We’re all spending a lot more time on screens than we ever thought possible, even just a few short weeks ago. And, judging by the weekly reactions to Apple’s Screentime report, we’re getting more than a bit anxious about how much time that’s actually adding up to.
So, how can we use tech to keep connected, and sane, whilst making sure we don’t fall prey to addictive tech tricks and start playing our phones like slot machines? Here are our tips for digital detox in lockdown:
#1 Define your usage
There’s a big difference between the time spent creating a dance or music video to upload, and the time spent afterwards compulsively checking your feed for likes and comments posted about it. The first is a productive use of the creative possibilities of digital tech, the second is unhelpful lab rat behaviour which will mess with your mental health.
Try and get into the habit of categorising how you’re using your screens and put them mentally them into ‘helpful’ and ‘unhelpful’ boxes. For ‘helpful’ anything that helps you create, engage and feel connected. For ‘unhelpful’ anything that increases anxiety and just doesn’t make you feel good.
#2 Focus on tools
We hesitate to say delete all your social media but…. if you’re serious about a digital detox in lockdown, delete all your social media. The issues that existed about use of social media before the pandemic are still with us now. Comparison culture is alive and kicking in lockdown, with users competing for the best fitness regime, most photogenic sour dough bread and how many mind-improving courses they’ve taken in the last few weeks.
Do yourself a favour and give social media as wide a berth as possible and focus on tools that make life that little bit easier for you; WhatsApp to keep connected to friends and family, transportation apps to tell you what routes are less crowded and safe to use, video conferencing for ‘meeting up’. Right now you don’t need to feel bad about your poor baking prowess or not learning Latvian.
#3 Use screens for stress relief
Having said all that, quite a lot of what has appeared online during the pandemic has been designed to lift our moods and make us laugh (Andrew Cotter we’re looking at you), so do use social media to raise a smile and lighten your spirits when you need it.
#4 Stop counting
The phenomenon of trying to count and measure everything we do was booming before lockdown – it’s been called the quantified selfmovement – and it’s needlessly contributing to lockdown stress. Anguished posts about weekly Screentime reports, or horror at the dramatic drop in daily step counts miss the point that this is just how it is right now. This too will pass. Use common sense and perspective.
You’re not going to hit your 10,000 daily step count without getting very creative with the stairs, and your daily smartphone usage is inevitably going be higher than it was before. Turn off all forms of counting and tracking that are making you feel more anxious and try and go with the flow.
#5 Limit the news
It’s a very human instinct to want to keep checking what’s happening in the world. Especially now when there’s an unfolding news story that has serious implications for all of us. But it’s very easy to get caught in a negative cycle where we just keep checking over and over again without it producing much relief. Strictly limit your news to maybe a couple of times a day and then only from reputable, verified, news sources.
#6 Give yourself a break
We’re coming up to Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme in the UK is ‘kindness’, which applies to being kind to yourself too. So we’re encouraging you to give yourself a break on the screentime front. Don’t beat yourself up if carefully laid routines, structures and rules about how you use your tech all seem to be going out of the window in lockdown. All our routines are more than a little disrupted. Tune in to how you’re feeling and see if you can work down what tech balance is best for you right now. Maximise the positives and minimise the negatives of time on screens and you won’t go far wrong.
We’re providing updated resources specifically during the pandemic period so check back regularly for other ideas on how to use screens healthily and do a digital detox in lockdown.