Our relationship with technology has changed drastically in the last year alone.
Due to the pandemic, we’ve found that technology and online connections have become a way to bring us closer to others. I understand that this has impacted our lives in different ways.
When it comes to improving our relationship with technology, we most often think about how to spend less time on our phones. However, our relationship with technology can affect our mental well-being, our sense of worth, and the ability to create better boundaries for ourselves.
The negative effects of social media have been well documented, with even Facebook admitting that the platform may pose a risk to users’ emotional well-being.
A number of studies have found an association between social media use and depression, anxiety, sleep problems, eating issues, and increased suicide risk, warn researchers from the University of Melbourne’s National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, in an article on The Conversation.
This is why I feel very strongly about what we can do to make that relationship better. In this piece, I want to suggest five ways that you can improve your relationships with tech, whether it’s your phone, your laptop, or maybe your mindset and screen time.
One: a mindset shift
First I want to talk about mindset: you might be wondering why I am bringing up mindset first. I want you to understand that you are not a slave of technology – if you watched the ‘Social Dilemma’ on Netflix you might think that you are, and do not get me wrong, algorithms are playing a part in our consumption of apps.
However, that is not the whole picture. I want to first work on your mindset to understand what can you control when it comes to your relationship with technology.
What you can do to reclaim that focus, but also the choices that you want to make when it comes to the way that you interact with your devices.
This is incredibly important when it comes to getting started with implementing practical tips and rituals that can help you improve your relationship with technology.
If you completely let go of control and think that you are somehow at the mercy of your devices, then you will never feel like you can do something about it.
Let me tell you something. You have a lot more control than what you think. Just because right now technology seems the ‘enemy’ now, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t have other distractions available to us in the past. Unfortunately, technology does such a good job at it.
Before working on anything else, ask yourself, what can I control when it comes to the way that I use and interact with technology? Make sure that you write down a list of all the things you can think about to bring back some perspective to this point.
Two: build rituals
Create space in the mornings and the evenings and tap into rituals and to help you step away from your laptop and your phone.
I’d like for you to think about one simple ritual for the morning and one simple ritual for the evening. They can be the same, or they can be different.
Rituals are incredibly important when it comes to creating practices that will be substituting the mindless scrolling before bed. If you’re struggling, don’t worry. I will also make sure to cover a couple of practical things you can do to unlearn these patterns that might have built up over time. However, I love to encourage people to have at least one unique rewarding ritual they can bring to the table.
A morning example could be having your morning coffee and reading five pages of your favourite book, or doing a yoga practice.
In the evening, you could end the day with a warm shower, or even with a lovely bath. Think about rewards and habits as a way to step away from any triggers that might bring us back to technology, especially during crucial times where we struggle to have mental space to create better boundaries.
Three: setting boundaries
I want you to think about how you can create better boundaries when it comes to emails and online communication. This is a very wide conversation, so much so that it is a chapter in my upcoming book Reclaiming Your Time Off, and rightfully so.
It’s so hard to create better boundaries now that most of our communication happens online. However, it is possible. In this piece, I want to give you one piece of advice that I’ve seen working with members of our collective and clients alike.
Set regular times for you to check your emails and write a note on your signature or auto-responder to communicate that.
This is going to be a challenge for you at first, especially if you tend to build up FOMO with regards to your inbox.
Stop thinking about emails as messages, and look at them as letters. If you can reframe the way that you look at an email, you realise you are in charge of the expectations that you set.
How often you will check your inbox, how quickly you will reply to your emails? You will be surprised when our people quickly adapt to what you set for them. This can work for slack messages DMS on Instagram and anything in between.
You might have to repeat multiple times that you check your emails only twice a day, or that it may take you up to 24 hours to get back to an email. Once people understand, and you set those expectations, you will be able to reclaim that freedom.
Four: Spring clean
Clean up your social media. This might sound like an obvious step, but I thought it would be really important to also take some time to talk about your wellbeing as well as comparison, and mental health.
Especially on social media, we constantly see the “curated” life of other people, and it’s hard to discern from what is real and what is a curated version of our day-to-day experiences.
I would recommend being more mindful about who you follow and who you interact with. At the end of the day, your feed is your own space, and you want to cherish that. Whether that means going on an unfollow spree, or maybe just muting some people that are not making you feel good, it’s okay to clean up your online space.
How can you clean up your accounts? It’s all in the followers, believe it or not. Just like Marie Kondo would say “does this spark joy?”
Truth is, sometimes following some people can truly affect our self-esteem and how we see ourselves. In cases like this, a good clean up is in order.
Set aside a good hour to go through your feed, and scout any post that triggers uncomfortable feelings for you.
Change the way that you want to interact online, what you’re exposed to, and what you will see day to day as it can affect your mental well-being. You have control of the choice of what you’re going to see.
Five: hack your screen time
Some days willpower is just not enough, I get it. Especially if you’re struggling to create rituals and boundaries, you may need a little help.
I love using the iOS built-in “Screen Time” feature, as it allows me to block certain apps after a certain amount of hours of consumption to two or three hours a day.
Screen time allows you to set restrictions for your apps. You can restrict the use of all of your apps for some time every day or customise it for specific days.
You can also restrict a selected choice of apps, and only allow key apps such as messages, maps, etc.
I put this to the test after struggling with my morning routine for a while.
Instead of jumping into my morning meditation, I would spend thirty minutes in the black hole of scrolling. I, therefore, made sure that the first hour of my day I would only allow my meditation app, my meditation audio, and Pocket on my phone (as well as the basic apps such as maps and messages).
Why Pocket, you may ask? Because I love to spend my post-meditation and stretch time by reading interesting articles. Yet, instead of heading to a browser or Medium, I save all my interesting reads into Pocket with a tag Read later.
Having my coffee whilst reading the paper has never been sexier. I’ve been using Pocket for over five years now, yet not to this extent before.
Overall, creating a simple routine that does not require me guessing or thinking too much, as well as having most of my apps locked until 8 am has been what has helped me take any guessing out of the equation.
You can add apps to any Android phone to allow you to control your screen time, and even on different types of laptops and computers.
You can add extensions for your browsers, as well as apps that will help you maintain the focus, and just bring more awareness and control over your behaviours.
I hope the overall, this piece, gave you some practical and fun ideas to reclaim your relationship with technology and overall reclaim your time off. Multi-hyphen careers and remote working since Covid-19 have become the norm in our working culture. We need to understand how to juggle work and life coexisting in the same space, and how downtime is an essential part of productivity, in order to do that it’s key we learn how to relate with technology. For more inspiration on how to reclaim your time and navigate boundaries, check my upcoming book Reclaim your Time Off.
Where to find me
About your author
Fab Giovanetti is an award-winning entrepreneur, supporting people making a positive impact through their marketing. She is known as the founder of Creative Impact,a collective of hundreds of creatives making a positive impact on others and the planet. Through her community and her work at Alt Marketing School, she touched over 100,000 people from all over the world.
Her upcoming book, Reclaim your Time Off, is going to be out for Watkins Publishers on May 11th.
You can find out more about Fab and her business here.
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