from friends and family but I think the constant stream of social media feeds is the thing that really shackles people to their phones, more so than playing games or checking emails or browsing the web.

    I love Pinterest but admit that it does fuel my love for clothing and decorating (i.e. spending money). However it is also a helpful reference tool for me.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      I appreciate you being honest about the fact that Pinterest could possibly fuel some of your discretionary spending! I do see how there could be benefits to using it, but in general I think it has the potential to do more damage (even just as a time suck) than good.

  • Reply Christina T September 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    Great post, Cait! I have tried to limit my time scrolling through social media sites and deliberately choose which ones I’m going to pay attention to and spend time on.

    Does anyone use Google+? Yes! There are a lot of smart, interesting people there, and that’s where I spend most of my social media time. I have app that cross-posts from Google+ to Twitter and Facebook, so it’s easy for me to maintain a presence on the social media sites that I use to connect professionally and personally.

  • Reply Sylvia @Professional Girl on the Go September 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Because I am studying and working full time, I need to keep myself from getting distracted. I think I am going to try to set a timer for 1 hour. I will need to get everything done on my list before the timer goes off. Once the timer goes off I have to stop what ever I am doing and shut down my computer and move it to tomorrow’s task.

    I don’t really use my phone for social media. I have the lowest data plan which is 200mb, so if I am always on it, I will get charged. A lot.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:09 pm

      I like the timer idea, Sylvia! Or you could just do what I do and force yourself to stay offline after a certain time of the day. Either way, I wish you luck in trying to get some of your time back. :)

  • Reply Jenny from Germany September 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Honestly I have to admit that I am addicted to my smartphone. A little while ago I had to shut mine off for an hour or so because I needed my memory card and it was really liberating! I thought to myself: wow I love this.!Should do that more often. I often find myself randomly checking my phone, especially Facebook, just because I am bored. My goal is to get off the phone more often and interact with real people more. Well I do keep in touch with lots of people through Facebook after I moved to a new city but never made one single friend there in a year. (Ok I have to admit I am an introvert and find it very hard to make adult friendships) I’d like to be more intentional with the time I spent with my boyfriend (who is also a smartphonoholic).

    I do love Pinterest. In fact I do really enjoy my time I spent there. There is always something funny, inspiring or creative that is in my feed there. For me it’s a great place for me and I actually do cook the recipes and make the things I’ve pinned.
    I don’t get Twitter. I do have a profile there but haven’t posted anything in years. I don’t understand all the posting and reposting that’s going on there lol Same with Google+.
    Love instagram! Mostly I am just following friends,then some inspirational accounts (like Dave Ramsey/Rachel Cruze) and a few make up profiles (doesn’t lead me into the temptation into buying things – I have probably enough makeup for the next zombie apocalypse…)
    Just discovered Youtube for Jimmy Kimmel thank you notes and moreover TED talks. Absolutely love those! Today was beauty pressure night – check out The dangerous ways ads see women by Jean Kilbourne or my favorite: the Monica Lewinsky talk.
    Facebook has become annoying…to say at least… I really like how easy it is to stay connected with friends and see what’s going on in their lifes, especially since all my friends live far away. But then it’s somehow depressing. I really can’t say why. I do delete “friends” regularly and unfollow people who are just annoying, posting 24/7 or upload the 100th photo of the day of their kids (I am aware that they do this for their families and the kids are cute but sometimes it’s just too much). I see every like of my friends it’s soooo annoying and one can’t shut it off. But I also feel this immense pressure on myself to post something meaningful or something which contributes to a positive feeling on Facebook. Yet I feel it doesn’t matter when I do. Changed my profile picture after three years and I got a like from more than 25% of my FB friends, I post something inspiring, if I get one like, it’s a good day. It’s not about the likes or the amount of comments I get but it makes me feel people are just in for shallow things and don’t want to live their lifes mindfully.

    Whew that was long…*laugh*

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      You said it all with this, Jenny: “It’s not about the likes or the amount of comments I get but it makes me feel people are just in for shallow things and don’t want to live their lives mindfully.”

