As a blogger and social media enthusiast I’m on my computer and phone a lot – snapping and editing pictures; posting to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter; replying to comments on all the various platforms; jotting down notes for the next post; writing my next post; supporting other bloggers and influencers; interacting with readers; etc, etc, etc… Beyond all my blog and social media-related time spent on my computer or with my phone in hand, I also use the iPhone to keep up with family and friends, experiment with new forms of social media, read a good book, scroll through the news, check the weather, listen to music, get directions, track fitness goals, and so on and so forth.
All of this means I spend a lot of time connected to a device during the day. And while I love technology and couldn’t imagine having a life that was tech-free, it also scares me a little. It seems every week there is a new study or new article published about the detrimental effects of technology and the very real technology addiction. For instance, did you know:
- The average 16-year-old spends 200 minutes a day on social media? That’s nearly a day out of every week spent solely concentrated on a device.
- The blue light that a computer or phone screen admits halts the body’s natural creation of melatonin, hence making it difficult for some of us to get a good night’s sleep?
- Each ding, ping, and notification releases dopamine into our systems – the same way that taking illegal drugs does? Actually, just scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook feed also releases that chemical in your body. And after awhile you need more and more time on an app to release the same amount of dopamine and give yourself the same high.
- That many people, me included at times, report feelings similar to drug withdrawal – such as anxiety, nerves, agitation, insomnia, fear of missing out, the need to lie to get the thing, distress – when they go without technology or don’t have their phone readily available.
These are some scary realities!! And these are certainly things that need to be analyzed and accessed as each year we become a world that revolves more and more around technology and all it brings with it – the good and the bad.
While we need to use technology, and for some of us we need to use it a lot, we don’t need to let it control us. We don’t need to be addicted. We don’t need to let the phone and the apps we use dictate the ebb and flow of our day. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and reacting to my use of technology. And while there are days when I definitely feel the struggle to step away and be present in real life, here are the first 5 of 10 tips and techniques I’ve employed so that I use technology and don’t allow it to use me. (This post is split into 2 parts because it was hella long.)
5 Tips To Reclaim Your Life from Technology:
ONE:: Turn off notifications.
Every app under the sun wants to send you a notification. Candy Crush will remind you that you haven’t visited in awhile. Instagram will alert you to every comment and life, if you let it. Facebook will tell you when it is someone’s birthday and when a friend creates a new post. Snapchat will be sure to tell you the second you’ve got a new image to see. Your email service can even be set so that your phone buzzes with each new incoming email.
All of this is overwhelming. Your lock screen looks like a social media garbage pile. Scrolling through it all can waste precious moments of your day that you could spend doing something else more productive. And all those notifications release a little drop of dopamine and make you think you need to check it immediately or you are missing out.
Head into your settings and turn off your notifications. That way YOU control when you check an app or look at your emails, the app isn’t deciding for you. I’ve got ALL notifications turned off except text messages and one news app. I keep these two so that I don’t miss important messages from family and friends, and so that I can be up on breaking news. (It’s the inner-journalist in me that needs to keep that one in place.)
TWO:: Block out tech-free times.
This is something I tell my students all the time – don’t have your phone right next to you as you do homework. You’re less focused, even if you aren’t on the phone, and homework will take you longer. The same goes for us in the working world! I set aside times in the day when I am focusing on a task to be done – grading papers, writing a blog post – and therefore my phone is either in airplane mode or placed far away so that I’m not tempted to check it.
THREE:: Get a hobby.
Often when I talk to people about technology and the apps they use, one of the things I’m often told is that they spend a lot of time on a certain app, Instagram for instance, because they are bored. Bored??? I’ve attended boring talks or read a boring book, but I can’t remember a time when I’ve been sitting around just bored with nothing to do. Maybe that’s just my personality, but I think it is also because I have a number of hobbies. If I have spare time, I’m going to spend it writing my next book, reading some interesting articles, running, heck, even coloring in some fancy adult coloring book. Hobbies fill the down time. Hobbies allow us a focus outside of the screen and can often work our brain or muscles in ways that Candy Crush or Snapchat will not.
FOUR:: No tech before bed. NONE.
The melatonin deficiency is a serious thing! Most experts say that blue-light technology should be eliminated the two hours before trying to fall asleep in order to allow your body to enter into the proper sleep cycle. With so many of us feeling exhausted even when the alarm goes off, chugging coffee and acting sluggish throughout the day, this seems like a natural and easy solution to start with. I don’t check my phone before going to bed. My students know they need to write me before 8pm if they expect an answer that night, because after that time I won’t be checking or responding. I know, this also means have a real-life paper book to read if you need that before heading to sleep. AND it means not binge-watching Netflix on your computer screen while in bed.
FIVE:: Move tempting apps off the home page.
The release of dopamine happens in the brain even when we just see the icon of the app that gives us a temporary chemical high. Whether it’s the rainbow camera, or the white ghost on a yellow background, or the simple white f surrounded by blue, these images hold power. And every time we allow ourselves to catch a glimpse our head is telling us to check what’s happening or we might be missing something. To move these off the homepage helps avoid that immediate need that could happen whenever we open the phone to do something else. And we’ve all been there… you open the phone to check your bank information or your calendar, but you see that social media icon and suddenly you’ve forgotten your original intent and are blissfully scrolling through an endless parade of images.
Personally, I’ve moved most of my social media applications into the same folder that sits on the second page of apps. That way I don’t see the icons when I open the phone and I don’t see them if I’m flipping pages to scroll for the app I’m really looking for.
Those are my first 5 tips to reclaim your life from technology. What do you think? What would you add? What would you delete or modify? Would love to know your thoughts. Part II of this post will follow next Monday, May 8th.