For many Brits, being connected to the digital world has become an important part of everyday life. According to a poll of 2,000 adults, we spend an average of 59 hours online each week, much of which is spent on social media platforms. But should we really be so addicted to our devices – or does the nation need to step away from our smartphones for a healthier, happier life?
Taking a break from social media is a trend that is on the rise. Recently, BBC Radio 2 DJ and celebrity Rylan Clark-Neal took a five-month hiatus from Twitter, after saying he was focusing on his mental health after splitting from his husband earlier this year.
Having a popular celebrity speak out about the negative mental health aspects of spending substantial amounts of time immersed in an online world, has made many other people decide to undertake a digital detox.
If you think you’re spending too much time online and want to step back from the fast-paced world of social media, here are some top tips to help you switch off your phone without the fear of missing out.
Set achievable goals for social media
If you wake up and reach for your phone immediately – or stay up way past midnight scrolling your news feeds – you probably already know that you should cut down your screen time. But that’s easier said than done, right?
We’re not suggesting you go ‘cold turkey’, but instead, you should set modest goals and practice them every day until they become a habit. Experts believe it is helpful to create a calendar of times you can access social media, such as thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the evening. Allow yourself more time online at weekends when you are less rushed and in a more relaxed frame of mind, so scrolling feels less stressful.
Make your bedroom a ‘no-phone zone’
Using your phone in bed or sleeping next to your phone is a bad idea. The blue light that radiates from the screen can trick your brain into thinking it is still daytime and delay the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, keeping you awake long into the night.
If you also use your phone as an alarm clock, don’t use that as an excuse to keep your phone on your bedside cabinet overnight. Invest in a traditional alarm clock and use that instead.
Lastly, leaving your phone in another room at bedtime will mean you are not tempted to take a peek in the middle of the night if your device ‘pings’.
If reading has been ignored in favour of screen time, it’s time to rediscover the love of a good book. If you’ve not read a book for a while, then start following your favourite authors online and find out about their latest novels. Using social media in this way will help you ease back into reading, find some great recommendations and inspire you to pick up a paperback.
You don’t even need to buy the books – take a trip to your local library – you’ll have a wealth of reading material to choose from and you’ll be supporting a vital community asset too.
Turn off your notifications
Social media companies want us to spend our time on their platforms and use lots of techniques to help us stay hooked to our news feeds.
Many Brits feel that their popularity is measured in terms of ‘likes’ or comments on their posts – and if your latest update doesn’t prove popular it can cause stress. Scrolling your newsfeed becomes addictive as, by default, videos are set to auto-play, hooking us in and keeping us online. Set your videos to manual play – and you’ll be surprised how many more you will scroll past rather than watch.
Muting all your notifications can be very empowering. You wouldn’t expect to be interrupted ‘in real life’ by someone wanting to show you a cute cat video just as you were nodding off to sleep, so why let them intrude online? You won’t miss out – you’re just choosing to look at your news feed when it’s convenient and not every time your phone beeps.
Delete most social media apps
In 2020, the average person spent 145 minutes a day accessing social media. If you want to reduce the amount of time you spend scrolling, it makes sense to remove some social media apps.
Select the two platforms that bring you the most satisfaction – and delete the rest. If the apps are not on your phone – they won’t interrupt your daily life.
Many people feel relieved to have fewer online intrusions throughout the day, so if Twitter always leaves you feeling wound up and angry – delete it! You’ll be surprised at just how little you miss it after a few days – and how much more time you’ve freed up to do more things you genuinely enjoy.
Deleting other apps that you hardly use is a really useful exercise – it’s easy for our phones to become clogged up with apps that we never use. Be ruthless and often you’ll not miss the app at all – and if you find that you really can’t live without the app, the beauty of the online world is that you can simply reinstall it.
Not all screen time is toxic
Remember, not all screen time is bad. Many of us stay in touch with loved ones via social media and emails, and the Internet is a great tool for students – especially during the pandemic when home-schooling became ‘the norm’.
By assessing which elements of your online time make you feel stressed or unhappy, you can cut out the toxic stuff, concentrate on what you enjoy – and look up from your phone once in a while to explore the wonderful world out there.