Can the ‘150 rule’ help you beat your smartphone addiction?

Can the ‘150 rule’ help you beat your smartphone addiction? Expert reveals the maximum number of social media contacts we should have for better mental health

  • EXCLUSIVE: Author Tanya Goodin has shared top tips for digital detox
  • Says we should have no more than 150 online friends and pursue a meaningful and interactive relationship with all of them 
  • Advises culling anyone you don’t interact with and deleting WhatsApp groups
  • Suggests applying Marie Kondo method to your smartphone once a month  

Most UK adults check their phones 33 times a day, spending more than two hours mindlessly scrolling and tapping and it could be having a serious impact on mental health. 

Research shows that extended time on phones can change the ability to form memories, think deeply and focus and even cause otherwise mentally healthy people to show signs of psychiatric problems such as OCD and ADHD.

Digital entrepreneur Tanya Goodin, author of OFF. Your Digital Detox for a Better Life, and founder of Time to Log Off is in the midst of penning her next volume, Stop Staring At Screens. 

Ahead of her upcoming appearance at Nourish & Inspire: The Wellness Day, Tanya has shared her top tips for digital detox with Femail, revealing how to make the time you do spend on your phone or laptop a more positive experience. 

For instance, she says that we should keep social media contacts to a maximum total of 150 rather having a network of hundreds or even thousands, as it’s all the brain can cope with. 

Read on to find her tips on building a healthier relationship with your devices. 

‘Doing a digital detox is like exercising an unfamiliar muscle,’ she said. ‘You need to start small and build up to bigger and bolder moves as your strength and confidence grows.’

Author Tanya Goodin has shared her top tips for digital detox and says nobody should have more than 150 connections across social media (stock image)


Psychologists believe we can only comfortably maintain a network of about 150 stable relationships. Prune your connections on social media and delete anyone who isn’t adding any value to your life, or those whose feeds just make you feel a bit rubbish. Identify your personal 150-person team and use social media to enhance those real-world relationships, not substitute for them.


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If you think lurking on social media is the healthiest way to deal with the digital world, think again. 

How to digitally detox your teens 

Getting your teenagers off their smartphones and games consoles might seem like a battle you’re not going to win, but there are a few tricks that will help:

Model the screen behaviour you want to see: Start by regularly putting your own phone and devices away when you’re together as a family and watch them follow suit.

Keep idle hands busy: Find things for them to do that are simply impossible to do with a screen in their hands. Cooking is really good for this, especially if it’s something they really, really, want to eat (maybe cakes not carrots).

Create a solo-screen rule: If you’re watching something as a family all other devices have to go away. 

Studies show that those that passively scroll on social networks, never posting or commenting themselves, are actually less happy than those who actively engage in online communities. If you’ve got a social media account just to watch what everyone else is doing, delete it now.


Leaving a friends or family WhatsApp group can be a political minefield, but being in multiple message groups can eat up hours of your day – especially if other members of the group use them for stream of consciousness chatting all day long. 

If you regularly come back to your phone to hundreds of unread group messages either set some firm ground rules for all the groups you’re in, or leave them.


Regularly tidying up your smartphone is an essential step to using it more efficiently. Looking at a cluttered phone screen is like looking at a cluttered desk or bedroom; it saps your energy and depletes your motivation. Once a month go through your phone and delete any unused apps, or move them onto the far screen of your phone. Then set-up named folders to organise everything on your screen neatly. Keeping, say, travel apps strictly separate from social media apps reduces the temptation to skip from one thing to another down the internet rabbit hole of time-wasting every time you pick up your smartphone.


If you were trying to eat healthily you wouldn’t walk around with a bar of chocolate glued to your hand, or one permanently lodged in your bag or back pocket. Keeping your smartphone on you, while trying to exercise self-control to stop checking it, is a recipe for disaster. Designate a drawer at home and one at work to put it firmly away when you need to focus. 

One study has shown that even if face down and switched off the mere sight of our smartphones can seriously distract us and reduce our available IQ by 10 points. Just put it away.

Tanya says that ‘lurking’ on social media is not healthy and that you should defriend anyone you do not directly interact with 


We all know how arguments can escalate out of control via texting and for couples angry messaging can be a real flash point. Make it a rule that once you’ve exchanged a maximum of four messages without resolving something you terminate the text and talk face to face – or pick up the phone. Keep text for information, flirting and words of love, not haranguing and hectoring (and NEVER USE CAPS).


Humans respond really well to strong visual cues; that’s why software companies use banners, ticks and badges on apps. Make this work for you by setting a strong visual reminder on your home screen to put your phone down and go and do something else. If every time you pick it up you see a picture telling you that you really should be doing something else, eventually it will sink it. 

Tanya Goodin will be speaking about digital detoxing at Nourish & Inspire: The Wellness Day on Saturday 30 June. Tickets available via

Tanya Goodin is the author of Off and Stop Staring at Screens and the founder of Time to Log Off





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