  • Reply Nathan Atkinson September 14, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    This was a great article to read in conjunction with Courtney’s on Be More With Less and at the end of my month with no social media. I learned that we don’t really “need” social media like many people say they do. Thanks for being so bold and showing a great example. People may laugh at those of us who are simplifying and realizing the damaging effects of too much social media/internet/whatever, but I think in a few years it will be researched and mainstream. Kind of like smoking or skin cancer, it’s only a matter of time before we see the full effects of everyone being glued to their phones and social media all the time.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Wow, that’s a powerful comparison, Nathan, but you could very well be right. There are certainly already a lot of studies out there about how social media affects our mental health, as well as fuels our desire to put our “best face forward” so to speak. It will be interesting (and probably scary) to see how it affects other areas of our lives…

  • Reply Lisa @ Broke and Fixing it September 14, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Cait! Sometimes I really feel like we’re on the same wavelength, girl.
    Cutting back on my social media intake has been one of my main focuses this month, for a few reasons:
    I got Instagram this summer after stubbornly resisting for a long time and quickly became consumed by it. As soon as I posted a picture I would check my phone every thirty seconds to see if it got any likes and would do a little happy dance if it did. It was literally keeping me up at night and keeping my distracted when I was with friends and family. I also got into a really bad habit of scrolling through Instagram and Twitter at work where there is no wifi. And then last month I got my phone bill and had to pay an extra $20 for going over my data usage. Whoops! So obviously the extra charge on my phone bill was upsetting, but more than that, I was kind of becoming a social media monster. I started to notice that if I didn’t have any evening plans, I would get home and start scrolling through Twitter, start clicking on articles, soon have 15 tabs open and then would spend the whole evening essentially doing nothing but reading tweets and articles that were tweeted about. It had become an addiction. And it was making me feel like crap!
    A few years ago I deleted Facebook because I just couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t able to manage the time I spent clicking and scrolling through it, essentially just to see how my life was measuring up to random people I hadn’t seen since grade school or some random dude I met once at a party in university, whose friend request I accepted to be polite.
    Towards the end of August I realized that I needed to change my social media habits. At first I was going to limit my scroll time to just half an hour every day for both Instagram and Twitter combined. I’m only allowed to do this between 7:30-8:00 PM. The first day I realized that I didn’t even need all the time I had given myself. After a few minutes I got bored and got up to go for a walk outside. And now most days 7:30 PM passes and I totally forget that I’m allowed to scroll. I’ve also just realized that Instagram makes me feel like crap in the same way that Facebook did so I think that the affair, while intense, will be short-lived. Even taking a break from Twitter has been a lot easier than I thought it would be. I used to gush to my non-Twitter-friendly friends about how great it was: “I only have to go to one page to find everything from my favourite bloggers, news sites and celebrities! Everything is right there!” But now that I’m weaning myself off of it I’m realizing that I’ll find the things I want to read on the internet with or without Twitter. I’ll also spend a lot less time reading things that don’t even really interest me. If my favourite band is playing a show in the city, I can find out about it on BlogTO or even on a poster on the street. Now I can see that the appeal of Twitter was finding out about everything IN REAL TIME, but that’s not even something that I value. Is it important to me to be able to break news stories to friends and coworkers? No. Is it important to me that I’m present when I’m with people I care about and aware of my surroundings when I’m waiting for an elevator or waiting in line somewhere? Strangely, yes! It is! And figuring that out has been really nice. My social media consumption at home was also keeping me distracted from the things that used to make me feel really happy and fulfilled like reading books and playing music. This whole experiment has made me think a lot about how I spend my time and how my time spent affect my happiness.
    Wow, that was a bit of a long-winded rant, but like I said, I can relate!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Girl, you need to write a blog post about this – your experiments were really interesting to read about!

  • Reply catherine September 14, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    I actually only have 500MB of data but 80% of my time is on WiFi so it’s fine.

    I totally ‘get’ this post. I’s super picky about who I follow on all accounts but I still waste way too much time on the device. I’m much more aware of it now that Maria is around and I just don’t have time so I guess that’s a good thing. The annoying part is that rarely do I gain any good feelings from it..I want to get in the habit of putting my phone away when I get home from work and leaving it out of my life (easier said then done).

