Social (Media) Etiquette: Screen Time

Clarissa Sabile // Columnist 

Have you ever: 

  1. Swiped out of an app, just to open it right back up again?  
  1. Reached the end of the timeline, realized how long you’ve been scrolling and refreshed the feed anyway?  
  1. Woken up with temporary vision problems because you watched one too many videos the night before?  

Well, I have, and it seems these unexplainable habits and problems are quite common among social media users. After long ignoring parental scoldings and scientific research, it seems the dangers of phone addiction don’t mean much to the ones most at risk. 

I, as do most, recognize the mental and physical health risks that have been linked to frequent device exposure. A few (of the many) include the negative impacts overuse has on self-esteem, sleep, vision and attention spans. It can cause eye problems and fatigue, and can be a source of stress, anxiety and depression. But despite all the experiments, reports and articles on the benefits of social media detoxes, people still remain highly active online.  

When I was younger, my mom would scold me for reading at the dinner table. When I got a Nintendo DS for Christmas, my video game obsession yielded the same reaction. When I got my first phone in high school, the pattern continued. 

Aside from being raised to turn my phone off at meals, I became accustomed to being permanently connected. I’d spend my days texting friends on Facebook Messenger during lessons and long bus rides scrolling down my never-ending Instagram timeline. But phone use isn’t restricted to fun. From messaging group members about finishing assignments to managing my workplace’s Instagram page, the digital realm is inescapable in our professional lives too.  Social media has been incorporated not only into our friendships, but expanded to affect us as employees and students. It’s considered valuable to be active and social online. Over-reliance on technology in all aspects of society, like work, school and leisure make it nearly impossible to put our phones down. 

Using your phone isn’t the issue, it’s excessive phone and social media use that causes problems. Not many people realize their digital habits either, which makes it harder to control. Enter: screen time monitoring. 

While Androids and third-party apps offer similar analyses, as an iPhone user, I’m all about my Screen Time. Screen Time is a report-like feature in handheld Apple products like iPhones and iPads that informs users about their average phone use. The data accurately shows way-too-specifics like the total amount of physical phone pickups in a day, and the initial app opened after turning the phone on. Basically, Screen Time provides the user with opportunities to acknowledge their possible social media addiction and to consider limiting their usage. 

As a completely normal sibling bonding activity, my sister and I regularly partake in unnecessary competitions. Recently, I decided to contrast our Screen Time data (to feel better about my own). 

My daily average screen time last week was a shameful 8 hours and 14 minutes. Quite literally, one third of my days were used up by Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Sometimes, I have to turn my phone on and off to believe these numbers. But my sister’s numbers: a whopping 11 hours and 42 minutes on average. Since she was born in 2000, it came as no surprise to me that a majority of her usage came from TikTok, followed by Instagram and Twitter. She took pride in this and (ironically) immediately posted it on her private Snapchat Story. The Screen Time interface displays a bar graph of your phone use split into the top three most-used operations. For both my sister and I, these were the same: Social Networking, followed by Entertainment and Productivity confirming that our go-to smartphone applications were, you and I guessed it, social media platforms. 

I’m not asking you to take a month-long social media break, nor telling you to get off your phone like a parent might. Just consider taking a step back and recognizing your habits. If you’re willing to adjust your typical phone use patterns and social media intake, more power to you. In the meantime, don’t mind me scrolling down my Twitter timeline on Dark Mode and falling asleep when my eyes start to hurt… Well, I should probably work on that. 

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