By Victoria Libby Psy.D.
The tension we are experiencing right now with technology is profound. We have never needed it more to connect, to learn and to work, but the lack of separation we have from our screens is negatively impacting our sense of well-being and our ability to concentrate. More and more research is pointing to the increase in depression and anxiety in your our society being linked to social media and use of our phone in general. Some recent studies have even shown having your phone near when you aren’t using it can make you more anxious.
So how can we be intentional about our screen use so we reap the benefits and minimize the negatives? Create more boundaries around when we use screens and how. Here are some tips on phone use and social media.
Consider deleting the social media and news apps from your phone. I know, I know it sounds like too much, but you can look at them in your browser and you can always download the apps again easily. Doing this will allow you to be more thoughtful and intentional about when you use them instead of automatically scrolling through without meaning to.
Adjust how you use social media. Part of what’s bad about social media for our mental health is how it makes us feel. People often come away from checking social media feeling worse about themselves, and lonelier. What do you want to get out of social media? Take a moment the next time you are scrolling and take note of the feeds that bring you joy, spark creativity and action. Then notice the feeds that make you feel uneasy, sad or lonely. Make the decision to unfollow the feeds that produce those negative feelings. Look for things that will inspire you. A great example provided by Dr. Laurie Santos from Yale University is on twitter she follows #CovidKindness. It helps her to see the good that is happening even when we are being bombarded with all the negative things occurring in the world.
Consider a no screen hour before bed. Find a place to plug your phone preferably a few rooms away from you and leave it there for the night. You can program your phone to allow emergency calls from specific people. Here is a link on how: http://artoftheiphone.com/2012/09/25/tip-how-to-allow-some-contacts-to-still-call-you-when-the-iphones-do-not-disturb-mode-is-turned-on/
How to stick with less screen time. Write down a list and have available non-screen activities that make you feel good. So when you are stressed or bored and would normally reach for your phone you have some other ideas handy. Here are some examples:
- Have art supplies out and ready
- Exercise or meditate outside or do an exercise or meditation video
- Take a walk or hike with or without a friend
- Find some fun books or magazines to read non-school related
- Listen to a podcast or book
- Take a bath
- Learn a new skill (ex: wood working, refinishing, ceramics, jewelry making, guitar)
- Look into some board games to play with your roommates or family