Do you start with your day with Facebook, then add a dash of Instagram, remember to read about how terrible our world is on a news website, then check your emails & freak out about all of your deadlines? All before 8am!? (If before 9pm – make sure you add Netflix & Youtube to this recipe for disaster.) Social media can be a never ending loop, sucking the time out of your day and diminishing your attention span.
For hundred of thousands of people, if not millions, this is part of their daily routine.
Something about 2017 has had me wandering in circles and feeling a blossoming discontent – for the first time in a long time. It has been a huge year of change for me personally; my Grandmother died, we moved to a new town, I started a new business & floundered, my pet got sick, our plans to build a home were cancelled and we are expecting our third baby as I write this. A huge year of change.
As the year seemingly dragged on (all day morning sickness will have that effect…) my productivity and focus continued to erode. My focus was continually outward, on other business women & my newsfeed; What are they doing? What are they releasing? How hard are they working? And all this time my iphone never left my side. No part of my day was sacred and spared from the flashing of Facebook messenger, and the red Facebook notifications indicating the “popularity” of my most recent business post was only one click away. It was there beside me, waiting when I woke up, during breakfast, whenever work became a little “too hard” or boring, during dinner, watching television…always there providing hours of mindless escape. I was watching business based Facebook lives in my SHOWER! The shower! The thing about social media is that is it sooo easy. An easy escape – a lazy escape. If you are not being entertained and stimulated in this exact moment – no need to use your mind, just whip out your phone!
I began to wonder what the point of scrolling and reading so much information was? I could never remember what I had read online anyway – unless it was particularly grisly. The more I pondered, the more frustrated I grew. Being in my first trimester was definitely contributing to my fatigue, but I was struggling to “find the time” and energy to read to my children before bed. I couldn’t be bothered picking up a book- reading on my Kindle App was even worse as I’d have Facebook messenger interrupting every 2 seconds. I felt apathetic about my work – “it wouldn’t be as good as hers anyway”. Forget being creative and actually achieving any of the work goals and aspirations I had in my head!
All of my focus was outside of my own life. I had not even realised, but tech addiction had set up a chair in my life and was determined to stay! It started just at the door, and gradually edged its way in until it was sleeping in my room, on my bedside table. Creeping tech addiction.
My attention span had suffered considerably from my nasty social media habit. I began to struggle to even watch one television show or movie without simultaneously scrolling on my phone. Comments from friends have shown me that I’m not alone in this habit. Turn the TV on, sit down and scroll. What a way to live!! My attention span for deep, focused work was just as abysmal. I was lucky to last 5 or 10 minutes before reaching for my phone. All the more confusing was that often I was working during these “breaks”, as I run two online businesses and I love what I do, the line between work and recreation is hard to distinguish without specific boundaries in place.
“We have a growing amount of research which tells us that if you spend large portions of your day in a state of fragmented attention—where your regular workflow is constantly broken up by taking frequent breaks to just check in with social media—that this can permanently reduce your capacity for concentration,” said Dr Cal Newport.
This lack of attention extended to books, articles – anything that would engage my brains for longer that the 10 seconds it would take to read the first of Top Ten Reasons You Know You Are A 90’s girl” from Buzzfeed. I used to be an avid reader – powering through several fiction books in one week, reading uninterrupted for hours on end. Since I had switched over to the Kindle app for reading, the flashing messages from my Messenger app would interrupt each paragraph, making it impossible to get into the flow of a book. Because of my decreasing attention span, my ability to read a paperback was also significantly diminished, with my phone always tethered to my side, waiting for the next hit.
As I have delved into this topic over the past few weeks – this has been sitting in my draft box for just as long – other people echo this exact sentiment, and often voice the same habits I have, word for word. Do you have the habit of “accidentally” ending up on Facebook when you just wanted to check the time? Our fingers do this instantaneously in a few clicks before our brain even kicks in. What should have taken 30 seconds has devolved into 30 minutes as we hopped around on our phone unintentionally scrolling, responding and having our dopamine rush that comes from being instantly rewarded with little red notification icons.
Taylor Pipes writes; “Much of social media is specifically built to fragment your time. Not unlike a slot machine, it rewards you with “shiny things”—likes, hearts, retweets, comments, and other positivity in exchange for time. Before long, your day becomes disrupted as you push, pull, and swipe for updates and notifications.”
The big question left to answer…what the heck am I meant to do about it? On my iphone, I was losing approximately 3 hours per day to Facebook & Instagram ALONE. More to Youtube, news media sites, and yet again more on my laptop. Going completely offline, even for a week had no longer begun to feel like an option for me. Even turning my phone off was impractical – the daycare (service providers, real estate) always call the Mum first! I decided to start small and experiment. I began to notice what worked, what didn’t – and how often my hand went to reach for that black screen.
