It's not just how much screen-time we use. It's the way we use it.
Statistics show that in today’s pandemic-altered reality, we’ve upped our screen-time by as much as 50%. That means many of us - and not just our teenagers - are online pretty much every waking hour of the day.
Experts tell us we are unlikely to lose our dependence on screens any time soon - or maybe ever. But we can take steps to use our online time more constructively, to promote digital health and wellbeing and avoid infobesity, social media stress and mindless scrolling.
Declutter your digital life
What exactly is the point of having 25 tabs open at once? None, say experts. In fact “digital hoarding” - yes, there’s a name for it - has been linked to higher levels of stress and anxiety.
And forget about the excuse that you’re “multitasking” and therefore somehow being efficient. The research is crystal clear on this one. Doing more than one thing at a time, online or off, actually slows us down, cognitively speaking.
If the phone is your drug of choice, chances are you have many more apps than you’re ever going to use staring you in the face every time you check in. If you haven’t touched an app all week - delete it. Or, if that sounds too painful, try moving them into a folder to reduce visual clutter.
Delegate to your devices
Do you have the same apps on your tablet, phone and laptop? And if so, do you know why?
An easy way to reduce social media stress and mindless scrolling is to delegate each category of online “job” to a single device.
Try keeping social media apps on your tablet, save emails for your laptop, and make your phone your sole texting and messaging space.
Slim down your social media
Social media can be a great way to relax, get connected and stay informed. But it can also be the world’s biggest time-suck. Staying active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube and TikTok will cure your FOMO. But it will also give you little time to live the rest of your life.
“Try to stick to just one or two social media platforms,” advises Bethany Baker, executive director of digital wellness non-profit, A-GAP. “The more we consume any content, the more drained and potentially anxious or lonely we will feel.”
Staying active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube and TikTok will cure your FOMO. But it will also give you little time to live the rest of your life.
Follow your online bliss
It’s not rocket science. You know what kind of online activity makes you happy (adorable animal pics? baby spam? “food porn”? ) - and what nudges you toward depression and despair (impossibly upbeat Insta-mums? political extremism? pointless Twitter feuds?).
So be intentional about where you put your focus online. Delete accounts that bring you down. At the same time, go ahead and indulge your online bliss - but again, be thoughtful about how you go about it. You don’t need funny parenting memes on every platform.
Feel good and do good
Making your voice heard online in a way that helps others is a great way to use screen-time more constructively. It can be a political statement or signing a petition or donating to a cause - or it can be something as simple but meaningful as a review of a local business or service.
“Review the restaurant you loved before the lockdown or the book that helps you escape at night,” suggests mindfulness and relaxation expert Michael Burich.
“Say a good word and make sure others see it. As things slowly start to open up, your words will have so much weight and offer a real pick-me-up as people work to get back on their feet.”
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