Words by Lisa Hughes
October 21st, 2016
Spending less time on the internet is the new ‘I’m going to drink more water.’ We’re already willing to bet that it’ll feature highly on many New Year’s resolutions lists this year (yes, we have just mentioned NYE in October).
It goes without saying that we all love the internet; it’s made our lives a million times easier, from booking a last minute flight to tracking down that obscure band t-shirt on eBay to just googling everyday things like the weather forecast.
But, with information at our fingertips and social networks documenting what we all put on our toast each morning (spoiler: it’s avocado), there’s an undeniable overload and it’s exhausting. Our smartphones mean there’s no escape from work and gone are the days when an email received at 11pm was left ‘til the next day to reply to. Whether we’ll admit it or not, most of us still check our work emails on holiday too, when we should really be sipping sangria. For shame.
Scariest of all is the psychological and emotional toll our constant connectivity is having on our mental wellbeing. Countless studies in the last two years have linked social media and the ‘share’ culture with feelings of inadequacy, depression, low self-esteem and narcissism. A study by the University of Michigan found that people who use Facebook are less happy than those who use it sparingly or not at all and these studies are becoming more prevalent. All that #lifeenvy just ain’t good for us.
No one is suggesting you quit the ‘net cold turkey because that’s just not realistic, especially when most of our jobs or businesses depend on it. But if you’re feeling mentally drained and pine for pre-internet days when you weren’t on call 24/7, there are small steps you can take to change your relationship with devices.
1. Dodge digital at the weekend. Gone are the days when you had to upload 102 photos from one night out to prove you have a social life. If anything, skipping social and actually, y’know, living your life is greater proof that you actually have one. Moving on to week days, create a cyber curfew and switch off your broadband or WiFi at that time and stick to it. Also, put your devices in another room when you go to bed to curb the late night scrolling. As Arianna Huffington advocates in her book The Sleep Revolution, buy an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake you up instead.
2. Go smartphone-free at mealtimes and pay attention to what’s around you and on your plate instead. If you absolutely must post a snap of your dinner, make it a #latergram instead of ignoring your friends and spending two hours cropping and filtering a bowl of pasta. Our beginner’s guide to mindful eating might help. Likewise, put your phone aside when you’re watching TV. Unless you’ve got a particularly cracking tweet to share, livetweeting Great British Bake Off is nowhere near as good as actually watching GBBO.
3. Switch off alerts and push notifications for apps (except more essential ones like email) as these are just luring you back online. Another thing to do is to stop responding immediately to everything. It feels like you’re breaking the rules of internet etiquette here but not every email or tweet demands an immediate reply. By doing this you’re allowing digital to constantly interrupt and take centre stage in your life.
4. Cull your social media and be ruthless. Leave groups you never participate in but who clog up your feed, unfriend people like your school friend’s mam who posts constantly about angels, unfollow negative people who tweet about blood-boiling subjects like #notallmen and stop hate-reading blogs that drive you crazy. Like everything, quality over quantity is what counts. Think about what you love online – even if it’s just the Cats of Instagram feed or maven46 – and focus on what you actually get something positive out of. This way your digital experience won’t feel like such a drain.
5. Get out more. You won’t miss social media and the internet when you’ve got something better to do. Spend more time out walking, go to the park, get some fresh air and leave your phone at home. Whether it’s glossy Instagrams or photoshopped ‘outfit of the day’ pics, what’s online never shows the full picture and isn’t real life. Put your smartphone down and look around you – that’s what’s real. Embrace that more often.
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