Steps I Am Taking To Get Rid Of My Tech Addiction
Keep in mind my notifications were already turned off for every app except Messenger – no dings, no alerts, no numbers on the app icon for the amount of notifications – if you have not already done this, I highly recommend it. Just the notifications within the app itself. I also have installed a Google Chrome extension that blocks my Facebook newsfeed when I’m on my laptop to stop the automatic scrolling there.
1. Firstly, I started charging my iphone in the kitchen at night, and trying to not open Facebook or Instagram until after breakfast. This did help a lot, but I was still distracted by Messenger, and then would sometimes “accidentally” end up on Facebook anyway.
2. Deleting the Facebook app off my phone has minimised my biggest and most zombie-like time suck. I can use my laptop for Facebook for WORK, and still check in with friends and family. The Messenger app stays to keep in contact with family, and I intermittently turn the notifications on and off to that too. I do re-download the Facebook app whenever I want to do a Facebook live – the trick is to remember to delete it again!
3. I unfollowed hundreds of people on my Instagram accounts. I have 3 accounts and was often following the same account multiple times. I narrowed the multiple follows down and linked them to the appropriate account. The main Instagram feed that I scroll through for inspiration & enjoyment is down to under 100 accounts that I follow. It is now quick & joyful to scroll through and see new posts!
4. No phone in the bedroom, bathroom or at the dinner table. Pretty self explanatory – but surprising how often I was using my phone everywhere!
5. I trialed turning my phone off completely – 18 hours for the first time. To do this, I let my husband know that I am going offline, so he can be sure to return important calls – like those from our daycare. I do find this works best on the weekend, when we are together as a family, because I know that the people I am responsible for are all here with me.
6. I deleted Gmail off my phone. It had been gone for months previously, but they sometimes sneak back on!
7. I put my phone in a different room when I’m working and try to keep the Facebook browser tab firmly closed.
8. I most recently took the weekend off social media & messenger (Facebook, Instagram & Messenger) and I was still surprised at how anxious it made me to not be able to read notifications for 48 hours! I realised that this was probably the first time in 14+ years that I had been disconnected in this way. I also noticed, how many times I wanted to take photos to share on social media – at least 20! This is definitely from running my businesses & always sharing content – Instagram stories anyone!? I’m looking forward to taking an even longer break over Christmas.
Really each step is a little experiment. To see how I react, to see how addicted I am, to see the impact that this has really been having. I have to say that the positive results are instantaneous.
I sleep better, I have been reading A LOT more. I have been writing a lot more. I am excited about new & old work projects and have made progress on both, and am focused a lot more on my own growth & business and less on what other people are doing. I am more present with my children and have been reading with them. Dinner is remembered and cooked intentionally (less packaged Alfredo pasta). I have even fit in a couple of workouts. I was able to declutter 90% of my home in one day. My outlook is generally a lot more positive and optimistic. I am just 3 weeks in to these experiments, but I’m excited to see what further rewards are in store.
After realising that I wanted to share this idea of disengaging from technology, I reached out to fellow minimalist enthusiast – Angela Mulvay and we concocted the idea for 30 Days of Presence. Thirty Days of Presence is simply a month of intentionally planning your Christmas season, swapping your iphone for family time & being present for the holiday season, instead of running around like a headless chook!
Angela & I have both been reaping the rewards – not just for sharing this challenge – but for actively taking part! The Christmas season has never been so relaxed & organised in our homes! We talk all about tech addiction in our video for week 1. The beauty of this challenge is that you can participate in it OFFLINE! It is printable, no follow up tech interaction required! If you want to join the challenge you can find it > here <
I am still in the process of reducing & hopefully eliminating my techno addiction, but these would be my top suggestions for someone who wants to start reducing their iphone dependency.
Tips To Reduce Your Tech & Social Media Use
- Charge your phone in a different room.
- Create boundaries – no phone at the dinner table, or sofa, in the bedroom, bathroom or work desk.
- Delete apps off your phone so that you are forced to access them on your computer, making it a more formal and drawn out decision to open them. (You have to walk to your desk, turn the computer one, open the browser etc etc)
- Try tech-free days – I recommend starting with one on the weekend!
- Go without your phone until after breakfast, and for an hour before bedtime.
- Turn off all of your notifications.
- Go analog where possible. Use an alarm clock. Read a physical magazine or book. Take notes with a pen.
- Develop a new hobby that involves engaging your body – bonus points if you head outside! Tending a garden, yoga, knitting, baking or painting can all be excellent for using your hands for good instead of on your iphone!
- Start a big project like decluttering your home or organising your photos.
- Research the impact and cause of tech addiction. Did you know that the average phone owner unlocks their screen over 80 times a day? And touches, taps or interacts with their phone over 2617 a day!?
I would love to hear about you – do you have these same tech addiction habits? The looping between several platforms? Are you struggling to concentrate on work or at home? Leave a comment below!