by Kellie Whitehead
Remember International Digital Detox Day last month?
No, me neither.
Funnily enough, it wasn’t something that was all over our digital news feeds, stopping our scroll.
The daily scroll, the hourly scroll, the permanent scroll…
No judgement here.
I’ve worked on digital media since 2009, so it’s fair to say that a device of some kind is quite literally on hand every waking hour.
It’s the season of gatherings and festivals, people joyously coming together freely for the first time in 3 years. Where better to enjoy the company of others, the awesome performances and the fresh air. Life itself - all together - and usually through the lens of a smartphone.
You can’t see a crowd shot of any concert anymore without seeing the majority of concert-goers arm aloft - and not because they are throwing them in the air, like they just don’t care…
My young adult kids are walking around essentially attached to TV’s.
The eye strain is real.
The damage is no doubt done.
Summer is most definitely peak ‘season’ for FOMO. Sunsets, festivals, bikini bodies, clinking glasses and ‘making memories’ - for those of us living a day to day existence, we live vicariously through a sunnier social feed - but does it make us feel any better? You know the answer.
So, if ever there was time to ditch the digital for a much-needed detox, surely summer is it.
30 minutes of social media scrolling a day has been shown to contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety - yes, just 30 minutes - for a lot of people, that’s done before getting out of bed. Screen time and poorer mental health go hand in hand, there is no doubt.
It lowers our ability to make conscious decisions, have actual real life conversations. Our brain is now so wired to the distraction our screen time gives us, it literally renders us less able to focus on ‘real’ life versus ‘reel’ life.
Really ask yourself what it is you get out of so much screen time - I’m including binge-watching TV in that too - Have we completely lost the art of being present, or the ability to not just be ‘bored’ but to go about our daily lives - one-eyed
, because the other is ‘looking at your ‘phone’. If your children haven’t asked you at least once to ‘put your phone down Mum!’ then I probably don’t know you. The box set will wait - one or two episodes in - watching or reading absolute nonsense online via social media constantly brings nothing positive to your life. Usually just a huge swathe of comparisonitis, anxiety or outrage at the local neighbourhood group antics.
Let’s do it - let’s start our digital detox now.
Like anything, drastic changes too quickly often lead to bingeing in response to severe limitations. Starting small means we start to build resilience, and you will feel less agitated when you ‘step away’ if you are not going completely cold turkey.
Spending less time on your phone means you get to spend more time in your life. It’s not a full on relationship break up, you are just recognising over dependency, and the fact is - how many of us can say we are getting much positive from all of our time scrolling?
Pick something that works for you.
Let’s say you always take your phone to the loo for a cheeky check in - ( don’t @ me - who doesn’t?) This is a bit of a conscious uncoupling - next time, *don’t* - even if not every time, start small. Leave the device in another room whilst you move around the house for example. Only you know when you NEED it - and nobody needs to have it permanently attached unless you are an emergency services operator. Baby steps - try them, but consciously.
The waiting game
A bit like the bathroom - we are most likely to spend our time on our phones when we are waiting. Waiting for school, pick up, dropping off, waiting for your meeting to arrive, and dare I say it, when stuck in traffic. Before you pick it up - stop and think. This is the test of ‘being present’ - if you are reading this, you survived perfectly well without addictive amounts of screen time for the majority of your childhood if not more and beyond. The world still turned very successfully without the internet. Take stock of your environment for a few minutes or longer and just ‘wait’ amongst the sights and sounds around you - unless you are blocking out the sounds of screaming children - and if so, turn that radio up! You will be grounded and training your brain to want more of the same.
Going all in
Maybe you are a brave soul - and are ready to make a huge change in your unnecessary screen habits. If you are rendering yourself completely unavailable for certain periods of time - you might need to inform people first. In my case - I really do not need my phone for anything urgent these days after 6pm . If I had work to do, I have my laptop and emails on there. There is very, very little that necessitates your attention to work or similar after that time - unless of course your job depends on it. I say this as someone who spent almost 2 decades working in some capacity 7 days a week - literally never, ever, switching off. Whether it’s an age thing or simply, after so long realising that it was wholly non beneficial to any productivity or earning power has made me slowly, but very surely start to decompress. My work depends on screen time, and of course I need to be available to people in my organisation, but it is not my entire life - and that is what I am looking for more of.
Do I leave my phone downstairs when I go to bed yet?
Can I imagine waking up (via the alarm on said ‘phone) and not checking it before anything else?
But you know what, I’m reclaiming my life outside of the daily, genuine need to be online all day for my job - and for the sake of sanity at least - I really hope you start to do the same this summer.