Breaking the Habit: Tips for Cutting Back on Social Media Use

Let’s play a little game of Have You Ever…

  • Have you ever texted a family member from inside your house?
  • Have you ever told your child to wait on something so that you could send a tweet or comment on a Facebook post?
  • Have you ever spent dinnertime on your smartphone rather than talking to your family?

I am absolutely guilty of all of these, and a new study shows I’m not alone. Researchers from Boston Medical Center observed families out to eat and found that more than  half of parents spent time using their smartphones during the meal. What’s more, the adults that seemed most preoccupied with their phones were often with children who decided to act out to get the adult’s attention.

Why is this trend such a problem? Well, pediatricians say that conversation with adults develops children’s social and emotional skills, as well as their vocabulary. And in our hustle-bustle world, the dinner table is the most likely place for those conversations so important to a child’s development to take place.

This study has caused me to take a step back and look at my own social media use. And, I must not be alone. I was surprised to read that 16 percent of respondents to a recent survey said they were giving up Facebook or Twitter for Lent – far more people than those who said they were giving up smoking or swearing.

If you think you may be using social media more than you should, here are some suggestions to try to form new habits:

  1. Make the dinner table a phone- and tablet-free zone. To me, this one is a no-brainer now.
  2. Set other time-based rules. Maybe there is a certain time of day that you will not check social media – such as the hours between dinner and your kids’ bedtime, or not until you get to work in the morning, or something else that can curtail your use in a way that makes sense for your schedule.
  3. Delete social media apps from your phone. I know a couple of people who do not have the Facebook app installed on their smartphones. They are on Facebook, but they restrict using it to times when they are on a computer to keep from checking it constantly. You might consider doing this with Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter – wherever you find you are spending too much time.
  4. Take a weekend break. Go cold turkey from Friday night to Monday morning one weekend. Try it, you might like it. And let me know after you do, because I’m just not sure I’m brave enough to go there.
  5. Stop using your phone as an alarm clock. This is going to be another big one for me. I use my phone as an alarm as many of us do these days. And that means the first thing I do every morning is look at that phone, and then check any texts I miss, and my email, and Facebook, and Twitter mentions, and… I’m thinking if I don’t focus on my phone first thing in the morning, it may not become as important a part of my day.
  6. Vow to pick up the phone. I don’t know about you, but I barely talk to my friends and loved ones. I “talk” to most of them every day, but in some cases it has been months since I’ve heard their voices because our talking consists of Facebook chat or text messaging. I’ve decided this isn’t OK, and I am vowing to actually dial the phone more.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not anti-social media. In fact, I love social media and vehemently believe it enhances my life. And I’m not just saying that because my job revolves around it. But this study did make me aware that my phone has pretty much become permanently grafted to my hand, and I don’t want to be that person, either.

What do you think? Do you have “rules” about when you use social media? Do you have any suggestions on how to curtail a social media habit?

About Leigh Caldwell

Leigh M. Caldwell is Director of Social Media and Digital Marketing at Harness TechED. She is a content creator and marketing strategist with two decades of experience in social, online, print and broadcast media. Leigh is a native of West Frankfort, Illinois, and a Southern Illinois University alum.


  1. I definitely need to cut back on apps and stop using my phone as an alarm clock. It becomes the first thing I see each morning and all I see is a screen full of notifications. NOT the best way to start the day. Hehe. Thanks for sharing!

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