I often think to myself, “One day, I don’t want to be on the internet anymore.” I close my eyes and imagine a life where I’m outside most of the time.
Not on a laptop, cell phone, tablet or watching TV.
Not scrolling and clicking social media, playing games, posting updates, replying to comments or liking anything.
Enjoying the blue skies rather than the blue LED lights. Watching nature rather than watching YouTube videos.
Listening to the sound of the birds rather than the ping of a notification. Breathing in the fresh air and feeling relaxed, with no worries about wifi.
A life where my screen time is no more than 2 or 3 hours of my day. Maybe even less. Just disconnected from technology and everything.
When I grew up in the 90’s, I didn’t have a computer or cell phone. People could leave work at the office, school in the classroom, and kept social lives private.
People watched the news in the morning and the evening, and that was it.
But with so much done online now, it’s almost impossible to disconnect from everything. We’re constantly checking work emails, social media, school assignments, and worst of all, the news.
In the midst of a devastating pandemic and a crazy election, perhaps now more than ever, we need to disconnect. We need to unplug.
Why disconnecting and unplugging is important
Excessive screen time can cause a lot of damage to us. People are less empathetic, more anxious, and more depressed.
We have more trouble sleeping and feel less energized in our days. It keeps us less active and more likely to be physically unwell.
We focus so much on technology simplifying things, we forget how much it also complicates things.
Taking care of our mental and physical well-being is essential to our happiness. Ask yourself these questions.
Have you felt burned out by your job?
Are you exhausted with the news every day?
Does social media make you feel worse about your life?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, maybe it’s time to disconnect. Try these tips to help break your tech addiction, so you can reconnect with your life again.
Disconnect from work
Schedule work time
Working from home has been a new challenge for a lot of people. Some of us have worked later hours because of more distractions.
A work schedule makes it easier to have time to disconnect. You do all your work in the time you’ve scheduled to do it.
When that time is up, you can be done with work for the day, and relax. If you have to start earlier in the day to make it possible, do it.
One hour for email responses
We are not servants to our job. You don’t have to respond to work emails at every hour of the day. You have the right to set boundaries for yourself.
One way to do this is only designating certain times of your day for email responses. It could be one hour or 15 minutes at different points of the day.
Then, stop responding to work emails for the rest of the day. In particular, when you clock out and go home, your time should be yours then.
The only people who should get responses from you after work are your loved ones. Besides them, be responsive to your own needs.
Switch off phone
Your colleagues or boss might try to keep calling or texting you as well. You may have to switch off your phone for a little bit after work.
Powering it off will help you be less tempted to respond. You could turn it back on later in the day when they won’t be bothering you.
Another hack you could try is having a business phone. That phone can be only for work and turned off immediately when you’re done.
You’ll still have your personal phone to catch up with friends or family.
Relax without using a device
Things have changed a lot. In the 60’s up to the 00’s, after work people would sit down, eat dinner, then watch TV.
Ever since the new millennium, everyone immediately checks their phones, tablets, or laptops. If most of your job involves staring at a screen, it may not be as relaxing to keep doing it in your free time.
Maybe you can go to the park or enjoy being in your yard. A lot of professionals go to a happy hour, but perhaps drinking isn’t the best way to relax either.
Plus, you’re trying to unplug from work. Continuing to be with your colleagues after hours is counter-productive.
Use that time to spend with your family and friends instead. Have dinner and then just sit and talk about life the rest of the evening. Maybe play a board game or cards.
There’s a lot of ways we can relax without staring at our screens.
There are apps that can help keep you organized with your work schedule. Use them to manage your time effectively so you don’t have to work after hours.
You can organize your most important tasks and appointments at the beginning of the day.
I only learned of this tool recently. Inbox pause allows you to stop having new emails from appearing in your inbox.
When you’re ready to see new emails, you can unpause it. Keep new emails paused while you’re working on important projects, so you’ll be done with them early.
Staying productive will help you not work past your scheduled off time.
Avoid dealing with your phone beeping or buzzing during the day when you receive new emails. Remove those notifications so you can stay focused on your work.
It’ll also keep you from being bothered when you’re done working and just relaxing.
Charge phones and computers in a different room
Charging your phone and computer in a different room when you’re done working. It’ll keep you from being tempted to check it for work-related things.
While those devices are charging, eat some dinner or enjoy a good book.
No gadgets before sleep and after waking up
The first and last thing we do in our day is often check social media. I’m guilty of scrolling through Twitter before bed.
What we choose to make first and last in our day should be significant. In fact, it is. Why else would we be using our first and last conscious moment on certain activities?
You have to ask yourself, should social media be this important in my life. Is there something or someone else I know is more important?
If there is, put away the gadget, and use your time for the activities and people that matter most. In the beginning of your day, you could sit and have breakfast with your partner.
If you like mediation, you could enjoy an early morning mindfulness session. It might really help your physical well-being, which I imagine is more important to you than social media.
