Every morning at 7.30 am, my phone alarm would ring. I’d reach over and grab my phone, dismiss my alarm and swipe through the laundry list of notifications on the screen. Half an hour later I’d find myself envying over my friends’ holidays on Instagram.

I wouldn’t even know how I got there. I just ended up starting the day with a raging wanderlust and guilt over my envy. It had become second nature to wake up this way.

Alcoholics have the urge to drink first thing in the morning. The obsession for alcohol haunts them from the moment they wake up until they return to bed. While I didn’t consider myself obsessed with social media, it was the first thing I’d consume when I woke up and the last thing I looked at before falling asleep.

Allergic to boredom, I became addicted to scrolling endlessly through social media, despite being able to point out exactly why they were so addictive.

Endless scrolling. Push notifications. Social validation. I fell for it all.

I was unwilling to entirely remove social media from my phone as I still needed them for work. I did the next best thing. I turned off push notifications and set Instagram, Twitter and Facebook icons as hidden. It’d take me the extra steps of toggling hidden apps for me to access them.

The slight inconvenience bought me a few vital seconds to decide whether I wanted to get up, or be enraged by some troll on Twitter who wasn’t even trolling me even before taking my first step of the day.

I chose to get up almost every time.

Next, I downloaded an app called Forest. You “plant” virtual trees in your phone. If you use a blacklisted app, your tree dies. It’s exactly as adorable as it sounds. It’s mainly a productivity tool that teaches you to focus but I also use it to improve my sleep. I plant a tree right before I sleep so I resist the urge to play with my phone before sleeping.

Forest collaborates with Trees for the Future. As you earn credits by not using your phone, you can eventually plant real trees. To date, Forest has planted over 200,000 trees.

I also started wearing a watch after a few years of relying on my phone for the time. Most watches caused my CTS to flare up but my secondhand smart watch was light enough to be unobtrusive. I steadily grew more comfortable being away from my phone.

I still browse social media on my phone, but it is no longer unconscious. With my newfound free time, I’ve become more productive. I even got more reading done despite setting the low, low goal of reading one book in 2018.

What are your social media habits like? Do you need to take a step back, or are you doing great right where you are?