Baby steps in social habits


Participants must turn off their phone and stay off all social networks from 9pm to 9am every day. Participants should turn off notifications on apps; make more phone calls instead of just messaging someone; commit to more exercise with less reliance on music, podcasts etc; more reading of books.

The Social Challenge
Ger Flanagan

FIRST things first, this was never going to be plain sailing and the idea of going ‘cold turkey’ on social media had doubts it my head before it ever really began.
I’d consider myself a regular social media user, with my time divided between Twitter and Instagram, as well as Facebook. However, if this week showed me anything, it was how reliant I am on instant messaging media, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, as opposed to scrolling through news feeds.
That part I didn’t miss too much, but not being able to reply to WhatsApp or other messages was where I struggled most.
What if there was an emergency and I missed the message? Will the sender think I’m being ignorant by not replying? What if it’s a really important message to tell me I’ve won a load of money and I have to respond ‘Yes or No’ in the next ten minutes?
They were the anxious thoughts running through my head on the eve of the challenge.
So, in line with them concerns, there were a number of parameters I set myself in line with the 9pm curfew for the social media and screen black out. The main one being that I allowed myself a quick check of messages before going to bed – just incase. Plus, if I don’t reply to my mother she probably wouldn’t get a wink of sleep over thoughts along the lines of me being abducted.
Plus, I am a bit of a night owl when it comes to working on my Mac and getting a couple hours of work done on my Masters or, like last Sunday, match reports for a Mayo game.
So, excuses out of the way, this was how my week looked.
Last Monday morning week my daily average screen time for the previous week on my iPhone was – worryingly – just below seven hours, while in the week up to yesterday (Monday), it was averaging at just above five hours per day.
Before this week I averaged 25 hours a week spent on social media, but last week was less than 21 hours. WhatsApp was my most used app, and I received just shy of 900 notifications pre-social media blackout and got that down to less than 600 last week.
One example of how subconsciously I use social media came last Thursday evening when at 9.30pm I opened Twitter, scrolled through it and shared a tweet I saw in a work WhatsApp group. It was only when I noticed the time was 9.30pm that it dawned on me that I broke the rules.
Generally, the week passed without any other major incidents.
Wednesday evening was difficult when watching the Man United and RB Leipzig Champions League match. Typically my phone would be buzzing back and forth in my Man United specific groups talking the best formation to play Bruno Fernandez, Paul Pogba and Danny Van de Beek, or the future of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, or whether to play three at the back with two wide men or stick with the conventional four.
The important stuff in life, you know?
From an exercise perspective, I would be diligent with five or six days per-week and music and podcasts is a huge part of that. Could I remove it, without sacrificing the quality of the session?
I don’t think so. But it’s all baby steps.
Reflecting on the week, there’s so much food for thought. Mainly that I do use social media too much and that cutting down will help me.
To me, that’s a starting point for change and ultimately a success.  

Mayo News Sports Editor Mike Finnerty is known for his attachment to his phone and for his new found influencer fame on Instagram.
It would be no harm for him to stop writing hashtags for a week or two!