The latest research shows what most people suspected already: the use of Internet and modern technologies requires restraint, and digital wellbeing is more important today than ever before. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out that constant access to a vast amount of information and never-ending stream of notifications together with the belief that everyone is always accessible via their smartphones is detrimental to our mental and physical health.
Excessive use of social media can create depression, anxiety and feelings of dependency, while constant stream of negative news generates vast amounts of stress. Even more, the use of mobile devices during the workday significantly decreases productivity. Physical symptoms from disproportionate use of technology include disrupted sleep schedule, pain in neck and wrists, bad posture, and even obesity.
These possible results of extreme use of technology do not mean that we should give up our devices completely. There are some easy steps to try out to reduce the impact technology might have on your life.
The first step is determining just how prevalent is the impact of technology on your life. This means finding out how much time you spend online and what you do there. The smartphone, which is a relatively new invention, is one of the biggest offenders of unnecessary, possibly harmful use of Internet. The majority of people use computers for work-related or specific, goal-oriented activities, such as watching movies or playing videogames, while your smartphone is more often used for mindless browsing and social media insights.
The most objective way of determining your use of smartphone time is installing an application tracking your actions. There are many such apps available, and they will show how much time you spend on your phone, how often you do it and what applications are the biggest offenders. It turns out that people in the US, on average, spend 3 hours and 15 minutes per day on their phones; the top 20% of smartphone users spend more than 4.5 hours per day (2019 Screen Time Stats Report, available here https://blog.rescuetime.com/screen-time-stats-2018/). At least half an hour of this time is spent at work.
The next and most important step is setting boundaries regarding your screen time. This can be done in many different ways, such as:
- Disabling notifications to most apps. It is important to receive work-related e-mails, but notifications about the latest Instagram post or Netflix movie might not be so vital. Every notification you get on your phone diverts your attention from the task at hand. Even if it is only for a few milliseconds, it still influences your work and impacts your focus.
- Physically removing the phone from your presence. There are many professions where not answering your phone is not an option, so this works best for free time activities. If you are baking cookies with your children, reading a book, working in your garden or doing any other focused activities, leave your phone in the next room or in your bag with sound switched on. After some time, you will feel less anxious about missed calls and notifications and will feel relieved that your phone is not next to you.
- Using “do not disturb” mode. You can set up your own settings for “do not disturb” mode on most phones. It is a great way to not receive friend notifications while still being able to answer work-related calls. It is also a good idea to set up “do not disturb” mode for a specific time, e.g. between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
- Use productivity apps. There are many applications available for counting, measuring and evaluating your time to use it smarter or warning you if you have spent too much time online. Just don’t let these notifications be the source of anxiety and stress.
Technology as such and smartphones in particular are amazing tools for greater productivity and maintaining contacts between people. However, it is very important to remember that your smartphone should work for you, not the other way around. If you feel too overwhelmed, it could be worthwhile to switch off your phone for a few days completely and loosen the convenient but sometimes nerve-racking grip it has on your life. You will be surprised how much time there is in one day.