Social media and smartphone reliance has become second nature – too much a part of my past work responsibilities and personal branding, promoting, broadcasting myself. Facebook was no doubt my yearbook directory; I started seeing in Instagram filters one night when I closed my eyes last year and I’ve thought if I don’t tweet this thought, it didn’t happen, just like the fallen tree in the forest…
Many New Year’s resolutions are diet-oriented. Well, there are simple ways to slim down your screen consumption. The Digital Diet by Daniel Sieberg comes up with “recipes” and provides a step-by-step guide over a four-week course. Written in 2011, it’s still relevant when today’s success continues to be measured by a number of clicks instead of depth or breadth and reach:
“It’s time to look more deeply at our actions, to pull back for a time then reshuffle our reliance on technology.”
Ask yourself what technology (like a plate of cookies does with empty relationships) is replacing in your life? Is it really connecting and fueling you? If you question it, read on.
Rethink. Not only is the internet a time stealer, but electronics can be a true time and mind suck. Awareness is the first step. Moderate your time and self-manage your multi-tasking. I’ve now instilled a no more than three tabs open rule. Right before the new year, my mom encouraged I clean up my Facebook account. It’s nice to keep in touch and share, but I thought about which friends I really connect with regularly or deeply. I gave my network a short heads up before completely deactivating the account, partly because I didn’t want to go through all my settings and photos before a big trip overseas. I’ll be back though, on a thinner scale.
Reboot. I’ve definitely been accused of using my phone too much. My VWI, or virtual weight index, came down to obese on Seiberg’s scale. The tech-reporter turned Googler suggests physically placing your cords and devices in a box. Write down on paper the list of emotions they’re attached to. Give someone else your password to your accounts (I did this with my cousin one Lenten season, asking her to only notify me if there was something urgent. Turns out, not much). Go back to basics, ex. by not using Google maps? You’re encouraged to talk to a human and not Siri for directions. Stop refreshing your phone. And with all those email lists – unsubscribe!
Reconnect. Going cold turkey is discouraged, pretty unrealistic as with other addictions. Instead, find a balance and make technology work for you. Download the apps that make life truly more efficient, enjoyable and enriching, and delete the ones you don’t need but take up symbolic space. Get rid of spam and open your eyes to genuine human-to-human interaction. Send personal notes. Leave the phones off the dinner table. Don’t wake up or fall asleep to the dim light charger in the corner.
Revitalize. It’s going to take some time to form a longer-term, personalized strategy. I feel empowered already––I purchased a small alarm clock and a wristwatch to keep the phone away from the bedroom and not being the first thing I reach for when I open my eyes. It helped my big trip into 2015 to an isolated village on an island, but even there you can find a hotspot. Nonetheless, I found myself being more selective with my usage and uploads – disconnecting to reconnect, able to walk over and look someone in the eye rather than let them stare more blankly into a screen.