At night, you could read a book you really enjoy. Maybe you can spend time on one of your passions such as drawing or making music.
Try not to make gadgets your first and last parts of your day. The activities you do instead can help you feel good and have better sleep.
Put phone on silent or turn it off
Our phones can sometimes be the main source of our social media addiction. It’s easy to mindlessly scroll through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
Silence your phone to avoid the ping that alerts you of a new social media interaction. If you still feel tempted, just turn your phone off.
Do a physical activity
To my knowledge, social media has never been proven to reduce stress, but exercise has. Reconnect with your body by putting it to work through a physical activity.
You could run, weight lift, do yoga, or any physical movement you enjoy. I know for me, I feel good after I have a good exercise.
Re-evaluate the social media sites you use. Have you been getting value out of them? If you realize you haven’t gotten much out of Twitter or Facebook anymore, you should deactivate it.
The best way to avoid checking social media is to not have an account in the first place. Now of course, if you do feel you’ve gotten value from a site, keep using it.
Just be sure to be disciplined in how much time you allow yourself on social media.
You can save time not logging in to post a status by using apps that post for you. This tool can be particularly useful if social media is a part of your job.
With the app posting for you, that allows you to spend more time away from Instagram or Facebook. If you anticipate updates you’ll be posting in your personal life, you can use the app for that too.
Some of us access websites like Instagram on all our devices. That can make it harder to avoid being on all the time.
Reduce your access to social media through only using it on either your phone, laptop, or tablet. Try not to use it on any other device.
When you’re done using Twitter or Facebook for the day, put the device away.
Don’t have auto-login
Creating an extra barrier can help deter you from logging in to certain sites. Always have it to where you have to type your password to get in.
Make the password something random that you have to look for it in a document or file. That extra effort to take may give you enough of a hurdle to reconsider logging in.
You might end up deciding not to and continue to stay disconnected.
Do we really need constant access to social media? It can seem that way in the instant gratification culture we’re in, but we don’t.
Think about it. What are you going to miss if you have to wait to get home to check social media? When I chose to stop being on Facebook, I realized I wasn’t missing anything at all.
There were things I was unaware of in some people’s lives, but these were people I don’t talk to. Why should I know what’s going in their life?
What good do we get out of constantly knoing about the latest crazy thing on Twitter? Deleting these apps from your phone probably won’t hurt.
In fact, it may even bring peace in your life you haven’t had in a while.
There are a number of apps that can temporarily block social media for you. You can set it at a specific time to allow you to focus on yourself.
If you’re on your computer, there are internet tools that can block these websites. Here’s how you can do it if you use Google Chrome.
Don’t have a charger with you at all times
Without a charger with you, you’ll be more cautious about your phone usage. As your phone gets to really low energy, you’ll have to stay disconnected from social media, so your phone doesn’t die.
It’ll help force you to be more present in the world that’s around you.
Just as you schedule your time for work, you can schedule your time for social media too. It can be one hour in your day or less.
Use that time to get in all the scrolling, liking, commenting, tweeting, retweeting, and updating you want.
Once your time is up, spend time with yourself, and spend time with people in person. Face to face interactions could do a world of good for you.
Go in a different room
If you’re tempted to check social media after your time is up, go in a different room. Leave your phone behind and just do something else.
The physical separation may keep it less in the front of your mind.
Disconnect and relax
Listen to music
No screens have to be involved with listening to music. There’s still a thing called a radio that exists. Maybe you can get one to listen to at home, or listen to it in your car.
Some stations can have interesting radio talk shows to listen to as well.
I really enjoy walking outside to relax. It’s nice just to look around and enjoy nature or enjoy the neighborhood.
It gives me a chance to let my mind decompress. I get to think about the deeper things in life and just relax in my reflections.
Do something with your hands
Some find gardening or doing crafts to be very relaxing. You’re having to focus on what you’re doing with your hands and blocking other things out.
Doing something with your hands will keep them busy from pressing buttons on your phone.
Writing is another way I enjoy destressing. I can get all the thoughts I’ve had in my day out. Self-care journaling might really help you let go of somethings you’re holding on to.
While not much traveling may be happening now, it will again soon. When it does, give yourself a nice vacation.
Take a few days enjoying a place you’ve never been. If that’s too expensive for you right now, then just do a short day trip.
The time away can allow you to disconnect from everything and reconnect with what matters to you.
Do a selfless act
Not all of disconnecting has to just be focused on ourselves. Doing a selfless act can be a great way to reconnect with our own humanity.
With all the Instagram drama and Twitter fights, we’ve lost a sense of kindness and compassion for one another.
The hollowness of our screens can sometimes make us more hollow in our hearts. Volunteering or giving to charity can perhaps re-ignite warmth in your heart.
It can remind you that despite what you see online, we can still be decent and loving to one another.
You may feel hooked on your work or addicted to social media right now. But you can always take back your freedom from these things.
You can still find hope in your life again. Take time to reconnect with yourself and the world around you, and find a new path forward.