Spending too much time on social media can have negative effects on your mental health and well-being. Instagram, in particular, can be a platform that is particularly tempting to spend a lot of time on.
The challenge is striking a healthy balance so you don’t waste too much time scrolling but you also don’t miss out on the real benefits of social media.
Luckily enough, we have a few simple tips that will help you quickly understand how to spend less time on Instagram in order to improve your overall well-being and productivity. By following these strategies, you can take control of your social media usage and find a balance that works for you. But first, why bother trying to spend less time on Instagram?
What is a healthy amount of time to spend on Instagram?
Some studies suggest that more than 2 hours per day of social media and other highly stimulating apps can be too much and lead to harmful effects on quality of life. Given you likely use other social medias as well as Instagram, a maximum of 30 minutes would be a healthy amount of time to spend on Instagram per day.
Why exactly should you spend less time on Instagram?
Keep in mind that the benefits of spending less time on your Instagram include having more time for family, friends, work, fitness, meditation, personal growth and shelter from the negative psychological effects associated with Instagram overuse.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence indicating that spending too much time on Instagram and other social media can be harmful in an alarming number of ways: increased anxiety, stress, loneliness, reduced empathy, loss of memory, loss of ability to focus, polarisation and even depression.
Is screen time on Instagram the only number that matters?
Even if you do spend less than 30 minutes per day on Instagram, the way you use Instagram could still be harming you. Ask yourself if you are using Instagram in a way that is consistent with your values and goals? Is Instagram causing you stress or anxiety? Are you able to balance your Instagram use with other activities and responsibilities? If the answer is yes to any of these, then it’s worth reconsidering how you use Instagram.
What is the average time spent on Instagram?
The average Instagram user spends 53 minutes on the app per day. Kids and teens tend to have the highest time spent on Instagram. This is worrying because the average user spends a harmful amount of time on Instagram.
Does Instagram waste time on purpose?
It is true that Instagram has been designed to maximise the time you spend in the app, as they make more money the more time you spend looking at ads. In other words, Instagram is strongly incentivised to lengthen your scroll and make you open the app more regularly.
On the other hand Instagram is not incentivised to make sure you use your time in the app the way that you would like or in a way that provides lasting value to you. So while Instagram likely doesn’t have a team of engineers whose job it is to waste your time, by optimizing for time spent in app instead of providing value to you, they are indirectly wasting your time.
Is Instagram too addictive to use?
Some people do indeed believe Instagram has designed its app to be so addictive that it is impossible to use in a healthy way — so they feel there is no choice but to delete the app.
While it can be difficult to avoid Instagram’s addictive pulls, there are some strategies you can implement which can make it a lot easier to stay in control and still keep your Instagram app for the things you want it for.
Is it healthy to quit Instagram?
Quitting Instagram may sound great on the surface, but it’s only healthy if you don’t then fill the time you used to spend on the app with something with a similar negative impact on your health. For example, quitting Instagram and proceeding to spend that time on Tik Tok, binging Netflix or watching YouTube for hours will not get you into a healthier position.
Some healthy alternative ways to spend your time instead of Instagram include reading, listening to a podcast, walking, chatting with friends, cooking, playing sport, etc.
10 ways to spend less time on Instagram
1. Turn off notifications for Insta
Over time your brain has been trained to associate Instagram notifications with an instant reward — a new post, new comments, new likes, etc. So when you have notifications going off throughout the day it’s no wonder you constantly check your phone — on average we pick up our phones once every 5 minutes throughout the day.
These notifications are incredibly disruptive because our brains are terrible at quickly switching contexts. This affects your level of presence in whatever activity you’re participating in, and allows Instagram to consume parts of your day that you don’t really want to be giving it. Notifications are probably the biggest reason we end up spending so much time on our phones so getting in control will certainly help.
Do this now: Go to your phone’s notification settings and turn off notifications for Instagram
2. Become friends with Do Not Disturb
Don’t want to turn off notifications for Instagram? Need to reply to those Instagram DMs urgently? No problem.
Do Not Disturb allows you to further limit your vulnerability to distracting notifications when you’re feeling especially distracted or you need space from your phone (and don’t worry — in emergencies people can get through to you).
Do this now: Practice using Do Not Disturb by turning it on right now as you’re reading this.
3. Schedule when you use Instagram
Planning ahead and scheduling exactly when and how long you are willing to spend on Instagram everyday makes you significantly more resilient to random urges like when you ‘just want to check Instagram for 5 minutes’. We all know how those urges play out (they’re never just 5 minutes)
Spacing out your Instagram usage lessens its tax on your cognition, freeing your brain to fully focus and be present in whatever activity you’re doing. It also helps you simply feel more in control of your Instagram screen time.
