The amount of time that people spend on social media every day varies by country but, according to the World Economic Forum, the global average is 2 hours and 27 minutes. With younger generations, it’s even longer.
Much that that time is spent scrolling–doom scrolling, comparing your life to the idealized lives of others, waiting for likes or comments–habits that are known to provoke anxiety, depression and which are generally not condusive to good mental health.
There are plenty of other ways to spend your free time online that are not only healthier, but will make you a more interesting, well-rounded person. Below are six alternatives to endlessly scrolling social media. They are:
- Make time for reading about current events
- Make time for reading industry news
- Watch something educational on YouTube
- Discover New Music on Spotify
Make time for reading about current events
The world is changing fast. We are living through one of the most tumultuous and exiciting times in human history. A Google engineer named Blake Lemoine may have just created sentient AI, for example.
Instead of compulsively scrolling through Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, why not make some time each day for getting yourself up to speed on what is going on around the globe. The world has never been a more interesting or terrifying place and you should consider bearing witness to it a responsibility to yourself and others. Content aggregators like Feedly are a great way to curate your news feed by interest groups.
Make time for reading industry news
Regardless of the industry you work in, you always do yourself a favor by keeping on the cutting edge. By reading publications and blogs related to your field, you learn new perspectives, gain insight into the latest trends, and get a sense of what’s on the horizon. It allows you to be proactive instead of reactive in your work, and it makes you more well-rounded and knowledgable. The more intelligently you are able to speak to your colleagues and superiors about the issues that matter, the more respect you will earn.
Make a list of publications that are essential reading for your field, and set aside time each day or week to read them. Whether it’s 20 minutes in the morning on your commute or an hour before bed, find a way to work it into your schedule so that it becomes part of your routine.
Watch something educational on YouTube
YouTube is definitely social media, but it is a much less interactive medium than platforms like Instagram, which means there are fewer opportunities to do the kind of harmful self-comparison scrolling that can lead to anxiety and depression.
Instead of aimlessly browsing YouTube or clicking on the usually mindless trending videos, use it as the unsurpassed educational platform that it is to learn something new. Whether you are looking for nature channels to provide a sense of awe and serenity, or hobby and DIY channels to learn skills and explore passions, YouTube is very often a much healthier way to spend your time online.
Discover New Music on Spotify
Music is good for your mood. It seems to “ selectively activate neurochemical systems and brain structures associated with positive mood, emotion regulation, attention and memory in ways that promote beneficial changes,” according to professor of epidemiology Kim Innes at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health.
That said, it is important to keep in mind that what you listen to matters, as music can also induce a stress response (e.g., think about some particularly jarring horror movie theme that has made an impression on you). But opening up Spotify and browsing your weekly or daily recommendations for new tunes to add to your library is a much better way to pass that wait for the train or coffee break than TikTok, Twitter or Instagram scrolling.
Journaling can help boost your immune system, ease anxiety and depression, improve sleep quality, and increase self-awareness and productivity. If you have never kept a journal, it is usually quite surprising to see just how much clarity is brought to your thinking simply by writing your thoughts down.
If you’re not sure where to start, there are tons of great journaling apps out there that can give you some structure and guidance. Apps like DayOne, Journey, and Penzu make it easy to get started journaling by providing templates and prompts that allow you to get those crucial first thoughts down on paper and the ball rolling.
There Are Plenty of Alternatives to Endlessly Scrolling Social Media
Social media is addictive. Teams of engineers are paid big money to come up with ways to keep you on page or as long as possible. You can break the cycle of mindless or endless social media scrolling, and it starts with considering the alternatives and making an effort to choose one.
Avoiding the siren song of social media platforms takes some willpower, but once you’ve incorporated some or all of the above alternatives into your daily routine, you will notice good things when it comes to your mood, your memory, your topics of conversation and how you see yourself and the world.
Bio: Since 2015 I have been a freelance writer and wildlife photographer, working out of some of the planet’s most spectacular wildlife and nature travel destinations–from the Amazon to Raja Ampat–diving, snorkelling, fieldherping, birding and photographing my way around the world.