Recently, I discovered a newer feature of iOS called Screen Time. It tracks how much time you spend on your phone, and provides periodic reports on individual apps, broad categories, and weekly trends. It even tracks how many times you pick up your phone.
How horrifying! I knew I was using my phone a lot, but seeing actual numbers was eye opening, especially after lamenting about how I never seemed to have enough time for projects. Not true, even with my extensive phone usage, but still a comfortable lie I’d gotten used to telling myself.
Screen Time wasn’t the catalyst for my slow retreat from social media, but it was a great bit of extra ammunition and incentive to continue. Even before discovering this tool, I had already deleted apps for Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Google+, and a slew of others that not only had I forgotten about having, I couldn’t remember why I thought it was a good idea to join in the first place.
The Screen Time utility gives you all sorts of useful information to help make more informed choices, and even provides tools that can help you when you don’t have the willpower to do it on your own.
Things were getting better. My screen time was decreasing each week, and I was doing it on my own, not needing to have the phone enforce time limits. But there was one big outlier in the Screen Time data. A giant sucking sound responsible for the vast majority of time:
My oldest account on Reddit dates back to 2009, but I only used it occasionally. It was never a regular thing until I stopped going to the other social sites. Reddit has slightly more value than a lot of other apps, in that it is still more entertaining than annoying. It’s sliding the same direction though, into the endless tribal arguments, half-baked ideological posturing, virtue signaling, and people with not even a shred of a clue trying to put themselves across as experts.
But the cute animal gifs and power washing videos made it all worth it, right? Well, yes, and therein lies the problem. I had simply traded one time-wasting activity for another. One addiction for another. At least this one amused me and made me smile, but I had gotten to the point where I was reaching for my phone instead of my book when I went to bed.
And I did this knowing that if I opened Reddit and started scrolling, it would probably be two hours before I put it down. And I picked it up anyway. I have strayed so far from my “no screens an hour before bedtime” policy that had worked so well for me.
Enabling Screen Time showed me it was far worse than I thought. Reddit was the last thing I looked at before going to sleep. It was the first thing I looked at when I woke up. I scrolled endlessly while drinking coffee in the mornings. It was my go-to mobile entertainment, and it was devouring everything else.
Last week, when I reached for my phone and unlocked it, when I put my thumb on the icon, something made me keep it there long enough for the configuration mode to kick in. I thought about it for about three seconds, and then hit X. I killed Reddit.
And honestly, I haven’t missed it.