“The minute you start caring about what other people think, is the minute you stop being yourself.”  — Meryl Streep

Instant gratification is one of the root causes of our unhappiness, our lack of commitment to any task and the fact that we feel burnt out and overwhelmed.

It’s really disheartening especially when you belong to my generation (kids from the 80s and 90s) and you find that your focus and productivity invariably go haywire thanks to online distractions.

Every single time you go down the rabbit hole of instant validation and instant gratification, you have to pause, step back and ask yourself: ‘Why does this matter to me so much?’

I’ll tell you. It’s not exactly you that’s the problem here.

It’s the social media platforms. 

These social media platforms have created an innate dependency on instant validation, fastest finger first gratification and creating your self worth around what you think is your perceived value.

So how do you break the cycle?

Here are some tips that will help right away when it comes to breaking the loop of instant gratification.

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Woman in yellow looking at social media icons that indicate instant gratification

Make a list of offline hobbies

Even before you start doing anything else on this list, make a list of things you like to do when you are offline.

Why the list? Because, without the list, your hands will stray invariably towards your phone, pick it up and start thumbing through the various apps designed to keep you hooked.

By the way, a phenomenal book on this topic is ‘Your Happiness was Hacked’ by Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever.

Highly recommend that you check it out when you can. It’s life-changing!

Uninstall social media apps from your phone

I urge you to do this. You have no idea how your brain is being manipulated.

You actually don’t need ANY of the social media apps on your phone anymore.

Nope, not even Instagram. Remove them and see how much better you feel by the end of the day or week.

I removed Facebook and Twitter two years ago and Instagram 3 months ago. Now am wondering why I didn’t do it all sooner.

Not only do I have enough time to do the things that I want to do; I also get to connect with clients, readers, subscribers and friends in the ways that it actually matters.

Again, a book that will help you with this is the well-written ‘How to Break Up with your Phone: The 30 Day Plan to Take Back Your Life’ By Catherine Price.

Stop responding instantly to messages

The next time you post something on social media, do it and leave immediately. Don’t look back for the next 2 or 3 hours.

Seriously. Try it. Break the loop.

Nobody and I mean LITERALLY nobody has a demand on your time. Break the cycle of instant responses. Pause, wait and take your time to reply to messages, comments, tags and e-mails.

Life will go on and if you reply two weeks later, it still counts.  Please don’t be swayed by the ‘Seen’ feature on Instagram/Whatsapp/Facebook/Twitter.

You have a life offline! (Remember writing letters to friends way back when we were kids? Let’s build some patience).

Stop using your phone as an extension of your body

Leave it in a fixed place, use it as a landline. Turn off all notifications.

Walk over to answer calls and respond to text messages. Emergency? People will call you. I PROMISE!

Practise an Affirmation every hour

“I am worth MORE than my social media numbers, followers, comments and engagement.”

Such a simple statement. Repeat this every hour (set an alarm) or a reminder on your phone to show you this message and get back on track.

Set a fixed time to check your social media

Get out of the hustle mindset and the notion that you have to respond to everyone, everything and every trigger the instant you see it.

Just because someone posted a cute cat GIF on Twitter does not mean that you instantly retweet it or say something.

Setting fixed times for social media greatly reduces the need for instant gratification.

Ideally, ensure that you check social media only at the end of the day for comments, responses and engagement.

We have to get better than chimpanzees who have an average attention span of 20 seconds, according to this article.

Come on, people! Let’s make evolution matter for something!

Stop the infinite scroll and refresh

If you’re reading this article on your phone, chances are you’re going to either open a new tab or switch to a new app and refresh the feed in the next 10 seconds.


Look up from your phone. Look around you.

Does it REALLY matter what your friends are up to on Instagram? Is that latest tweet more important than what you are doing? Are you using social media as a way to stop yourself from doing something else?

Can it wait till later?

Monitor how much time you spend on your phone

Use Rescue Time App or Digital Wellbeing.

Ask yourself, ‘Is this the way I want to spend X hours of my day? Staring at my phone?’

Here’s a detailed post on how to take back control of your time

Stop Judging your Self Worth By the Number of Followers

My daughter asked me yesterday how many followers I had on social media. I told her the truth: ‘I don’t keep track because it doesn’t matter.’

Whether you have 10 followers or 10k followers you are the most important person in your life.

Social media is NOT a yardstick for your true value.

Turn off notifications for all apps

You may already know by now that I don’t use my phone from 8 PM to 8 AM.

I also turned off ALL notifications from all apps a few years ago and it’s the first thing I do when I get a new phone.

When you do this, you’d observe that your mind doesn’t spring to check the latest update/comment/like on your phone. Instead it gives you more time to complete the task at hand, without distraction.

Take back control of your mind and your attention. It’s worth it.

Trim your social media accounts

You are under ZERO obligation to follow anyone. There are people I know who have 100k followers and follow nobody back. Just look at @beyonce

Granted; you and I are not Beyonce but the principle is the same.

Follow people who inspire you, motivate you, teach you something (food/fashion/art/life lessons etc) but do it on your own terms.

In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned that I’d brought the number of people I follow on Twitter down to 150, popularly known as Dunbar’s number.

Robin Dunbar, a British Anthropologist, was convinced that the smaller our circles, the higher the chances of meaningful and mindful interactions that would actually help instead of hinder us.

I also specified that I’m intending to do the same thing with Instagram. Here, I must make a confession, especially if you have taken my free Instagram course where I promised to follow you back if you followed me- a point that I have since changed in the course.

 I’ve been extremely wary about unfollowing people for one reason: Unfollower apps.

I know that people use apps to determine who unfollowed them and I must admit that it’s held me back for the longest reason from actually unfollowing people.

And that’s precisely what happened one day when someone sent me a screenshot of my having un-followed them, almost like an accusation.

At first, I felt defensive and a bit offended that someone actually sent me a picture like that.

But after I calmed down, I responded with the truth: I am limiting my time and my interactions on Instagram and focusing more on where my attention goes.

In other words, it’s not personal; not in the way you think.

It’s personal in the way that my attention is super valuable and I want to be able to truly and deeply connect with people for the value that they provide.

So, here’s the thing that actually strengthened my resolve to do this further: Watching the Netflix Documentary: ‘The Social Dilemma’

Find yourself drawn to the stream of app notifications?

Feeling overwhelmed by FOMO?

Ever feel like you’re caught in an advertising trap where you are the product?

Trim your social media accounts. Do it today. Do it this week.

Intentionally and consciously follow ONLY a limited number of people whom you want to keep in touch with, for their ideas and their thoughts.

If that means you decide to stop following me on any social media platform, trust me, I will not at all take it personally.

I won’t. Honest.

You are valuable and your attention is very very valuable. Please spend it wisely.

Woman seated at a table with flowers and a coffee cup and staring at her phone with a smile

Shailaja V

Hi, I’m Shailaja, a blogger who’s been writing since 2007. My interests include books of all kinds, digital minimalism, veganism, health, nutrition, fitness and staying open to learning all the time. Welcome! Click here if you’d like an email when I publish new posts