How to manage our Online time or Screen Time
This post is the first in a series regarding Mental Health, in this case focusing on the time we are connected to the internet or screens, that is, on mobile devices or the outside world. First of all, I want to distinguish two types of network time. We have to manage two periods of time on a day-to-day basis: our network time with our family, which currently if they are not physically present with us, is the time when we are calling, exchanging messages, and making video calls. And we also have our screen time or time dedicated to screens where we are connected to an antenna somewhere and we are doing activities that do not involve direct interaction with other people.
Manage our screen time: Communicate with who we love
At this point it is important to define a routine for ourselves, if for example our friends or family are on telework, it is important not to disturb them during office hours. Just as we would not stop in the middle of our work session to call our parents for example and talk for long minutes unless there was something urgent.
Creating a conversation routine with our friends and family is positive, send messages, or make regular calls and set a time period for this same activity. This gives structure to our day and avoids anxiety in waiting for answers or an excessive dependence on our mobile devices. Which can be a source of distraction when we are in the middle of other tasks.
For me to gain control of the mobile phone I place it in the desk drawer or else on the desk that is no directly under my nose, if I can out of immediate sight while I’m working, sometimes just to simply place the phone facing down, screen down I mean helps.
How to manage our Online time: Connected to the screens
One of the most important things today to aid our mental health is undoubtedly to police our time online or near a screen.
We must take care of our mental health and one of the greatest and best steps to do so is to be in control, as much as possible, of what comes into our heads. Examples of things we do that harm us:
• Follow people on social media who give us or make us feel negative feelings;
• Actively look for news or articles on topics that bother us or cause us stress;
• Actively visit websites of online stores when we don’t have something specific in mind or a real need;
• Having devices ON when we try to focus on activities we are doing, such as reading a book with the TV on or playing a game and having music in the background.
These are 4 key points that we must and can control. For example, if we recently left a relationship or if there is a particular Social profile that does not influence us in a positive way, this will definitely be an account or user that we should reflect on. Do I have more disadvantages or advantages in following these people or users?
Effective ways to control our networks:
• Turn off notifications for applications or new content from people we follow;
• Do unfollow or ask not to follow a person or profile, without removing our connection;
• Set a specific time to view or consult certain websites. For example, youtube on the APP itself allows you to create notifications after X minutes to let us know (it is customizable);
• Create friction between us and what hurts us.
Creating friction between us and the actions that harm us is the best course of action. For example if shopping online or browsing for hours on apps from stores like AliExpress, E-bay or Amazon is our addiction. Uninstalling the applications and removing our payment details can help. When we check out, always opt for longer and harder routes, this is because in an impulse purchase if it involves confirming our address, validating the credit card, and before all this installs the app we gain time to think. Is this exactly product or thing that we need? Is this a good purchase right now? Possibly out of laziness we will even postpone the purchase and we will end up forgetting about it. For me best life-hack have is the wishlist section, my notifications are off and things just hang there. I eventually forgot and never purchase them.
Another example is if, for example, following celebrities and certain news channels causes us stress, why not unfollow everyone, and every time we want to actively go to the profile/account/website to check the news? We will only check a few and be more in control!
Dealing with Digital Stress: COVID-19
Explaining my current situation a little, I have been on telework for a couple of weeks now and one of the things that has caused me the most stress for many years is news. In my particular case, it was by my own choice that I’ve keep always at bay, meaning at a certain distance from news programs or structured ways of receiving news, I don’t usually listen to any specific radio program or news channel for that very reason. Because on normal days, people’s common news and actions disturb me and affect my mental health.
Taking this into account when working for the past 2 weeks in an office with several other people who do not have the same stress or anxiety caused by the news, it was a challenging period. From moment to moment there were people sharing news, giving statistics and talking about people infected and sharing close distressing situations that, for me, had the same impact as consuming news constantly.
Right now, working from home, I can manage the information again and what disturbs me, I check the news once or twice at most and at my pace. Having this control over what surrounds me greatly improves my mental health. Using @allboheme’s Instagram where I have a curated list of people that I follow also helps me to better manage my stress.
And how have you been with this Pandemic situation? Do you feel you can manage your network time in a positive way?