Help Conquer Social Media Addiction With This Free Plug-In

One Sec forces you to take a deep breath before opening apps

An illustration of a cloud with arrows to various forms of technology.
The cloud is inescapable. But our favorite productivity app will help you waste less time while using it.
Endai Huedl/Getty Images

No judgment if you unsubscribed from your smartphone’s weekly Screen Time reports. I did, too. I didn’t appreciate the guilt that arrived with the notification. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with the information that my previous seven days involved a whole lot of senseless scrolling.

Sometimes I’d reflect on why I used my phone more than usual (stress, travel and hangovers came to mind), but there was no obvious consistent culprit. Like everyone else — the average American picks up their phone 96 times a day — my iPhone now feels like an extension of my body. I often open it with no endgame in mind.

These mindless check-ins come at the expense of mindfulness, though. They pull us out of the moment, diluting our capacity to experience things in real time, which can have a damaging impact on mood, mental health and memory. And from a workflow perspective, opening a phone every few minutes will bomb your productivity.

Pulling out your phone pulls you away from peak brainflow. The phrase “attention residue,” which appeared in this 2009 study, is a resonant one here. Our minds have an extremely tough time getting back into a task once we’ve entertained the idea of some other responsibility. (Beware the work break whenever you’re 95% done with something!)

So, what’s the best way forward here? While I can’t say I’ve gotten back to reading my Screen Time reports, I did start using an unheralded “tech detox” plug-in, which was recommended to me by a friend. It’s called one sec.

Similar to website-blocking extensions on Chrome or Safari, which are intended to keep employees on the ball throughout a workday, one sec is all about retraining your relationship to social media. But the app achieves this in a gentle, mindful way. Instead of a big red X popping up anytime you try to log onto Instagram or TikTok, the whole screen slowly turns gray, then slowly turns purple, as the words “It’s time to take a deep breath” appear. Once this full breath cycle is finished, you’re met with some light stats on your recent involvement with the particular app: how many times you’ve used it in the last 24 hours, and how long it’s been since the last time you used it. At the bottom of the screen, you’re offered a choice: “I don’t want to open Instagram.” Or: “Continue to Instagram.”

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The design is clever, simple and effective. While extension blockers can feel punitive, annoying and “fire drill-y” — positing you against yourself from three or four hours ago, who was determined to finally knock out a project — there’s a more wholesome sustainability built into one sec’s programming. You can always open Instagram. It’s your call. You just have to take a deep breath before you do so. Since I downloaded one sec, I’ve registered times where I clicked on Instagram for no reason. Having the plug-in was a real help; I put my phone back away. Other times, I was headed to Instagram to find a video, or look someone up. Some people might mind having to take the 15-second breath when they’re mid-social media side quest, but it isn’t so bad.

Also helpful here: while Screen Time sort of smugly reports on decisions you’ve already made and piled up, one sec is a dynamic app, which reminds you how you’ve interacted with your phone throughout the last hour and 24 hours. It does so sparingly, which is key. Getting hourly updates on your interplay with every app would be exhausting.

This is where one sec’s subscription policy is clutch, too; as the installation only works for free on one app of your choosing, you can identify which you-to-app relationship is probably best put under a microscope. (Once you’ve spent some time fixing that relationship, you can shift it to another app. Or you can just pay for multiple at the outset. Do you.)

Kudos to those out there who’ve buried their smartphones in drawers forever and taken up the flip phone cause. I salute you. But we live in a cloud-based world, where living off the grid isn’t much of an option anymore. An app like one sec, at least, can help you from spending more time on the silly rectangle in your pocket than you need to.

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