Turn off, tune out
Busy day at work, staring at a screen, headache, dehydrated, grumpy, tired and frustrated. We get home, have our evening meal and curl up to watch tv; only to reach for another screen and scroll until bedtime.
Did that feel good? Did you even sleep last night?
If all of this sounds too familiar then it might be that your stuck in permanent screen time. It’s happening all across the world, so you aren’t alone if this is a description of how you find yourself spending your time.
A good portion of my work with clients is on boundaries, so for me, I see screen time or social media engagement as merely another boundary to weigh up in our lives. We want to add value to our days if we feel low, so I pose this question to you: does your current relationship with your phone add value to your life?
I’m not against technology nor its significant contribution to how the world operates; I’d be hypocritical to say I was anti-technology when I’m sat here using a laptop, blogging to my website so visitors can learn! I do however think it’s another thing that requires balance.
It does feel like we live vicariously more so in this decade than the last because everything is publicised from what we eat, to where we are and who we are with. In a selfie-obsessed world it also seems that more concern is placed upon getting the perfect picture rather than capturing a moment.
We are making choices to publicise and to market ourselves in particular ways. I made a point earlier about adding value to our lives, so I further ask if the following apps add value for you:
How are you using these accounts if you have them? There seems a definite divide in the usage of these accounts by the public so if I can ask you to apply either adds value or devalues to the following usages:
- To connect with friends you rarely see
- To while away your evening
- To snoop on ex-partners
- To help celebrate occasions you can’t attend
- To harass
- To comfort those who you know, who are in need
- To pass on hints and tips or invite people to events they would like to attend
- To raise awareness of a passion/ hobby or a cause that you are interested in
- To cause suffering
- To re-establish friendships
- To compare your life
- To increase your followers for higher self-esteem
Clearly some of these are extremes but I’ve used them to get you to think about whether you are doing any of them and if people are doing them to you. In both cases I’d like to encourage you to think about your tolerance levels of these behaviours. This makes social media and screen time a boundary issue- if it makes you feel low, sad, upset, frustrated etc, then why are you engaging in it? Once you start to think about what aspects are not adding value then you can work towards removing them from your routine and your life.
Steps towards unplugging, turning off and tuning out:
- Identify which accounts and devices are causing you the most stress
- Log out, uninstall and remove the app. It can be daunting at first if it is a regular habit and it could be easier to try with just one app at first until you get used to not using it.
- Write down how you feel; keep a journal or just scribble down a few words each day you manage to not log in and scroll- has your mood altered?
- You’ll likely feel some anxiety at not doing what you normally do or fear you’ll miss important updates- ride it out- remember thoughts and feelings will ebb and flow and don’t last. Picture the tide and treat thoughts and feelings the same- they’ll rise, peak and die down again.
- Fill your time up with human contact. Having a conversation is rapidly becoming a distraction rather than a pleasure- how many times have you reached for your phone while someone is talking to you baring their soul? Or carried on texting when someone really needs your attention, because that text is ‘really urgent’ for you to send…?
- Visit someone you haven’t seen for a while or write them a letter in the downtime you find yourself experiencing
- Go for a walk; connecting with nature can get the mind going about less mundane distractions and think through bigger problems
- Set a ‘do not disturb’ time for your phone for the evenings or switch it to silent expect for alarms
- Remember, most of what you see on social media is the best representation of what a person WANTS you to see. Very few people passionately bare-all about a low day/period with the world
- Note how it feels not to be ruled by a life of notifications and instant reactions- have you noticed how your choice of activities are changing?
- Set a regular bedtime and have a ritual- a hot drink, a hot bath, music or read a book before bed- making new routines and keeping to them before bedtime helps the body realise it’s winding down for rest and sleep, so you’ll have a better chance of actually falling asleep instead of reaching for the phone or dwelling on how your life isn’t matching up to other peoples.
If you can stick with these for a few weeks you will notice changes in your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and begin to change your relationship with your phone and tablet etc. In having some time away from it all you can decide on what you reinstall or reengage with (if any of them!), but more importantly decide on how you use these platforms. Your boundaries will improve on what you are prepared to tolerate about what you read and experience and also what you decide to say to the world about yourself. I’d love to hear about any other benefits you experience from trying this so please do leave comments. Remember to keep adding value in order to not feel devalued; unplug and put the device down in order to recharge yourself!