How to Cap Social Media Data Use

By Tracey Dowdy

I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but even if you have an unlimited data plan, many mobile carriers will actually cap your speed once you reach a certain threshold.

There are many reasons you may hit that unofficial data cap; for me, it’s using my phone as a personal hotspot. I live in an older home with walls I would not be surprised to learn are built with admantium, so the Wi-Fi signal can be weak. If I want to binge-watch The Mindy Project in bed, I occasionally have to piggyback off my phone’s hotspot to be able to access Netflix. (I need a Wi-Fi extender!)

For you, it may be social media that’s eating up all your data. Social media apps are notorious data-hogs, and may be using way more than you realize. According to Cisco’s online VNI Services Gauge Tool, just an hour of scrolling through Facebook can use up 90 megabytes – double the amount of data used by other media apps like Spotify.

You can easily check how much data you’re using. On an iPhone, go to Settings>Cellular to see a list of your social media apps with the amount of data each one is using. The location for this same information varies between the different brands of Android phones, but you can generally go to Settings and look for Data Usage. Some Android phones like Nexus and HTC will even alert you when you’re getting close to the cap. On a Windows phone, go to the Data Sense app and swipe right to see Usage. You’ll see the apps that have been using the most data and, even better, you can enable Data Sense to set a limit so you never go over your data allowance again.

Alternatively, you can use these steps to manage usage within the social media app itself:

Instagram: Go to Settings>Cellular Data Use>Enable Use Less Data

Snapchat: Launch the app and swipe down to open the Settings menu. Tap the gear icon>Manage>Enable Travel Mode to disable stories from loading in the background, even when you’re not using the app.

Facebook: The biggest issue with the Facebook app are the videos that automatically start to play as you scroll through the newsfeed. To disable this feature, go to the app, tap More>Settings>Account Settings>Videos and Photos>Autoplay. Make sure you have Wi-Fi Connections Only enabled.

None of these changes impact the functionality of the apps, and you’ll be amazed at how much data – and potential overage charges – you’ll save.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


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