This is not a typical teacher post. However, with the huge push towards digital “everything” as a result of the pandemic, I imagine other teachers are also feeling what I have been feeling lately. I have begun to question my digital media consumption. I’ve come to the realization that while I love technology and social media, it really isn’t healthy in the amounts that many of us consume it. A while back, I watched a short documentary about how the digital tools that we use are designed to compete for our attention, and everything about the design and user experience is purposefully addicting. Things like the infinite scroll and the red, circular notifications are intentionally designed to illicit a dopamine release.
Personally, I feel like I need to take back control of my attention. Here are the adjustments that I made that resulted in 61% less screen time on my phone this past week.
- Remove all social media apps
- Remove all news apps
- Remove email app
- Remove all apps that aren’t used on a daily basis
- Turn off notifications for all apps
- Turn off the phone at night (like actually power it off – it took me a few tries to figure out how to turn my phone off!) and leave it in the kitchen
By removing the social media and email apps from my phone, I now have to make a deliberate, conscious decision to devote attention towards social media and email. I schedule a time out of my day to access social media and email from my desktop, and I only do this during work hours. (My social media is 100% work-related.)
I removed the news apps because I found myself consuming news — even just headlines — several times a day. That is not healthy. I have not checked the news in a week, and let me tell you, it feels pretty dang amazing to not hear about how it’s the end of the world everyday.
Turn off notifications. This is something I actually did long ago, but sometimes they start to creep back in. Go to your settings and turn them all off every couple of weeks. I even turned off my text notifications. Now, my phone will vibrate once if I get a text, but it will not light up my screen or flash across the top. I also have “repeat alerts” turned off for texts. I’ll get to it when I get to it.
Turning off my phone and leaving it in the kitchen overnight is huge for me. A lot of the times, I can’t fall asleep because I have too much on my mind. So what do I do? Browse social media, make to-do lists on my phone, or even answer emails. UGH. I don’t need to be productive or have my mind occupied at all hours of the day.
- Leave all the groups!!!
- Unfollow people who overshare
- Post more intentionally
- Only check from a desktop during the day
THE GROUPS. It’s out of control. I was a member of way too many Facebook groups. Countless teaching groups, neighborhood groups, groups from my former neighborhood (why?!), hobby groups, groups run by brands to support their products…the list goes on. I left many of these groups shortly after the COVID shutdown because it seemed like there was 10x more posting going on. For the ones I remained a member of, I turned off the “following” feature. I no longer see group content in my news feed. Yep, I even turned off notifications for the 9 Facebook groups that I personally admin. I’ll check them on my own time. I also unfollowed people/friends who seem to post either too much or who post about all the horrible things in the world that I don’t want to see in my free time.
Making it a point to post more intentionally is important for those trying to detox. Plan out your posts if you want to continue posting on your social platforms. Don’t post on a whim. You know why? Because then everything in your life becomes a potential opportunity for a post. People keep their phones in hand ready to snap a picture at any given moment. Just put it away and focus on what’s in front of you. Personally, pretty much all my posts are business-related, with a sprinkle of my personal life (usually in Instagram stories). My posts are crafted and scheduled through an automatic software, so I am not actually sitting there posting every day or trying to look for things that are post-worthy. Do people sometimes see recycled posts from me? Yes. Are my posts “genuinely in the moment”? No. Who cares, though?
Because I deleted all social apps from my phone, I now have to access them through my clunky desktop. It’s inconveniencing, which is the point. I don’t really want to spend time on social media on my computer. I get on, respond to messages, and get off. And I don’t do this in the evenings in between dinner and bath time, or at night when I’m trying to fall asleep, because it’s not as simple as just picking up my phone.
- Go on an “unsubscribe” spree
- Only check from desktop during work hours
- Only respond during work hours (even personal emails)
Lately I’ve been taking the time each day to unsubscribe from emails instead of just quickly deleting them. I want my email to reflect the kind of information I CHOOSE to receive. There are WAY too many emails from places I’ve bought one thing from and somehow ended up on all their different marketing lists. Look for the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the emails. And that goes for MY emails, too! If you don’t want to see Markers and Minions pop up in your inbox, unsubscribe. It’s not personal and it’s not the end of the world. It’s also not hard to re-subscribe to something or someone if you decide you want to receive emails again.
I know that none of this solves the bigger problem at hand — that these products exist with the sole intention of keeping you “using,” but making these simple adjustments does help you manage your own attention a little bit better. And if you have kids in the house like I do, they’re watching and learning from you. We owe it to ourselves and to them to model how to manage an addiction that is constantly trying to creep back in. And notice how I said “manage” and not “break.” This detox thing comes in waves and we will always have to keep fighting to take back our attention. Let’s do it!