I'm Always There! to I'm There - Part 2
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are mere personal experiences and not expert advice/life lessons by any means!
In the Part 1 of the series, I penned down the reasons why I was spending way too much time on the Internet. In this final part, I explain how I transitioned from always being online and connected to getting online only when I need it. Before we dive into some of the solutions I have found, here's a quick recap of the reasons why I used to spend so much time on the internet:
- Peer pressure/Necessity
- Staying connected became difficult
- Fear of missing out
- Uncontrollable Factors
Now that we have refreshed our memories, let's dive straight into some of the solutions I have used so far to tackle the problem.
I can't survive without it!: This is biggest change so far in my mindset that has helped me the most! Before I go and sign up for any new service or decide to spend time aimlessly scrolling through social media feeds I ask myself if it's something absolutely necessary for me to survive (may not be literal all the time!) or is it something that can justify the value of the time I spend on it. Most of the times, the answer for this question is a NO and thus I end up doing something more productive.
Cleansing: The more easy it is to access something the more easily we decide to use it and this is especially true for someone like me who is a bit lazy! So, I uninstalled all the social media apps and heck even my personal email app (I used to get distracted for every single mail that came and opened the app though 99% of time it was a just promotion mail) from my phone and only retained those which I knew I wont use much or it's absolutely needed. I did retain YouTube, LinkedIn and few other streaming apps as I would need them regularly for some post work entertainment but ended up putting them into the app library (thanks Apple for finally giving that feature in iOS!) so that I only see it when I search for it. Finally, I disabled all the notifications for any apps I have except for the critical ones like banking apps and calls and SMS of course. Since it takes multiple steps for me to get into any of my social media and other similar apps, I access them on my phone only when I absolutely need it.
I have also setup downtime on my phone during the night so that only important notifications get shown and most of the apps are blocked from using unless I explicitly allow it. This also serves as a gentle reminder for me to go to sleep than stare at the screen for some more time.
Though I don't have any of these social media, mail and other leisure apps on my phone, I do have them easily accessible on my computer as I do want to check them once or twice a day for the much needed refreshment during a hectic work day and to make sure I don't miss anything important!
If I can't get rid of it I will counter it: I had developed this bad habit of binging on YouTube videos and Instagram feed whenever I had free time and it proved futile when I just decided to stop using it suddenly. I just ended up getting back into the same routine in a few days. This made me remember the concept of counter habits I had read about and I got back into learning Spanish again on Duolingo whenever I feel like watching some videos or login to social media and their new Leagues feature also helped by giving a nudge to practice every day. I also made it a habit to read at least one engineering focused article daily and the newspaper as well. I also spend time listening to classical music I love and try to learn the lyrics and their meanings. This paired with my almost always hectic work leaves me with very little free time to binge on anything!
Become so busy that you won't remember it: Another strategy I have been adopting recently is to keep myself occupied with some chores at home or some side project on the weekend/whenever I have free time so that I don't even get the urge to use my phone or login to social media. There have been many days now when I have not even looked into my phone for many hours!
I have also kept a recurring whole day event on my phone's reminders app which has a constant notification displayed of the daily tasks I should do which serves me as a reminder to rather get those things done then spend my time on my phone whenever I pick it up.
Take it slow: Like so many things, the journey to reducing online time is a marathon and it's best to gradually reduce than to abruptly end everything in my opinion, mainly because anything we practice for a long time becomes a habit of sorts and sticks with us lot longer and gradually reducing does not make us feel that we are restricting something we loved to do thereby reducing the urge to get back into the old routine. To add more credibility to the long term approach, I did try to put time limits on apps in my phone but that just made me keep extending the limit or remove it altogether for the whole day and was not quite helpful.
Some resources that have helped me so far during the journey:
- Matt D'Avella on YouTube
- Ali Abdaal on YouTube
- Learnings from the book Life's Amazing Secrets
- The Social Dilemma on Netflix
- And of course the appalling stats of app usage/screen time on my phone which made me embark on this journey in the first place!
All that said, it has not been perfect for me always as I still find binging on YouTube occasionally and I also access social media on my computer more times than I like when I'm anxious or so tired that I can't get the motivation to do anything productive. But, as I said, it's a marathon and I'm definitely happy with the progress I have made so far. As an example, from spending close to an hour on Instagram daily, I spend 5-10 minutes now and I open my mail only twice a day for not more than 2 minutes each time. I will try to document more ways I can reduce time online as I adopt it and test it in my daily life.
I'm excited to hear your take on the topic of digital detoxing and what ways you have adopted to achieve this. You can reach out to me via any of these mediums: