Hosts file entries for your mental health

It’s certainly not breaking news that the constant barrage of social media can have a negative affect on our mental health. It’s well publicised that people often paint a picture of their perfect lives, commonly ignoring the battles life throws at us (something I’m also guilty of).

A recently published article for The New York Times clarifies this problem:

Over the past few years, research has been building on the impact of our constant tech use, including one study that suggests the rising suicide rate among teenagers may be linked to smartphone use and social media.

Hayley Phelan, The New York Times

At the risk of burning out myself, a step towards solving the persistent addiction of checking in on social media is to temporarily block it. Dealing with spending too much time on social media isn’t about going cold turkey, if you do this it’s likely you’ll get FOMO and give up. It’s more about restricting usage to a healthy amount. Of course, this situation is worsened when our personal and work lives mix across different platforms.

One way to block such sites is to route them to a “dead end” using our hosts file (located at `/etc/hosts`). This will make any sites you’ve listed temporarily unavailable. An example of a few entries may look like this:

You can add as many entries as you like for websites you wish to restrict access to. If you’re not comfortable manually editing this file, you can use a utility like Gas Mask.

If you need to visit Facebook, all you need to do is comment the entry back in. It’s small efforts like this (paired with other tools such as iOS’s Screen Time) that can help to ensure you achieve a healthy balance of social media consumption, and live a better life in the real world.