I never thought I would be writing an article about disconnecting from technology.
I’ve been addicted to tech for over 20 years. I started coding websites back in 1994/1995 (I think 1995; my Mom says 1994). I got my first paying website client in 1999.
I used to own a web design and digital marketing agency.
Hell, I still design and sell feminine WordPress themes.
But, over the last few years — and the last 9 months in particular — I have really come to feel like technology for all the good it does, also does quite a bit of harm.
Over the last few years, I have really come to see how the internet — particularly news sites and social media — can be harmful and sometimes downright toxic.
So harmful, in fact, that I now limit my time on social media to 20 minutes a day, and I stopped following the news all together.
The result of these two actions is that I am so much more joyful and less anxious than I was when the year began. (Even before the pandemic hit!)
You may be thinking, “Well, that’s great for you, but I work online.” And to that I say…
Yes, I still wait tables at a diner part-time, but otherwise, I work online blogging, podcasting, and designing and selling WordPress themes.
While it certainly takes self-discipline to reduce screen time and detox from the craziness, it’s 100% doable.
The Benefits of Reducing Screen Time
Reducing your screen time isn’t just about keeping your eyes from looking at the screen.
It’s also about being more mindful of how you use your devices and the internet in general.
Notifications and alerts, coupled with apps that are designed to keep us tapping and swiping, mess with our brains.
My quest to reduce my screen time really began with my disdain for Facebook.
I am outraged at all the numerous privacy violations plaguing Facebook. So much so that even while I was on Facebook for over a decade, and even though I had an active and thriving fan page with nearly 60k fans, I deleted Facebook. (You can read more about why here on my personal blog.)
I became disillusioned a long time ago, and became extremely pissed when Cambridge Analytica happened, but I couldn’t delete Facebook because I needed it for work and personal relationships (or so I told myself).
But, I eventually did delete Facebook, and my life didn’t fall apart like I felt like it would. In fact, in a lot of ways it got better.
Benefits of Deleting Facebook
There are numerous benefits to deleting Facebook. I personally experienced:
- Reduced anxiety.
- Reduced anger.
- Reduced time online in general.
- Increased time offline with family and friends.
- Increased happiness.
- Increased self-esteem.
And I am apparently not alone.
According to a 2019 study from researchers at Stanford University and New York University, “deactivation caused small but significant improvements in well-being, and in particular on self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety,”
The same researchers concluded, “not using Facebook reduced online activity, including other social media use, and increased offline activity such as watching television and socializing with friends and family more.”
Be warned: Deleting Facebook was rough. It may not be for you, but for the first week I was going through withdrawal. I quit vaping nicotine earlier this year, too, and it was harder to quit Facebook. Now that I’m on the other side of deletion, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted.
How to Get Off of Facebook
If you’re anything like me or my friends, the idea of deleting Facebook is foreign to you. You can’t imagine your life without this platform through which you documented romance and heartache, successes and defeats, triumphs and failures.
In fact, you may be compelled to check Facebook throughout the day out of boredom or restlessness. I know the majority of my time on Facebook was out of boredom.
First, make sure it’s annoying to get on Facebook. Delete the app. Logout when you browse via your computer. Make it more tedious for you to use Facebook, and you will use it a little bit less.
Second, educate yourself about how harmful Facebook is to society (and our democracy at large), and learn more about the benefits of deleting Facebook.
Once you truly understand how toxic and dangerous Facebook is, you’re probably going to want to delete it, too.
Start by reading these articles and studies:
- Quartz: What it’s like to quit Facebook
- Ysmay: Why I deleted Facebook
- Basecamp: Becoming a Facebook Free Business
- CNN: The NSA mines Facebook data, including Americans’ profiles.
- Pace Law Review: Facebook Revolutionised Online Government Surveillance
Click here for a larger list of articles and studies.
Stop Watching The News
This sounds counter-intuitive.
After all, we live in a crazy world, and it’s incumbent upon all of us grownups to stay apprised of current affairs, right?
Unfortunately, the news is sensationalised. Media outlets — and social media platforms — have an incentive in presenting us with bad, sensationalised news.
From my years as a digital marketer, I understood on an intellectual level that news is sensationalised, and there’s an ulterior motive behind the practice.
But emotionally? Whenever I would see a sensational headline, I would still click, and I would still be drawn in.
While sensationalised headlines are nothing new, there certainly does seem to be more of them this year. (I’m not sure if this is fact, or just what it feels like. I’m trying to find the data.)
Sensationalised news has a profound impact on our mental health, our fear, and our ability to process these emotions. Cognitive psychologist Stephen Pinker wrote an op-ed for The Guardian back in 2018 about exactly this.
“Consumers of negative news, not surprisingly, become glum: a recent literature review cited ‘misperception of risk, anxiety, lower mood levels, learned helplessness, contempt and hostility towards others, desensitization, and in some cases, … complete avoidance of the news.'” (Which is where I’m at: complete avoidance.)
The problem, of course, is there is substantial money to be made when news stories are negative.
We live in a digital world, and news companies make money online through ads and paywalls. We share a story that’s negative because we feel like we are warning those we share the story with.
We are doing our duty as a good human to warn others of whats going on. The news companies benefit from these shares when we watch more ads, or decide to sign up for a monthly subscription.
Even though I know news is sensationalised for a reason, I am still a human, and I still feel extremely emotional based on the news that I see.
When I feel negative, I stop eating right. I don’t sleep as well. I drink more alcohol, and I am a lot less pleasant to be around.
To save my sanity — and that of those around me — I simply stop paying attention to the news.
If there’s anything terribly important for me to know, someone will tell me.
Find Positive and Helpful Online Activities
Weirdly, Reddit has become one of my favourite places to hang out. Reddit has a bad reputation for being an online cesspool, but I have found it really depends on the sub-reddits you spend your time in.
The popular and political subs are pretty awful, but there are several that are quite positive, and have helped me quite a bit with this whole disconnecting and slowing down thing.
I absolutely adore these subs:
This reddit is all about spending less mindless and wasteful time on the internet, and actually doing something productive with your internet time.
Here are a few of my favourite NoSurf posts.
The Stoicism subreddit is a forum for discussion of Stoicism, the school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens, Greece, in the 3rd century BC.
Stoics believe the path to happiness is accepting each moment as it comes and not being controlled by your desire for pleasure or your fear of pain. There are actually a lot of overlaps between Buddhist teachings and Stoic teachings.
Here’s a few of my favourite posts.
Simple Living is a subreddit that is dedicated to breaking free of the work/spend/borrow cycle in order to live more fully, sustainably, and cooperatively.
This really resonates with me, as in the last several months I have felt my life is too complex, and too overwhelming to be a life well-lived.
Here are some of my favourite posts.
Reducing your screentime has many benefits, and isn’t as hard to do as you might think once you take a few steps to get started. There are lots of ways to get started reducing your screentime, but I have found these tips to be the most helpful. They really helped me break my technology addiction.
Have you been struggling with tech addiction or did you break free? Leave me a comment and share your journey. I’d love to hear about it. 🙂