Social media fatigue: How to unplug realistically

31 March 2017 - Mindful Practices

We’re hearing the phrase “technology/social media detox” more often now that people are starting to realise the benefits of unplugging. David M. Levy, author of Mindful Tech: How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives, writes that the 3 main benefits are an increase in productivity and focus, a better use of time and a greater reduction in stress.

However, as we view many articles and videos where people discuss their detox sessions, we find a few things in common.

1. Disconnecting entirely for an extended amount of time is painfully difficult and inconvenient.
2. We unplug during the detox session, and then plug right back in. Nothing much changes.
3. Observing ourselves as we grapple with our lack of connectivity teaches us valuable lessons about ourselves.

All in all, these detox exercises don’t seem particularly sustainable. Technology is undoubtedly very useful when we use it to our benefit. How then can we enjoy the benefits of disconnecting that Levy speaks of, yet live realistically and sustainably in this technology and social media-driven world?

1. Plug in with intention and be aware

In her essay ‘Using Social Media Mindfully’, Lori Deschene writes, “When we’re mindful, we’re aware of why we’re logging on, and we’re able to fully disconnect when we’ve followed through with our intention.”

She suggests several questions to ask yourself to understand how, why and when we use our technology:

• Will sharing this add value to my life and the lives of others?
• Can I share this experience later so I can focus on living now?
• Why am I doing this? Am I seeking validation? Am I feeling bored? Am I afraid of missing out? For mindless fun?
• Is doing this the best way to manage those feelings?

If you want to scroll through Facebook for “mindless fun”, for example, so be it. But Deschene recommends to be aware of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Once you are, you can decide if plugging in at that moment is the most meaningful option for you. If it is, engage with intention and purpose so that it doesn’t limit your life in any way.

2. Make meaningful connections

Deschene writes, “All of the most fulfilled people I know focus more on the quality of their connections than the quantity of them. With every meaningful, mutually beneficial engagement, we reinforce our self-esteem, our sense of belonging, and our sense of purpose, enabling more growth and connection.”

To do this, Deschene says, we need to challenge the worries that make us react compulsively (e.g. constantly checking the number of followers you have) instead of engaging meaningfully (e.g. maintaining authentic online connections).

3. “Don’t” versus “can’t”

If you’ve made a commitment to not check your phone while engaged in another task, Eric Barker, author of the site Barking Up the Wrong Tree, suggests saying “I don’t check my phone while doing my work” instead of “I can’t check my phone while doing my work”.

Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, writes, “The way human motivation works and the way human decision making works is that we do much better when it’s something that feels like it arises within us. We don’t like being told what we can or can’t do.”

4. Manage the way technology seeps into your life

• Simply remove your distractions when needed. Place your devices in another room when you’re focusing on a task, for example.
• If that isn’t possible because of the nature of your work/life, try switching off all non-essential notifications on your phone. That way, you can decide when and how often to be connected.
• Delete certain apps that you deem time-wasters, so that you’re less inclined to use them.
• Set an alarm (for 10 minutes, for example) when you’re taking a social media break so that you don’t slip into mindless browsing and later wonder where all that time has gone.

As Levy points out, there is no one right way to engage with our tech devices. Observing your current practices and noticing how you feel about them enables you to make the changes that suit you best.

What works best for you? Let us know at hello@mindful-company.com.

- The Mindful Company Team