Chronically Online
a woman looking at a phone screen

A #SwiftTok-Obsessed NYC Writer Tracks Her Screen Time For 1 Week

Eras Tour Easter eggs included.

Lindsay Hattrick/Elite Daily; Shutterstock

In Chronically Online, Elite Daily asks people to get real about their phone habits, tracking their screen time over the course of a week. This week, Elite Daily staff writer Hannah, who was in the final week of her Reddit detox for Lent, shares the apps she used, the time she spent scrolling, and the internet rabbit holes she went all the way down.

I hate how often I catch myself holding my phone. Sometimes, I’m juggling my keys, my coffee, and my phone while opening the door — unnecessarily discombobulated because I can’t seem to just put it away for two seconds. Ever since I realized I’d be tracking my screen time for this column, I’ve been extra self-conscious about how often I’m holding onto (or looking at) my phone.

I don’t want to have a codependent relationship with a screen, like SpongeBob’s Plankton and Karen, so I made a concerted effort to actually notice when I’m mindlessly scrolling and ignoring the world around me. My screen time went down in turn, but that wasn’t the only thing influencing my phone habits during this experiment. I also gave up Reddit (yes, the infamous snarking website) for Lent. I’ve been a lurker on Reddit gossip pages — r/blogsnark, r/tiktokgossip, r/thebachelor — since lockdown. (What can I say? They have the tea!) I never comment or even upvote anything. I just observe. Still, filling my brain with so much negativity, even if it was occasionally justified, was becoming too much — and it was pushing my screen time up and up. I was in need of a detox.

Occupation: Staff Writer

Industry: Digital Media

Age: 25

Location: New York City

Weekly Average (March 26-April 1): 4 hours, 30 minutes

Day 1: A Locked iPhone And Mindless Scrolling

In the early hours of Sunday morning, my phone was locked. I was at my roommate’s birthday party at a bar and apparently not paying enough attention to my hands. After too many accidental attempts to enter my passcode, my iPhone locked itself from 12:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. — meaning I couldn’t call an Uber until my timeout was over. On the way back to my apartment (and the bodega below it, where I got a chicken cheesesteak), I was scrolling on my phone, looking at Instagram and TikTok.

When I woke up and began Sunday part two, I wasn’t feeling my best. I spent a few hours watching Love Is Blind Season 4, scrolling on my phone the whole time. My friends had texted me, looking for any photos I might have taken from the night before. (I responded, “I only have a screenshot of my locked iPhone screen” — an unfortunate truth.)

I took a break from my phone around noon, went to a workout class, and then for a walk in Central Park with a friend. We coordinated over text to meet by the Met. On the way, I apparently got spooked by a bird. At 1:08 p.m., I sent her, “Do u think pigeons can sense fear?” Walk finished and pigeons evaded, I got back on the subway and back to scrolling. When I got home, I reembraced the hangover vibes, resuming my half-watch of Love Is Blind, half-watch of my FYP. I only half-remember both, but ever since the Eras Tour began, my FYP has been taken over by Taylor Swift and merch truck must-haves.

Over five hours of screen time is definitely too much time, but considering the severity of my hangover, I was pleasantly surprised by this number.

Most Used Apps: TikTok, Instagram, Messages

Screen Time: 5 hours, 27 minutes

Day 2: Secondhand Scrolling At Pilates

Monday was another heavy phone day. My first phone pickup was at 6:45 a.m., when my alarm went off for my workout class. I like working out first thing in the morning because it gives me a reason (besides, you know, my general mental health) to stay off my phone for the first hour I’m awake.

I didn’t quite accomplish that, though. I opened the Notes app to note the number of my gym locker, then caught myself secondhand scrolling: While stretching before the Pilates class, I noticed the girl on the mat in front of me browsing her FYP — mostly gorgeous videos of remote destinations. I watched, too, for a moment before snapping out of it.

The workday was pretty typical. I do scroll on TikTok as part of my job since I cover viral trends. I also noticed that I often check my emails on my phone, even if I’m working on my laptop.

There’s a difference between work-scrolling and scrolling for fun (although they’re both included in my daily screen time). For work, I’m paying more attention to celebrity gossip, potential creators to interview, and any Taylor Swift Easter eggs. For fun, I’m usually watching octopusslover8, Alix Earle, or... investigating Taylor Swift Easter eggs (there’s some crossover). I indulged in the latter type of scrolling once I finished up work for the day.

