We get it, you get it. You know that cutting down on social media is good for you — your mental health, your relationships, and definitely your time management.
You’ve seen the articles, you’ve read the stats — you’ve even probably (and very ironically) posted these condemnations on social media itself. You know that curbing the habit makes you more joyful. You know the addiction perpetuates chronic loneliness. And you know that staying away helps you sleep better.
So maybe you know all this, but you haven’t gotten around to actually doing anything about it — or at least anything that works. Maybe you feel a little guilt — a tingling, tiny wedge of shame because you can’t quit a simple habit like impulsively scrolling through your ex-girlfriend’s sister’s Instagram feed when you should go outside, already.
The thing is: it’s not entirely your fault.
The people who built social media are constantly experimenting with instinctive human behavior in order to addict us. “Behind every screen on your phone, there are generally like literally a thousand engineers that have worked on this thing to try to make it maximally addicting,” explains a former Mozilla and Jawbone employee Aza Raskin to the BBC (he’s the guy who invented infinite scrolling, by the way). Trying to fight your digital impulses with mere willpower can prove an uphill battle.
Social media is a relatively new world, and lawmakers are only just beginning to grapple with the new reality (ahem, looking at you, Zuckerberg). So unlike the tobacco or alcohol industry, there’s not much regulation protecting us.
Good news: A wave of apps are appearing to help us curb our addiction to social media use. These could prove helpful as we seek balance because maybe we don’t want to return to the Stone Age — maybe we just want these platforms to work for us, without sucking us down the vortex of an emotional black hole.
For Those Who Love Nature: Forest: Stay Focused
Get off your phone and get into a forest — or at least a digital forest. That’s right! This app gamifies productivity by leveraging your sense of responsibility and your need for achievement. You start by planting a seed in a forest, and as you avoid phone activities, your seed grows until it becomes tree — that is, unless you prematurely log out of the app. Over time, you develop a visual marker of your success: an entire forest built around your focused moments.
For Those Who Want Competition: AntiSocial
Leverage your FOMO tendencies for good, and see how much your phone use stacks up compared to other people. AntiSocial gives you an easy way to look at your phone data while empowering you to gauge what’s “normal” — your usage is benchmarked with other users on the app. Compared to other apps, AntiSocial takes the least amount of battery power — it’s unobtrusive and discreet as it runs in the background.
For Those Who Love Aesthetics: Siempo
This app might still be in beta, but for those who are easily attracted to the eye-catching colors of the phone screen, Siempo is worth the download. According to studies, the LCD screen is brighter and more colorful than most things in our life. Siempo replaces your home screen with a less distracting interface — “more of a zen garden than a Times Square” — and creates an intuitive way to tidy up your apps by simplifying the colorful icons into a simplistic, organized grayscale grid.
For Those Who Need a Little Gentle Guidance: Moment
Like a lot of these apps, Moment empowers you with a visual measurement of your usage, allowing you to discern which social media apps are your biggest time-suck. But this app goes a bit further because it gently guides you with specific goals, such as reducing the number of times you pick up your phone or encouraging you to take a “phone boot camp course” or a “better sleep course.” With this app, it’s all about the realistic small steps.
For Those Who Like Setting Their Own Rules: AppDetox
If you prefer an app that’s a bit more customizable, consider AppDetox. You can set your own rules on which apps you want to “detox” from, and then set them aside with an applocker. Plus, every time you break a rule, you’ll get a notification, and be pushed to keep track of your violations in a log — the log of shame.
For Those Who Love Motivational Quotes: Mute
If you’re addicted to those little dopamine hits that a “like” or emoji-laden comment on Instagram gives you, consider weaning yourself off with Mute. It’s an app that gives you similar injections of positivity with encouraging messages of motivation. In addition to tracking your screentime usage, the app offers motivational messages that are customized and fit your progress and individual goals.
For Those Who Need Personalized Goals: Space
What type of phone user are you? A boredom battler, a social sticky-mitt, a rabbit hole wanderer, or a busy bee? Whichever you might be, Space has a customized solution for you that begins with identifying your current habits. There’s a slew of tools you can use to block certain apps or notifications during specified times — and like AntiSocial above, you can see how your performance compares with other users.
For Those Who Need Intense, Total Blockage: Flipd
If you’re suffering from a particularly crippling phone addiction, you’ve gotta download Flipd. For starters, there’s a simple “casual lock” that discourages screen time. But what takes this app to an entirely different level of intensity is its “full lock” capabilities, which straight-up locks you out of your phone and hides away your apps for however long you determine. It basically demotes your smartphone to “dumb phone” status so it only makes calls and texts.
For Those Who Want Real-Time Reports and Timelines: QualityTime
This app creates an “automatic diary” of your screentime usage, so if you’re one of those unique humans who love a good spreadsheet, this is for you. In addition to providing an in-depth analysis of your smartphone activities — with hourly, daily, and weekly reporting options — you can export all this information to an actual spreadsheet so you can take your examination abilities to the next level. This app also includes a bunch of customizations, allowing you to put time restrictions on notifications or setting scheduled breaks.