When I sat down at the end of 2020 to reflect on the past 12 months and the year ahead of me, there was a lot to cover. The goals and intentions I set out had inevitably fallen by the wayside thanks to the pandemic, and many of the plans and events I looked forward to were canceled or indefinitely postponed. Still, there were things I was proud of, namely healthy habits I had built and solidified throughout the year, despite the chaos. There was one habit, though, that had only gotten worse over the course of the year: the time I spent on my phone.
No longer distracted by social outings, vacations, or travel, my phone had become my go-to solution for numbing my brain throughout 2020. I've always been online constantly, but I became more attached to my phone during the pandemic. I’d scroll for hours each night, unable to either identify why I was on my phone to begin with. I’d look at it first thing in the morning and instantly waste 25 minutes before leaving my bed. I’d doom scroll through headlines that made me anxious or scared, and then immediately Google articles to make me feel better, only to end up feeling worse than ever most of the time. I was on my phone without even realizing it sometimes, tapping through photos and captions and emails without truly processing any of it at all. My phone was at once a reminder of stress and a way to block it all out. And frankly, it wasn’t working for me. So when I sat down at the end of 2020 with a journal and a pen, one of the very first things I did was map out a personal social media habit overhaul.
No longer distracted by social outings, vacations, or travel, my phone had become my go-to solution for numbing my brain throughout 2020.
My end goal for the new year was two-fold. First, to spend less time spent on my phone, and second, to be intentional about the time I was on my phone. Deleting all my social apps wasn’t realistic for me, but changing how I used them (and using them more efficiently) was. Among the changes I laid out were things like aiming to put my phone on airplane mode from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. each night, sleeping with my phone on the other side of the room (no exceptions), and blocking daily sections of time to be active and intentional on social media—time to specifically dedicate to posting, commenting, responding to messages—instead of being mindlessly online, all the time. In order to hold myself accountable for those changes, I researched apps that remind you when you’ve been on your phone too long. I wanted something efficient, but uncomplicated. I landed on Moment.
What Is Moment?
Moment (short for In The Moment) “helps people disconnect from their phones and get back their time,” according to the app’s website. Moment sends you notifications about your screentime in 15-minute increments throughout the day. You'll know when you’ve spent an hour on your phone or when you’ve spent five hours on your phone on any given day. For the record, I’ve had both of these types of days since using the app.
It also lets you know when you have an unusually long “pick-up” time, which means you’ve been staring at your phone for much longer than, say, a quick browse through Instagram or replying to a couple of emails. It also measures your overall pick-ups throughout the day. Are you picking your phone up 15 times throughout the day? 50? I asked myself this when I downloaded the app, and I found I had no idea the extent I was using my phone. Moment puts all of this information into context for me every day.
"I found I had no idea the extent I was using my phone."
While I don’t obsess over the reminders Moment sends, I do pay close attention to them when I’m approaching major work deadlines or experiencing a lot of anxiety. I know mindless screen time will only help me procrastinate, and endless scrolling will only worsen any anxiousness. Moment allows me to be honest about my social media habits in real-time, rather than skimming a weekly screen-time notification. In fact, Moment is different than Apple’s screen-time feature. While Apple tracks every time the screen lights up, Moment tracks when you’re actively using your apps.
Moment's Impact On My Social Media Habits
While I don’t think Moment will drastically change how I use social media in practice, it holds me accountable in a big way. More than that, it gives me an opportunity to think about my screen time and my social media use in the moment.
At least once a day, Moment stops me while scrolling with a notification that literally says, "Do you really want to be on your phone right now?" I’ve found that the answer to that question is almost always no. You can even set up the app so that it suggests other apps for you to use instead of scrolling, like Audible or Spotify.
It gives me an opportunity to think about my screen time and my social media use in the moment.
Sometimes those real-time reminders are the hardest to swallow, especially when I’m deep in a doom-scroll spiral at breakneck speed. And sure, sometimes (OK, often) I cringe at the frequent reminders of my screen time, but I’m always thankful for them, too. They allow me to be honest about my social media habits—and that’s the first step to changing the behavior.