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      I like that idea! Easier said than done, for sure… but if I really think about it, I barely use my phone after dinner. Hmm. An experiment for us both to consider, maybe. :)

  • Reply Paula September 14, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    I am getting more and more dissatisfied with social media. A few months ago, I also deleted the Facebook app from my phone for a month to get out of the habit of checking it, and I tried to limit myself to checking only a few times a day. I put the app back on my phone before traveling and was pretty good about it for a while. But I’ve had a few personal issues over the past month that have left me discouraged. I’ve noticed that when things are not going well for me, I do tend to slip into more mindless practices, including spending way too much time on Facebook. I think I’ll take a cue from you and remove the app from my phone again.

    I have never spent a lot of time on Twitter. Most of my friends don’t use it, so I generally only follow new sources and writers I’d like to keep up with. I do have a Pinterest account, but it’s not really a time problem for me because I don’t use it the way they want me to, I think. I basically use it as a visual bookmark place for recipes I want to try or other information I might want to refer to. I never spend any time looking at all of the pins that show up. I never did get an Instagram account. I used to feel bad about that, but now I don’t really care.

    Facebook and checking email are my biggest bad habits. I do try to put my phone down when I get home and stay off it for the evening, but then I often find myself just checking them on my laptop. I’ve been making a more intentional effort to put the laptop down and just do something else, either a knitting or crochet project, reading or writing. I even consider it a victory for myself when I spend an hour or so watching a TV show or a movie without also being on my laptop or phone at the same time.

  • Reply Erin September 14, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    I’ve been trying to cut down on my screen time but I’m failing miserably. For me, social networking which used to be a fun way to keep in touch with friends is now just a time suck that leaves me with feelings of jealousy or inadequacy because I keep comparing what I’m doing with what the rest of the world is doing. Not fun. I recently switched to a plan that charges me if I use data but doesn’t if I use WiFi. It’s really cut down on my phone usage when I’m not at home.

    BTW, I love Pinterest. I never look at that endless board feed, instead I use it to plan all my meals for the week. It’s so easy to pull it up on my phone and quickly find the recipe I want to cook that night.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      Well that sounds like a productive use of it, Erin! I approve. :)

  • Reply Elizabeth September 15, 2015 at 4:04 am

    Your comment about book articles made me laugh — I used to write some of those! Thank goodness for libraries or I’d be broke. When I hear about something I want to read, I put a hold on it at the library. Often the list is so long that I forget about it by the time my it’s my turn, but that’s better than a book sitting on my shelf indefinitely waiting to be read.

    Thanks for sharing this post! It’s a good reminder that what we read affects us. Even if we’re skipping commercials, the unrealistic lifestyles we see on shows can influence our spending. I found I’m much more content with my humble home since I stopped watching home improvement shows!

  • Reply Marie September 15, 2015 at 6:09 am

    I deleted the social media apps on my phone, but found myself just using the mobile web version instead. It’s a hard habit to break, especially when I get bored at work and need something to help pass the time. I’d love to delete them entirely but my job makes it impossible.

    I totally agree on Pinterest being a giant waste. I ended up deleting mine and then turning around and, months later, getting a new one with the idea that I’d only use it for work and to pin things I was actually making. That lasted maybe 3 months before I was back to just trolling Pinterest for ideas for things I’ll never actually make.

    (Also, I use G+ far more than I use my FB… but to be fair, my G+ is filled with more people I consider friends than business acquaintances. I can be myself a bit more over there, which I like. It’s still very relevant for me.)

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      And did you also create boards that looked beautiful but weren’t actually useful to you? THAT is my problem with it. I should write a post about Pinterest, specifically…

  • Reply Kate @ Cashville Skyline September 15, 2015 at 6:44 am

    I am badly in need of a digital detox, Cait. Fortunately, I never buy anything I see. But I did have to pay extra for data this month! And I know how much time and energy I’m wasting while mindlessly scrolling through content. I’d like to try staying off social media after 7 PM every night. And maybe giving myself at least an hour in the morning without it.

