Keeping sane in a digital world

*When I speak about digital, I am referring to social media and being online, not digital as in photography, videography, e-books, music, etc.

It’s 9 pm in the evening, you’ve eaten dinner, the dishes are done, you’ve had a shower and now you want to be “digital free” for the rest of the night. You sit down on the couch to carry on watching your latest series binge on Netflix – there’s the first mistake. Within 10 minutes, your phone is back in your hand and you’re half-watching Making a Murderer while at the same time holding your phone on your chest and double-chin giggling at a compilation video of people falling off slides or doing bread to toaster trick shots.

Digital technology has come far in the last 20 years, and at an even more rapid pace in the last 5 years. We’ve gone from boomboxes to walkmans, to iPhones, and Bluetooth in the space of what seems a few years. We have laptops, and phones, and technology that can make us closer than ever before – yet everyone seems so distant. It is incredible.

There’s a trend going around of how to be “digital free” and some people have one day a week of no technology, some try to be off their phones after a certain time in the day, and others go off-grid on the weekend. When did it become so bad, that we needed to set boundaries for ourselves? Digital addiction is very real. A constant need for gratification from complete strangers, wanting to make sure you see the latest post from one of the Jenners, to making sure you watch peoples stories to try and feel apart of their life or to try to make your life seem more interesting. It’s a dangerous world we live in (or pretend to live in).

We are connected, yet also disconnected, we are so close together, yet so distant in reality.

We’ve reached the stage where a beautiful sunset still needs filters. One thing the digital generation is good at is using digital media to create – we have possibly become the most creative generation with the tools in our pockets. Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Photoshop, Canva, GoPro, and more. More on this is that we have also become very good at using digital media to create change – from social engagement about mental health, to hashtag movements, and environmental protests, all building momentum on social media. We also use it to teach ourselves, learn about certain topics, and gain inspiration. So, it’s not all bad.

digital addiction

But, we all still want a break. I’ve been reading up about this “digital addiction” lately, and some tips or ideas I came up with are the following:

Tips for Staying Sane in a Digital World:

Starting the day without digital

Waking in 2019, most people have an alarm on their phone, unless you are the very few people who have a “body clock” (still figuring out what the f that means) who wake up at sparrows fart and don’t even need a coffee. The issue with having an alarm on your phone, is that the first thing you grab when you wake up, is your phone – and if you don’t hit (or swipe) to snooze, then you probably drag it off the counter, and blind yourself with the brightness of the screen, and scroll for 30 minutes before begrudgingly getting up.

Instead, put your phone in a different room, or far from the bed, once it goes off you’ll have to get up and walk to put the alarm off. Morning routines are what sets up our days – if you wake up slowly (like I do 96% of the time) your day normally goes slowly. My ideal routine would be waking up, stretching for 15 minutes, meditating on the day ahead, writing my day in a journal, reading a few pages of my book, maybe going for a run or a swim, and then having a smoothie or some toast, while having a conversation with my girlfriend and discussing our plans for the day.

Be aware of the urge

How many times do we find ourselves waiting in a line, or waiting a few minutes for someone to show up at a restaurant, and immediately grabbing our phones to as a reflex? Not everyone does it, but the majority of us do. Those in-between moments should be spent reflecting, people watching, and just trying to stay present. Most of us are even guilty of leaving our phones on the table during dinner, and most of us probably sweat a bit, get itchy, and glance at it like that last piece of biltong nobody is brave enough to eat. You just want to grab it and get your fix.

Don’t be that guy. It’s just, rude.

Simply separate your life

A lot of workspaces are becoming more and more flexible. Do you want to work from home until 12 pm? Sure. Do you need to go to the doctor at 2 pm? Sure. Want to work from a beach in the Bahamas? Maybe. The issue with flexible time is that we often then don’t know when to go offline, and find ourselves checking work email, Slack groups, or speaking about work, after hours or over the weekend. A simple solution is to either have a work laptop, and a personal laptop, or only utilise certain apps during working hours. That email that was sent to you on Friday at 6 pm can wait for Monday morning, probably.

Ah, the present, be it or in it

The Zen Habit is a good place to start if you need to have some sort of idea of this newfound term, “being present”, means. As it says, most problems are just in the mind, saying that dishes or doing the laundry is the issue, is bullshit – those are tasks that basically everyone does, unless you are a multi-millionaire and pay others to do that, or you’re dirty. Being present is a choice, if something interrupts your day, just focus on that for a bit and it’ll probably go away quicker and easier than if you ignored it.

Another good read is Becoming Minimilsts 10 tips to being in the present. I think the ones that resonate with me are: don’t dwell on past accomplishments, remove unneeded possessions, and dream about the future, but work hard today.

A lot of us dwell on actions we did well in when we were younger, like playing a first-team sport, or being fitter, or getting good grades, but those things don’t matter anymore, so stop trying to make them matter when you are standing at the office coffee machine at 8 am in the morning.

Get rid of things you don’t need, from clothing, tech, etc. Even if it’s a person. Don’t get rid of them, just stop caring what they think, or giving effort into a “friendship” that is one-sided.

Don’t stop when you fail

Oh no, you looked at your phone when you said no tech Thursdays, or when you said no phones after 8 pm on Wednesdays. Now don’t go and spend the whole day on your phone because you checked a pop-up notification from 9 Gag. Just put it away, and carry on living.

You won’t get it right for a while, and that’s okay. But the more you are aware of keeping sane in this digital world, the more you will stay sane.

What’s your method for keeping off digital?

Cheers,

M

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