Even without notifications, from years of phone use you will have habits that lead you to automatically check Instagram when you feel a certain emotion. For me, whenever I am bored my instinct is to check Instagram repeatedly. It often helps me pause and stop this cycle if I know that I shouldn’t be there and that I have dedicated time to check it later in the day (I try to stay off Instagram between 9am-5pm but I will allow 5 minutes at lunch).
Do this now: Start by deciding on 1 short period when you would like to keep free from harmful screen time every day. Maybe 8–9am?
4. Keep off Instagram in the morning
The morning, right after you wake up, is by far the most important part of the day to limit your Instagram usage. Whilst starting the day with a scroll through Instagram might seem harmless on the surface, it affects the rest of your day in a big way.
Scrolling through Instagram is highly stimulating for your brain. Your brain experiences a large increase in a neurochemical called dopamine (a chemical important for motivation and pleasure). The problem is that after a dopamine high like this, dopamine levels drop significantly below their usual levels, causing you to feel low on energy, anxious and even depressed. Then these feelings motivate you to go back and keep scrolling to feel better. You’re essentially teaching your brain every morning to care about nothing but Instagram. Not a great way to start your day…
Do this now: Set a daily schedule for Do Not Disturb to turn on between your bedtime and until an hour after you wake up.
5. Find alternative ways to spend your time
“You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from.” — Nir Eyal
At your fingertips, 24/7, you have an endless assortment of highly stimulating ways to entertain yourself — games, socials, video, news. Most of these options aren’t much better than Instagram.
Luckily, if you’re anything like me, you have so many things you would love to do with your time! Want to read more books? Want to learn a language? Spend more time with family? I’m sure you can think of something entertaining and nourishing to fill up your spare time.
Finding alternatives to Instagram is especially important at night. After a big day at work you’re low on energy, you’re too drained to decide what to do with your spare time. So the easiest thing to do is sit down on the couch and watch Netflix or scroll through Instagram for hours until it’s past your bedtime. Instead think about an alternative activity like reading books, journaling, listening to a podcast, or meditation. It’s also a good idea to avoid Instagram for at least an hour before bed, which has been proven to improve the quality of your sleep.
Do this now: Write down 3 different ways you want to use your spare time. Bonus points for adding a picture of these to your phone somewhere like your lock screen.
6. Make Instagram harder to access
If you find yourself constantly opening Instagram subconsciously you can add friction to this process and reduce the likelihood of opening it up.
On your phone you can set an app time limit. Another interesting strategy that works well for me is re-arranging my phone’s home screen, dragging Instagram’s app icon to a faraway screen. Even if you can’t or don’t want to completely block access to the app, you can still make it take longer to open, which gives you more time to become cognisant of and deal with your impulses.
On your computer blocking Instagram is easy, with many browser extensions available such as Freedom.
Do this now: Set up app time limits on your phone for Instagram.
7. Instagram feed blockers
Unfortunately, once you’re inside Instagram’s app it becomes almost impossible to stay mindful of your time and attention. This shouldn’t be a surprise because it has been designed for this purpose.
Sometimes you need to access social media from your computer. We’re lucky on computers in that there are very helpful browser extensions like News Feed Eradicator which allows you to hide certain elements of your Instagram feed to make it less distracting.
Whilst you can’t use similar extensions to eradicate the social feed on your phone, here at Unscroll we have built an all-in-one social media feed with features to make all your social feeds (including Instagram) significantly less addictive.
Do this now: Find a news feed eradicator extension that works in your computer’s browser and install it. Or download Unscroll on your phone.
8. Watch your screen time for Instagram
Frequently monitoring how much time you’re spending on Instagram gives you a feedback loop. This allows you to adjust how much you’re using it throughout your day and manage your screen time before it can get out of hand.
Do this now: Make your screen time obvious by placing a screen time widget on your home page.
9. Take an Instagram detox
An Instagram detox is when you take a break from the non-stop stimulation of Instagram, and ideally from other social media too.
Taking a step back from our hyper-stimulating tech allows us to relax, recharge and increase our motivation for less stimulating activities.
Do this now: Plan a 1-day digital detox sometime in the next month.
Your emotions — like boredom, anxiety, anger , uncertainty — are very often the reason why you feel urged to pick up your phone and start scrolling through Instagram.
Breathing is so simple yet powerful at helping you refocus and be more aware of your emotions.
Do this now: Take a deep breath: 4 seconds in, 7 second hold, 8 seconds out. What emotions are you feeling right now?