  • Reply Kendal September 15, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Fantastic post, Cait. I am increasingly disturbed by the amount of time I spend on my phone, especially since I work online all day. Several weeks back, I removed the Facebook app from my phone. Mindlessly perusing my feeds was making me angry and depressed. Now, I only look at Facebook from my desktop at home (and at work for brand stuff). I’ve noticed a big difference in my mood, and even when I look at Facebook now, I realize how much I don’t miss it. However, I have yet to remove Instagram or Pinterest, and I agree these applications pose the same problem. Thanks for a thought-provoking and on-point post!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Yes! Not having Facebook on my phone has made me seriously consider getting rid of it altogether. I can’t, of course, for business page reasons… but ugh! I HATE looking at it.

  • Reply Reelika @Financially Wise On Heels September 15, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I guess it is hard to run an online business without social media. These two are just SO connected. However, it can be truly overwhelming. But I already made myself clear that I am only going to focus on certain social media channels in my business and not all of them. I am currently using Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+, however the last two don’t really get my attention. When thinking about the last weekend, then I finally took time and get familiar with Periscope. I wanted not know anything about it, but I finally realized I have no choice. You either go on board with social media or you get run over by it.

  • Reply Karen Howes September 16, 2015 at 1:56 am

    I guess it depends a bit on your personal spending habits to begin with. Pinterest is my favourite because I love window-shopping – I always have. I use it for inspiration & to see what’s current, but I don’t think it affects my spending, which I am very intentional about, other than to help me refine what it is I actually want & not waste money on other things. I learned a long time ago that just because I love the look of something right now, I won’t necessarily love looking at it or wearing it every day. I know I’m a bit of a bower-bird, & if anything, scrolling Pinterest probably saves me money! Interesting thoughts though, it all does plant that aspirational lifestyle seed. Thanks for giving me something to ponder.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      And thank you for sharing your experiences, Karen! Even though I won’t use Pinterest again, I do still think it’s interesting to hear how other people use it.

  • Reply Sarah-Mae September 16, 2015 at 2:49 am

    100 yeses are screaming at the screen right now.
    Before my son was born I became hyper-conscious of my cell phone/media useage, realizing that it was more akin to an addiction than a hobby or pass time. I tried to avoid using my phone while driving, in the presence of friends, in bed, etc. and failed. Every. Time.

    So almost two years ago I walked into Telus. Handed them my iPhone 4 (32GB!) and switched to a koodo pay as you go flip phone. My LG A340 is perfect. I have unlimited text messaging, buy nation-wide talk minutes in “Booster” bundles and pay a grand total of $16.80 a month. No data. No problems.

    This isn’t to say I don’t spend a reasonable amount of time checking my facebook, blogs, etc. but I am more aware of that time when it is on my tablet or I am at work (where I willingly TRY to pass the time as quickly as possible!)

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:22 pm

      You are my cell phone hero, Sarah-Mae! I don’t think I’ll ever give up my smartphone… but who knows? Maybe as time goes on, and this one eventually dies, I won’t want it anymore. Something to think about!

  • Reply Samantha September 16, 2015 at 3:04 am

    Oh my god, yes! A few months ago I went on a mass deleting spree on almost all of my social media for anything to do with Internet shopping.. My Instagram account was filled of all the “shop” fashion and beauty accounts because it would be a constant soul suck of “BUY THIS NEW PRODUCT!” or “Buy this new dress!” and most online stores seem to have this never-ending stream of new stock and something new and pretty to buy (sometimes I’m actually thankful that I would never be able to fit into most of it, ~cursed~ with a large chest.) I had SO many screenshots of Instagram posts of those things I liked… And then finally I remembered one day how much I hate online shopping and the fact most thing never fit for me… So I unfollowed them all and felt like my stream was so much more peaceful. I do need to work on being sucked into Instagram in general… So much overconsumption being able to go from profile to profile to profile (much like Pinterest!). I think soon enough Facebook will get the flick completely, but I can’t bare to delete twitter! Haha.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      Screenshots of Instagram – and I thought I was the only one, haha. I used to do that ALL THE TIME. Sometimes I still do, when I see pics of local hikes people have gone on that I could check out… but yes, I used to take screenshots of ALL THE THINGS I wanted to buy. I totally forgot about that until just now. Thank you for sharing, Samantha!

