When was the last time you went through the day without checking social media? On a recent vacation, I accidentally went the entire week with minimal phone use and I loved it. I didn't plan on going through a digital detox but we were so busy with the kids that I didn't have much time to browse social media. And I was completely okay with that.
According to a national survey published by the American Psychological Association (about 611,000 young adults and adolescents surveyed), mental health issues have risen significantly after 2010 compared to the 2000s and the rise of electronic communication and digital media may be a contributing factor. In another study, young adults with high social media use seem to feel more socially isolated than those with lower social media use. There is also increased evidence of a correlation between social media use and depression.
I sometimes pick up my phone without really knowing why. It's become almost like a reflex. Waiting on someone? Check my phone. In line at the grocery store? Check my phone. I found myself scrolling through my Facebook feed, clicking through to articles and 45 minutes later, not really retaining much of what I've read. It took me months to even look at my screen time report because I knew it would be outrageous.
A digital detox was necessary. The first step was looking at the data to see how often I was using my phone and social apps. The numbers didn't lie. I was picking up my phone an average of 163 times per day and spent a total of five hours per day on my phone. In my defense, I do check the time pretty often. I also use social media as part of this blog but scrolling mindlessly is not a job requirement.
As a mom/human being, I have limited "me" time. Instead of spending it scrolling through my feed, I'd rather do something more useful with my free time. I started thinking about all the things I could be doing instead of staring at my phone and made it my mission to cut my screen time. My goal is to spend my life laughing and going on REAL LIFE adventures, not checking my notifications. I started my own daily digital detox to preserve my mental sanity. Keep reading for some changes that worked for me. Do you have any other tips? Comment below to add to the conversation.
My Daily Digital Detox
1. Resist the urge to look at your phone as soon as you wake up
Looking at your phone immediately can disrupt your entire morning routine according to Tristan Harris, Google's Former Design Ethicist on Medium. He discusses how technology exploits our minds' weaknesses similar to how magicians look for "blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people's perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it."
He also states that "When we wake up in the morning and turn our phone over to see a list of notifications-it frames the experience of "waking up in the morning" around a menu of "all the things I've missed since yesterday." That can't have a positive effect on your mental health and general well-being. This is a major source of subtle stress that I didn't even realize was stressful. Instead of immediately checking my emails or notifications when I wake up, I just open my eyes, pause for a minute and then start getting ready. That moment of silence helps me start my day in a calm technology-free way.
2. Read a book before bed
As soon as I get into bed at night, my first instinct is to pull out my phone for a few minutes and then read my book. A few minutes leads to an hour and I inevitably end up falling asleep as my phone falls to the floor. I switched things up by plugging my phone in to charge away from the bed and going to bed sans phone. This gives me some time to read (currently reading More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth) and fall asleep peacefully without Instagram in my face.
3. Set self-imposed limits
I set limits on my phone to remind myself to step away. It's easy to get lost in the scroll but setting an automatic limit is one way to combat that knee-jerk reaction. To set the limit, go to Settings-->Screen Time-->Your iPhone-->Most Used--> Pick an app (for example, Instagram)-->Limits. I set mine to one hour per day for Instagram and Facebook. You can also pause notifications so they don't automatically pop up on your home screen. I didn't realize how much of the day was spent looking out out of the corner of my eye and noticing a social media notification.
Another rule I set for myself is to not have my phone on me when I'm with my kids. I don't want them to feel like they need to complete with a device for my attention. I sometimes keep my phone in a different room so I'm not tempted to pick it up to check the time.
4. Mute people that make you feel bad about yourself
This may sound harsh but I mute anyone who annoys me on social media. Usually that means anyone who is unqualified yet offers medical advice (inappropriate) and anyone who drives while they're speaking on stories.
5. Don't be afraid to unfollow
Use the Marie Condo method. Does this account bring me joy? If there is someone on my feed that is not providing value, I unfollow.
6. Write in a journal
My personal therapist and the foundation of this blog. I've written about my introduction to journaling before and it still remains a part of my routine. I get more satisfaction from writing a quick note in my journal than scrolling Instagram for 45 minutes.
7. Go for a walk outside
When is the last time you went for a walk outside with no where to go? Go for a walk and don't look at your phone even one time. Truly take the time to connect with yourself or a loved one.
I'm happy to say that this digital detox helped me disengage from my phone. I started to feel more present in whatever I was doing. I'll probably never completely cut out social media but I'm happy it has become less influential in my life. I quickly realized that nothing on my phone could compare to the love and laughter I was experiencing in the moment.
"Wherever you are, make sure you're there." -Dan Sullivan