There’s something about that red dot. The ping. That little shudder of your phone. All those tiny, quiet gestures which together, form a cacophony, making your phone screech: “Something happened. Look at me! Right now! And then again! And sometime later! But still soon! Really soon! OK? OK?”

Australians in 2020 spent, on average, an hour and 46 minutes a day on social media. That, according to my rudimentary calculations, is equivalent to more than 26 days a year on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, et al. This, I’d suggest, is too many days.

I say this from a place of experience, not judgment. The ease of opening up Instagram’s mottled icon or Facebook’s austere blue square was beyond my ability to resist. And after spending time on the apps, I’d leave no wiser, healthier or happier. I gained nothing from this time. I lost too many days. Yet I’d return, again and again.

Research last year showed that half of Australians had gone off social media at some point – possibly due to its time-sucking joylessness. But also possibly for the myriad other problems social media use is associated with that we keep finding more of every year.

Going off social media, however, a was not an option for me. Facebook in particular is where birthday parties are organised (and cancelled), or where friends announce they’ve got Covid. It is how I keep track of who has procreated. Some friends occasionally share beautiful updates on Instagram that I enjoy. The problem wasn’t social media necessarily, but how and when I used it.

The vast bulk of traffic to social media sites comes from our mobile phones – from our couches, our bedsides, our commutes, when we have them. So, I figured, what if I removed the convenience? Would my social media use become less frequent? Less mindless? Less … compulsive?

Yes. I took social media apps off my phone, and took back precious minutes, hours, days of my life.

It takes almost no effort – just hover over the app and press ‘uninstall’. Then – blip! – it’s gone. No more red dots, no more pings. For a more thorough cleanse, you might want to log out of your browser version of the sites too, so every compulsive check triggers an annoying log-in process.

I still access Facebook perhaps twice a week on a laptop, but leave quickly, caught up and surprised at how little I missed between days. I’ll sign into Instagram on my phone about the same amount. Before logging on, which takes relatively more effort, I have to ask myself a critical question: “Why am I doing this?” Which, in the end, is not a bad place to start.