  • Reply ShinySugar September 16, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    I unfollow any account that exists solely to try and sell me something. I do not have facebook. I am rarely on Pinterest. I check Twitter for news. My Instagram is where I’m most active and I follow friends and family, a few recipe bloggers and a few photographers. I have very few apps on my phone.

  • Reply Maressa September 17, 2015 at 12:09 am

    Even though I’m a blogger, I don’t have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Deleting my Facebook account was one of the best things I’ve done lately. I have a lot more free time since, but I still think I spend too much time on my phone browsing online. I’m avoiding checking it on days off and also when I travel. I also keep my cell phone away if I’m meeting with someone. I’ve been working on giving people my undivided attention and I’m seeing a huge improvement in my relationships.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      There is nothing better we can give people than our attention. :)

  • Reply Jen Ferris September 17, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Hi Cait:

    A digital detox is exactly the right recommendation.

    I’m not a huge consumer of social media because I know how much of a time waster all of that is. I limit my facebook time to lazy Saturday mornings with a coffee and a warm bed and a sleepy cuddly puppy.

    For the past while, I’ve been following the advice of James Schramko from Super Fast Business.com. He says to stop being a consumer of other people’s content and start being a creater of your own content. This has been good business advice for me to follow.

  • Reply weenie September 20, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    6GB is huuuuuuge! Well done on getting your usage right down!

    I’m on a 500MB plan and I find that this is generally enough for me and what I use my phone for. If I go over this, then I have to pay extra, like you did.

    I don’t like to pay extra so when I recently had a text from my phone company telling me that I was close to my 500MB limit, I turned off my data services. This meant I had no updates to Facebook, Twitter or personal emails outside of my home, unless I found a free wifi hotspot.

    I endured this for over 10 days and you know what, whilst it was really difficult at first, I got used to it and found that I was a lot more productive at work (there’s no wifi at work!)

    I think on days where I have a lot to get on with, I will turn off my data services, just less distraction!

  • Reply DP @ Someday Extraordinary September 21, 2015 at 9:50 am

    I like this concept. I get so mad at myself after I put my phone down and realize how much time has gone by. In the sense of what consumes your mind controls your life”, think of what you could fill your mind with during that lost time of browsing your phone? You could pick up a book or read informational blogs or do some stretching or pushups or some other physical activity that is much more beneficial for mind and body. So many books come to mind about that exact subject, proving that you subconsciously do what your mind is focused on. If we can focus our minds on productive activities, we’ll subconsciously work to attain them!

    -DP

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      Great points to add! I listen to a lot of podcasts, but barely read during those few months I was down and consuming too much TV/video content… think of how much better a few good books would’ve been for me? :)

  • Reply Shanda September 21, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    I recently (from Sept 7 – 20) went on holiday. While taking a ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg my phone decided that life on land was no longer appealing, and chose to reside in the Bay of Finland. This happened on day 2 of a 14 day trip. For the first day or two I felt lost, like I was missing something. But eventually, I barely missed it. I began to realise that my consumtion of media and my reliance on my phone was a crutch I used to fill idle time, and something to ensure that my “FOMO” was never realised. I also surmised that this distraction had become an addiction that kept me for really exeriencing real life.
    The most amazing thing happened when I returned last night: I walked in to my apartment and for the first time in a very long time I didn’t automatically feel the need to turn on the TV or the computer. I didn’t really care what was happening in the digital world.
    While I know that owning a phone is essential, and something that I will have to do in the next few days, I also know that I will be much more vigilant in the content I consume upon it. I know that being on vacation makes not-consuming much easier – there is a myriad of new and wonderful things/people/experiences to occupy your time – but I hope that I can remember this current feeling and be mindful in the future when it comes to how I use my phone.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:28 pm

      Haha, your sense of humour is just like mine, Shanda… I probably would’ve described the phone story the exact the same way! Made me laugh :)
      This comment, as a whole, was so thoughtful. Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts here.

