Digital detoxing is a bit of a buzz term nowadays. Before we start, we are not here to tell you to stop using your screens. Far from it. They are part of our lives. But, there are more mindful ways to use them so that they don’t take over all of our free time.
Hard though, isn’t it? It’s just so easy to pick up our phone when we have a few spare minutes. And you almost feel compelled to do so. It’s like an addiction. A very worthwhile watch is the Netflix film, The Social Dilemma. It explores the way that social media has morphed from something that was created with the very good intentions of people being able to share their lives and keep in touch, into the present day Silicon Valley giants that work by earning huge amounts of money from your activity on the platforms. Sadly, the more time you spend on them, the more money they make. So they are now engineered to keep you scrolling, keep you clicking, and ultimately keep you addicted. A striking quote is:
“We live in a world in which a tree is worth more, financially, dead than alive, in a world in which a whale is worth more dead than alive. […] now we’re the tree, we’re the whale. Our attention can be mined. We are more profitable to a corporation if we’re spending time staring at a screen, staring at an ad, than if we’re spending that time living our life in a rich way.”
– Justin Rosenstein – Former Facebook Engineering Manager
Think about that for a moment. We’re being enticed to spend more and more time on screens to make profits for other people. This is a very deep subject, which this blog doesn’t go into further, but it’s an important point to make, as we often don’t realise why we spend as much time on screens. We just do.
So, how do we stop it? How do we take control of the reins and make sure we’re mindful about our screen time so that we can enjoy it, but without it being detrimental to the quality of our real lives? Without it leaving us with less time to do the things we really like to do?
Digital detoxing doesn’t mean no screens
There’s no getting away from the fact the screens are part of our lives, and neither should we want to. Technology advances and this opens up great opportunities for us. There’s no point in trying to hide from it. But we should be mindful about how we spend your time on screens. So here are a few tips:
- Put your phone out of reach – our devices are extensions of our arms sometimes. They are always there for us to pick up the moment we have a few free minutes. So, unconsciously, we rack up huge amounts of screen time without really meaning to. Putting it out of sight will reduce the temptation to have ‘just a quick check’.
- Plan in screen time – what if you gave yourself screen time slots throughout the day instead? Knowing those slots are coming up may incite you to leave your phone alone until it’s actually ‘screen time’.
- Have off-screen activities – have something to hand that you can do instead of looking at your phone. It’s all too easy at the end of a busy day to flop on the sofa and scroll away. Place a book, magazine, craft project or any other activity within reach to give yourself another easy option to turn to so you can break the automatic habit of always turning to your phone.
- Turn off notifications – this is a must if you are serious about digitally detoxing your life a bit. Having every train of thought interrupted by notifications pinging on your devices constantly is really detrimental to wellbeing. It stops you finishing one thought or task before moving to the next. It stops you choosing when to check in on messages. If someone interrupts you constantly in real life, it’s seen as rude and annoying – yet we let our phones do it all the time.
Taking small steps like these will mean that you are much more mindful about screen time, and you will start to feel the benefit of it, rather than feeling guilty about the fact you’re overusing it.
Screen time is comfort time – why should I reduce it?
We hear you. Especially over the past year, screens have been a lifeline – the only way to contact friends and family, be it via messages, social media or video calls. They’ve offered a form of comfort in very uncertain and limiting times. But even before Covid, we were all still guilty of reaching for our phones. When we’re tired, stressed or in need of distraction, they are an easy and comforting solution. So why should we reduce our screen time? There are lots of reasons, but here are just a few…
- Allows time to talk – how often do you sit down with your partner, a friend or your housemate and end up looking at your phone? Just to check in in case someone has messaged? Or maybe liked or commented on your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram post. That quick check soon becomes much longer, and you both sit there on your screens instead of actually having a conversation about your day.
- Gives time for ‘other’ hobbies – ‘Other?’ ‘Screen time isn’t a hobby?’ Well, given the amount of our spare time we spend on our screens, surely it should be classed as one. Otherwise, why do we dedicate so much time to it?
- Lets your mind rest – think about spending 20 minutes scrolling through social media. How many conversations do you see or take part in during that time? Now think about having the same amount of conversations in the same time frame but in real life? Jumping from one to another, making a quick comment before moving to the next, trying to keep up with all the different topics being discussed. It’s enough to make you dizzy. Yet this is exactly what we do on screen. And, afterwards, our minds are whirring and it’s hard to settle and concentrate on one thing.
Screen time isn’t always a negative thing. There are lots of positives to everything we can access via screens – but, like many other aspects of our lives, taking an ‘everything in moderation’ approach is much better for our health and wellbeing.
Has this blog struck a chord with you? Do you feel your screen time is above what it should be? Can you think of ways that it can be reduced? We’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.