The importance of having some digital downtime
Towards the end of last year, I really started to think about how much time I was wasting online. I was starting to get an Instagram hangover after spending too much time scrolling. I noticed that the first thing I would do in the morning was pick up my phone and get a sense of overwhelming when I would see notifications show up on my screen. I asked myself, “Is social making me sick?”. Feelings of stress, overwhelm, FOMO and comparison was starting to creep in and I found that the source of this was my social media use. Now, I am not here to bash social media. I run my blog through social media and being online and I have got some amazing opportunities through it. I have also met some fantastic like-minded creatives and have a fab community of people that I have met through being online. Lately, I have been trying to find a happy balance, I have been trying to set boundaries online and reduce my screen time. There are more and more articles online about the effects our smartphone and social media has on our mental health. If you look around you will see that most people have their heads buried into their handsets and I am also guilty of this. So, I started to think to myself, how do I find a balance?
It is killing my creativity
Remember when you were a kid and you would get bored? You would entertain yourself and get creative. Whether it was running around with a stick pretending it was a sword or turning toilet rolls into crafty creations, you would use your imagination to fill your time. Now when I get bored I pick up my phone. I noticed that I was creating less content for my blog and Youtube channel and I wanted to see why. My phone is the biggest distraction and it steals my attention. It is also stealing my time. I could easily scroll away an hour of my time. That is an hour of my time that I could have spent writing, painting or researching a new project. Here are some of the things I am doing to be more productive online.
- Use the screen time function on your phone. I have an Apple iPhone and I have been using the screen time function since the start of the year. I have the downtime function set from 9 pm to 7 am. This means I get no notifications within this time and I also get a warning if I try to log onto one of the apps within that time. On a normal working day, my alarm is set for 6 am, this means when I wake up there are no notifications on my screen and I can spend my first hour of the day without distractions. This function was also really useful recently on a night out. I notice I didn’t bother with my phone as I was too tipsy to turn off the screen restriction which resulted in zero drunken Insta stories! lol.
- Review the screen time reports. I was shocked to see that I was spending on average 3-4 hrs a day on my phone. There are 24 hours in a day and I am spending 4 of those on my phone! This seemed crazy to me. Since being aware of this I have been able to get my screen time down to 2 hours a day however my goal is to get it down to 1 hour. I was also shocked at how many times I picked up my phone. The report tells you how many times you simply pick up your phone and check the screen. I know being online is part of running my blog but an hour a day is plenty to upload and reply to comments.
- Set aside time for social media. I used to upload a lot on Instagram and I would upload in the morning, evening and then stories throughout the day. I realised that this was stealing my time and I wasn’t fully focusing on things throughout the day. Now I am trying to only go online in the evening for a set time to upload and engage before logging off. I am also more conscious about uploading things that are of value to people and not posting for the sake of it.
- Create over consume. Within Instagram and Facebook, you can mute accounts that you don’t want to unfollow but you don’t want to see show up on your feed. Instagram is addictive, you go on to upload a photo or reply to a message and you find yourself scrolling and tapping through stories and before you know it ten minutes or more has passed. When I log on I am trying to consume less of others content and create instead. I love to check in with my fave accounts daily but I have to be mindful that the more I consume the less I am creating.
Apps are addictive
From infinite scrolling feeds to the rush of dopamine from likes and comments it is easy to get hooked within your handset. It can be very easy to base your self worth on how many likes or thumbs up you get. We can post a photo and we can get instant gratification and acknowledgement from our peers. These apps are designed to steal our time. They want our attention for their financial gain and they have clever algorithms that affect your user experience. I grew up in a time before smartphones were a thing. If you wanted to get a cute photo on a night out you had to bring out your digital camera. There were no Insta stories and no Sunday Snapchat hangover fear lol! With this in mind, I have found that real value isn’t based on our follower count or how many likes your post gets. The moment we start to think that someone is better because of their social media stats is the moment we need to stop and have a look at our scrolling habits. We also need to find other ways to get fulfilment. “Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality” – Les Brown.
Now, apps aren’t all bad. I think they are great tools that are helpful in our lives but when used with moderation. I have travelled and found some amazing places from seeing them on Instagram. I have made projects for my home found on Pinterest and I have even gone on dates with some great guys I met on Tinder. Our smartphones stop us from getting lost, there a source of information and learning too. I think finding balance is key and the goal for me is to have more time in the real world versus the online world.
When social media isn’t social
One of my favourite things about social media is the people I have met. I have travelled across the world and met with women that I know through Instagram. I have met like-minded people and have grown my circle of friends through it. However, heavy social media use can contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Instead of going out and meeting with people we can end up spending time chatting online. I love a real interaction with a person. I favour a coffee with a person over a WhatsApp text. If you find you aren’t getting out as much as you used to then maybe suggest a meetup or join a group or class. I always try and meet up with my fellow creatives and friends offline.
I recently watched the Fyre documentary on Netflix and it really got me thinking about social media and the people we follow. I actually don’t follow many celebs because I prefer to follow accounts that are more relatable to me. I do think we have to take what we see on social media with a pinch of salt. Sadly there are people renting designer handbags and cars to portray a lifestyle that they don’t even live so I try and avoid consuming that content. We do have a responsibility to unfollow and not engage with that content so if you find yourself getting irritated online by what you see then hit the unfollow button and scroll on.
Be in the moment, upload later
I have been asking myself lately, “Am I doing it for the ‘gram or am I doing it for me?”. I love creating content. Whether it is a DIY project or a travel post I love photographing and filming pieces of content for my blog and social media. It can be easy to fall into the trap of creating content that I think others will like instead of creating content that I like. As my blog is my hobby I have to be careful that I don’t overdo it and I have to have time for me. The great thing about social media is that it can be uploaded later. I can leave my phone at home or in the car and go off with my camera and create what I want and upload later or not upload it at all. It can be tempting to upload straight away, especially when you’re really excited and proud of something you have made but pausing and being in the present moment is what matters.
When I was in Portugal I was rambling around Pena Palace and I saw a couple taking some photos. They didn’t look like they were actually enjoying being at the palace and instead we’re having a full on a photo shoot to get the perfect Instagram shot. I have seen this in a couple of places whilst on my travels. People not savouring the moment and they place they are in and instead they were arguing over which angle is the best for their Insta shot. I don’t want to look back in a few years and regret not being in the present moment so that is another one of my goals.
My goal for this year is to be more present in the real world and less time spend in the online world. Hopefully, that means more creativity and focus and a better sense of wellbeing. I will still be online and creating content, however, I just won’t be as available as I once was as I try and set boundaries. How is your social media consumption? Have you got any tips for reducing your screen time and being more present? Do let me know in the comment section below. I would love to hear how you handle your smartphone usage.
If you enjoyed this post then you might like this post about comparison. Read it here.
Thanks so much for reading,