Before I started blogging I had a fairly limited relationship with social media. I had a Facebook account, and later an Instagram one, but no idea about Pinterest or any understanding or interest in Twitter (truth be told: still don’t 😉 ).
When I started blogging two years ago though, I became a lot more involved with social media, and in particular, Instagram. If I didn’t use social media to share my blogs, to be honest, no one except myself and my Mum would ever know 🙂 . If I’m being truthful, I like people reading my writing, and keeping up with social media is certainly a route to that. But for me personally, too much time spent immersed in technology never leads to anything positive, or particularly healthy with regards to mental health.
Up until about a year ago, my daily routine was to get up, have a cuppa and enjoy a few minutes of scrolling through emails and social media. At the time I thought this was my me-time, a relaxing interlude before everyone got up and I started off my day. It wasn’t so much the time I was spending on my phone (I’d say my usage was really pretty average) – it was the way I was using it. Before the kids had even got off to school, my mind was brimming with all the captions, to-do lists and imagery I’d been hurriedly trying to absorb.
So about this time last year, I set up a few rules for myself in terms of phone use and social media. I decided I wouldn’t use my phone until after 9am on weekdays, and for at least an hour or two after waking at other times. I also banned myself from using it after my evening meal (bar replying to the odd What’s App, or text message). The result? I felt clear-headed, I felt happier, and most importantly I started my day without that sense of mental overload. Crucially, I think, I was setting my own rules instead of allowing my day to be dictated by what was happening inside the confines of my phone.
Over the last few months, I’ve tried to do more and more to reduce my overall screen time. Partly for my own wellbeing, and partly so that my kids see life doesn’t have to be constantly appended by a phone. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and keeping up with people on social media, but for me it’s about balancing things. Using and enjoying technology in a way that adds something useful, meaningful and helpful to our lives.
Even with all that, a recent addition to my phone settings highlights I still have a bit of work to do. I now have a ‘screen time’ option on my mobile garnered through a recent update (available via settings, to the best of my knowledge on iPhone 5S models and above). This allows me to see how much time I spend daily on my phone and also set up certain restrictions, like ‘downtime’ between my chosen times of 7pm and 9am, when screen time is limited (unless I enter a passcode). I’ve also chosen to set a time limit for certain apps – for example, I allow 30 minutes daily on social media (that’s Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest etc. combined). Once that time runs out, I get a notification and, you’ve guessed it, have to enter a passcode if I want to continue. None of this stops you from ignoring the message if you really want to – but it does give you a nudge to consciously think for a moment about the time you’ve already
wasted spent and whether your next half hour could be better served by doing something else.
I use my phone for a lot of things (who doesn’t these days?) – it’s my camera, my message centre, a scanner for work documents, a place to look up words in the thesaurus, the place where all my favourite recipes are stored. But I was still surprised to see that I was averaging over one hour a day on it (even more worrying is the page that shows you how many times you pick it up on a daily basis – an eye opener for sure.) And of course, I still run up hours of other screen time just writing on my laptop. I have to wonder sometimes if an excess of technology is now just an inextricable part of modern life.
But knowledge and awareness are powerful, aren’t they, and these days, instead of reaching for my phone in the morning I start the day by writing my morning pages, doing some yoga and perhaps saying some affirmations while the breakfast is getting ready. Small antidotes to the technological onslaught. A bit of mental decluttering before the business of the day begins.
And those notifications? I find them helpful. A prompt to remind me that in my next 30 minutes I could read a book, take a walk, write some words in my novel or (on a good day), perhaps even manage a 5K run around the park. A reminder that while being connected is good, living real life is always better.
And do you know what else that serves to remind me?
The simple fact that my time belongs to me.
Do you have any personal rules or restrictions around phone use, or would you like to reduce your screen time? Perhaps you’re perfectly happy with the amount of time you spend on your mobile. I’d love to know your thoughts!