During the New Year holidays, there were many announcements on social networks about leaving them. Post after post announced that people were logging out to «have a good time» in the real world, or leaving the platforms altogether. Meanwhile, many of us are in a borderline state. More and more sick from the endless tape, while the desire to view it becomes more and more. I seem to have uninstalled and reinstalled Instagram more often in the last month than I have posted on it. But there is another way. In her new book Screen Time, published a few weeks ago, tech journalist Becca Caddy delves into the science of mental and physical health, echo chambers, and data security, filtering our good, bad, and terrible tech habits through a filter of gentle pragmatism. Nomophobes — those who are afraid of being disconnected — do not need to panic: everything described below will not make you want to throw your phone into the sea, but rather encourage you to gently pet it and promise to treat it better.
An echo chamber is a situation in which beliefs and ideas become stronger due to their transmission and repetition within a closed system (political party, interest club, subcultural movement). At the same time, such messages drown out other similar and alternative information flows. In other words, any statements do not lead to controversy, but to assent and support of like-minded people. People who are in such a «closed» system create messages, listen to themselves and agree with themselves. This closed system does not include information from any third-party sources.
“I want to offer an alternative point of view from the already existing advice about “digital detox” and “no mobile devices,” Caddy tells me. “Playing hide-and-seek with your phone, rolling back to a previous firmware, or deleting apps can only provide short-term relief and lead to even more overuse.” Besides, it’s not all bad. “We need to care about what technology is providing us and how it enhances our ability to participate in life and enjoy the world,” she says. “Reaching for your phone to distract yourself or chat is a welcome consolation, especially if the events of the past year have left you feeling isolated.” This brings relief to those of us who can’t stop scrolling while sitting on the toilet. Worried that a strict digital detox will lead to subsequent dopamine binge eating? We tell you how to find the golden mean instead.
Screen Time book by Becca Caddy
Find an alternative
If you find it difficult to survive a complete technical break, that’s okay. “The research is more about focusing your attention on organizing your newsfeed and online time so that you end up feeling better,” says Becca. “Removing something just leaves an empty space – you need to replace the deleted thing with another activity, something more suitable for you.” It could be tried and tested options: going for a walk, reading a book, taking a bath… But there is a risk that you will get stuck in a mobile game, start sending a rambling voice message to your best friend, or change all your subscriptions to cats and seals. After I uninstalled Twitter and reinstalled Pinterest, the space in my brain that used to be filled with evil provocations is now decorated with twisted candles. Not Proust, of course, but also suitable.
Hide less, like more
We encourage you to interact with content, not be a passive observer. While numerous studies have linked mindless tape scrolling to poor overall well-being, it turns out that the opposite is true when we are actively involved in the process. “People are happier and less likely to feel the negative effects of their time online when they take on a more active role by commenting, liking, sharing and messaging,” explains Caddy. Your new motto: «Hiding less, liking more.»
Replace the word «addiction» with a set of habits
Many characterize the relationship of mankind with gadgets with the term “addiction”, and this word can plunge anyone into impotence. “I encourage people to treat their tech addictions as habits,” Caddy says. There are many ways to learn about your habits and start changing them. Something as simple as a reminder sticker on your computer can get you going for a regular walk, and the right word on your phone screen saver reminds you to check your to-do list.” Habits are made up of three parts: cue, routine, and reward. Identify your signals, and you can start changing the “routine” part if you get an equal or even greater reward as a result. Thus, the chain «I’m bored — I scroll through the Instagram feed — I feel less bored for a moment» can turn into «I’m bored — I review the dance program of Harry Styles and Phoebe Waller-Bridge — I briefly become less bored and my mood is lifted.»
Turn off notifications
Each new flicker on the screen can create a false sense of urgency, but completely turning off notifications can make you check your phone more often for fear of missing out. Instead, leave the notifications that give you a boost and turn off the rest. «Turn off notifications for apps that don’t connect you to other people,» Caddy suggests. “So, a fitness app that tells you to go and do squats is far less satisfying than a new direct message.” She also recommends turning off notifications for likes and followings so you don’t get distracted by them when you’re on a phone call: upset you four times more than you think.» Although it’s always nice to see that your ex’s cousin’s dog is doing well.
Create an emergency kit
Panic stories about the dangers of various gadgets have made many of us feel like we are constantly playing a game of sheep and wolf with our phone, when just picking it up immediately means losing. Instead of thinking that time spent on devices = bad and time spent meditating = good, Caddy suggests creating an “emotion management toolbox” on your phone that you can access in times of stress. “Think of it as an emergency first aid kit,” the expert explains. “It could include things like soothing playlists, mood podcasts, uplifting Pinterest boards, or streaming that you enjoy watching. Arm yourself with what makes you feel your best when you need it most.” If there is an ideal time for the victory of feelings over self-flagellation, then it has come right now.
The material was first published on BURO London January 12, 2021