Most Used Apps: TikTok, Instagram, Messages

Screen Time: 5 hours, 12 minutes

Day 3: Podcasts And Uber Ride Boredom

Tuesday was much less digital. I spent the morning listening to a podcast on Spotify for work (former Bachelor contestant Ariel Frenkel’s interview on The Viall Files). Throughout the day, I checked Instagram and TikTok periodically. On IG, I typically just watch stories till I’m bored. I don’t curate the content on TikTok as much, sticking to my FYP and going into the occasional deep dive into the comments section. I also checked my email whenever a notification popped up — maybe I should delete Gmail from my phone altogether? Since I went to a press event on Tuesday night, my post-work screen time was a lot lower. I scrolled in the Uber on the way to and from the event but otherwise was off my phone the rest of the night.

Most Used Apps: Instagram, TikTok, Messages

Screen Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

Day 4: A BookTok Deep Dive

I hate how high today’s screen time is, but I have to give myself a break. On Wednesday, I started feeling sick — just a barely-there scratch in my throat at first, but by the end of my workday, I was exhausted and out of it. I spent most of the night on the couch, scrolling through TikTok. Technically, it was BookTok, and I was sourcing it for solid beach reads. (Apparently, I really need to read Every Summer After.)

Eventually, I ordered GrubHub for dinner: chicken tikka masala and garlic naan. I was looking at my phone throughout dinner, and when I finally moved from the couch to my bed at midnight, I stared at my phone some more. Heads-up, I have horrible sleep habits.

Most Used Apps: TikTok, Instagram, Messages

Screen Time: 6 hours, 9 minutes

Day 5: Napping On The Couch

On Thursday, I woke up much, much sicker. (Thankfully, tests showed it wasn’t COVID, but it felt a lot like the flu.) The only reason my screen time wasn’t higher is that I took half the day off from work, and when I wasn’t rewatching Scandal Season 1, I was asleep or in a Dayquil stupor. I spent some time texting my cousin, who lives in Brooklyn. She offered to send me soup after I sent her a voice note, croaky voice and all. I also learned the best text to receive when you’re sick as hell: “What’s your apartment number again? I’m having hot soup delivered.” (Another important lesson: chicken dumpling soup is beyond delicious.)

My messages were blowing up on this day because my roommates and I resigned our lease and were anxiously waiting for our landlord’s countersign. Once it came in, we celebrated over text with plenty of confetti emojis.

Most Used Apps: Instagram, TikTok, Messages

Screen Time: 4 hours

Day 6: TikTok Research For *Work*, Obviously

Friday was another sick day for me, but I worked, and fortunately, it wasn’t too busy. I spent most of the day tracking down expert sources for a piece and putting in edits for a longer feature. Two of the stories were TikTok-related, so that bumped up my screen time slightly since I had to go back into the app to research coastal cowgirls and late bloomers. I spent some time on GrubHub in the afternoon, too, ordering some soup from Sarge’s Deli for lunch and dinner.

Most Used Apps: Instagram, TikTok, Messages

Screen Time: 3 hours, 28 minutes

Day 7: More TV Time Than Phone Time

Saturday was my final sick day, spent rewatching even more Scandal. Luckily, since it was pouring rain outside, I didn’t feel too much FOMO. My phone time was pretty limited to watching Instagram stories and planning out a brunch for the following day (health permitting). I also called my cousin — not the one who sent soup (my mom has seven siblings, so I have a lot of cousins) — to wish her a happy birthday. Beyond that, I was primarily glued to the TV, another type of screen time I luckily wasn’t keeping track of.

Most Used Apps: Instagram, TikTok, Messages

Screen Time: 3 hours, 31 minutes

Final Thoughts: I Might Be An Unreliable Narrator

Over the course of this week, I noticed how often I reach for my phone or carry it unnecessarily from room to room. It was a tough habit for me to break, but as I became more conscientious of it, I started leaving (and temporarily losing) my phone all over the apartment. Going cold turkey on certain apps, too — like giving up Reddit for Lent — definitely brought my screen time down. Pre-Lent, I probably spent about an hour a week on the app, raising my overall average pretty significantly. But after a couple of weeks, I didn’t feel the urge to check Reddit — like, at all. Instead, my weekly dose of gossip was fulfilled by the TikTok comments section. That said, next up for my detox should probably be TikTok, but I’m holding onto the I-need-to-check-it-for-work excuse a little longer.