With smartphone adoption at an all time high, we have the world at our fingertips. A swipe of the screen and a touch of a button later, we’ve got all the information we need at any given time. While this has certainly made our lives easier in some regards, it has also led to an overload of information as we check our phones and tablets throughout the day, even when we’re out with friends. This is something that our bodies and minds don’t always appreciate.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter certainly make connecting with friends and family both easy and fun, but moderation is always a good thing. According to Justin Maier, vice-president of the mobile phone company HMD for sub-Saharan Africa, “people are actively looking at ways to manage the pervasiveness of technology.”So, If you’ve got to the middle of the year feeling overloaded, stressed out and out of touch, try out these actionable tips for a digital detox and start the second half of the year off with less screen time, and more ‘me’ time.
Reduce the time spent online
Cutting yourself off from the online world entirely is both extreme, and highly unrealistic in our digital age. Cutting back time spent online on the other hand, is more of an attainable goal. South Africans spent a daily average of two hours and 54 minutes on social media in 2017. That’s almost three hours out of a day which could have been spent physically catching up with friends, going for a refreshing walk, reading a book or cooking for loved ones.
Whether you set yourself certain times of the day that you’re allowed to catch up on social media, or set yourself a time limit for whenever you open up a platform, you can slowly start to reduce the amount of time you spend online without going cold turkey.
While it’s extremely convenient to use your smartphone as your alarm clock, keeping your phone so close to you makes it tempting to spend time scrolling online both when you wake up and just before you go to sleep. You may not be fully aware of the consequences of staring at your screen for long periods of time before you get to sleep, but research has shown that this can lead to both reduced sleep time and poorer quality of sleep.
Sleep is an important part of recuperating one’s body for the day ahead, so instead of reaching for your phone before bedtime to set your alarm, or reaching for it in the morning to turn your alarm off - and risking a scrolling session - invest in a good quality alarm clock that will reliably wake you up on time. While an old school method, it will allow you to push your phone a little further away from your bed, and reduce the temptation to spend time scrolling.
Turn off push notifications
Automatic alerts, otherwise known as push notifications from social media platforms can be useful, but also increase our time spent online. Many of us can’t resist the urge to open up Facebook or Instagram as soon as these notifications come in, interrupting our thoughts, meetings or just quiet time. A notification telling you that someone liked your post or shared something with you isn’t important enough to make you stop what you’re doing.
Stay present with colleagues, friends and family by turning off these notifications. You can then check them during your dedicated online times, reducing the amount of time you look at your phone or tablet throughout the day. “Don't let the beeps and buzzes of the online world pull you from the moment that you are currently enjoying”, says Levi Felix, who ditched his busy life as vice president of a Los Angeles based tech startup to create The Digital Detox, a chain of wellness retreats that help people become less dependent on technology and more present in their own lives.
Put devices away during social situations
Spending an afternoon or evening out with friends or family should become device-free moments. While it’s ever so tempting to document your meal and/or view on social media, you end up removing yourself from the situation and are no longer present with the very people you arranged to spend time with.
Phones should be stuck into a pocket, or placed into a handbag. You can even make a rule that everyone has to place their phones together on the table to make sure no one reaches for theirs. If you’re set on capturing the view or the moment, limit yourself to one or two photographs, and upload them when you get home.
While many of us find it difficult to reduce the time we spend online, with these actionable tips, even those who cannot go an hour without checking in online will be able to reduce the time they spend there. Whether you try out all of these tips, some of them or only one, you can find more time for friends and family, be more present in social situations, reduce the number of times you check your social media accounts and even get a better night’s sleep. If you’re struggling with stress and anxiety, reduce your time online and you may even reduce the risk of reliance on your Medical Aid to relieve stress and sleep deprivation related symptoms.