  • Reply Amanda @ My Life, I Guess September 21, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    I’m catching up from a little social media/blog consuming break, ironically enough :)
    But anyways. I recently started nannying a 2 year old girl, who loves to watch Nursery Rhymes and such on YouTube. I do my best to limit her “screen time” but hey, it still happens. And when it happens, I find myself mindlessly consuming social media. Like, sometimes I’ll hit refresh on Twitter because I’m that “needy”.
    Today I did something different – not intentionally, but because my phone is awful and dies after an hour. I took a blank piece of paper and a pen, and spent my time making a little to-do list for a project I’ve been thinking about.
    And magically, when I got home, instead of consuming even more, I KEPT WORKING on this idea! I didn’t “waste” my time today, and I feel so proud and motivated instead of feeling blah…
    You’re absolutely on to something here!

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      I’ve always felt that writing things down – actually putting pen to paper – was more productive than typing it out. If we type, it’s too easy to open new tabs and check out what else is going on!

  • Reply Kelly September 21, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    I really disagree about Pinterest. If used correctly (for a specific purpose) it is really helpful and is definitely my favourite of all the social media apps. I don’t agree with abandoning it all together, if you’re intentional with it there is a heap to gain from using Pinterest boards.

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      See, I think the boards are what I dislike the most. I do think Pinterest could be used the same way Google search is, but I think we spend a lot of time creating these boards that look great but don’t actually serve a useful purpose. That’s just been my experience, though!

  • Reply Selina (Financial Buddha) September 23, 2015 at 12:03 am

    I think this is an important lesson–spending more time away from our phones and devices gives our minds time to rest. When you wake up and the first thing you reach for is your phone, that’s a problem (I’m definitely guilty of this).

    When I was on my RV trip, I wouldn’t always have signal on my phone (especially in National Parks), so I was forced to go out and explore. Otherwise, I would’ve stayed cooped up in our motorhome, not enjoying the glory of nature…all because I needed to refresh my feed “one more time.”

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 24, 2015 at 9:33 pm

      Camping (or RVing) is a great way to force yourself to disconnect. Fresh air therapy is the best. :)

  • Reply Ms. MyCountdown September 26, 2015 at 8:33 am

    I’ve honestly never let social media take over too much of my time. I never have alerts on my phone for new posts/messages, etc. I just get to it when I decide to open the app and check them. Social media is, in my eyes, a necessary evil (that may be too strong of a word) in today’s world, but I could easily go several days without checking in. Mr. MyCountdown, on the other hand is addicted. I tell him that Instagram and Twitter has taken over his life; but I know he’s not alone in that regard.

  • Reply Jen @ Frugal Millennial September 26, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    I didn’t spend too much time on social media until I purchased an iPhone. It’s just so easily accessible now. I agree that ads can affect our financial choices. I will admit that I have bought a couple of items that I originally found on Pinterest. The other way that social media costs us is with our time. I spend time mindlessly browsing Facebook or Pinterest when I could be working on my blog or side hustling – which would be much more productive!

  • Reply Erin November 8, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    I’ve been using Instagram a lot more lately and I’m so much happier. The content I follow there is so much more positive than what I see on Facebook. This one small change has been so good for my mindset.

    I do feel like I still spend too much time on my phone though, so I’m making a mindful effort to reduce that.

  • Reply Dina December 1, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Late to the comments here but this post totally resonates with me. A couple of weeks ago I deactivated my Facebook account for several days. I worked on photography projects I’d been putting off and it felt so good. I’ve discovered, now being back on it, that chrome has a plug in that replaces the news feed (desktop version) with different inspirational quotes. :) I rarely use Twitter but do follow a bunch of international friends on Instagram. No pinterest for me, never been interested. One of my big downfalls is not social media but amazon… I can spend hours doing product research for future purchases, which leads me to sometimes make frivolous purchases.

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