It’s happened to us all at some point or another. The addiciton to social media. One minute you’re doing a quick Facebook check, the next, three hours have passed and you’re deep in a friend’s online photo album, wondering where the time has gone. No wonder there aren’t enough hours in the day and we feel permanently frazzled.
Fiona Wright asks digital-detox expert Frances Booth, author of The Distraction Trap – How to Focus in a Digital World, how to get on top of e-mails and social media, deepen your concentration, and get your (non-digital) life in balance.
Why are we so in love with social media?
Social media is incredibly seductive. It gives us a great reward (information and stimulation) for very little effort but, unlike television, you’re an active participant, and it allows you to skip what bores you and zone in on what gives you a buzz. But it can mean that you have fewer real-time conversations with friends and family, and less time for experiences. Plus, it doesn’t take much for all that on-screen buzz to tip over into a feeling of stress, and the sheer time you spend online can throw your life off balance.
Here’s how to manage your social media sessions better…
Know your triggers
For most of us, boredom is a key reason to go online. Procrastination is a big trigger at work. It’s far easier to check e-mails than to tackle a tough report. There’s also an easy blurring between your private life and work. Friends e-mailing you at work with a tantalising piece of gossip and a link to a picture on social media, or seeing your phone light up with a Twitter notification, is hard to resist.
Make some rules
Halve the number of times in a day you check personal e-mails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Cut down to just twice a day, if you can. At work, keep your phone in your bag. Away from work, learning a meditation or mindfulness technique can help you focus.
Plan a digital detox
Like a little screen-free time? If your work is screen-based, maybe having two days of no tech will free up time, and it’s far easier and more realistic than trying to go low tech for the whole week. You’ll still return to a mass of messages, but a break from the screen reminds us how pleasant life can be without constant updates and demands for our attention.
Switch off your phone, tablet and laptop, and put them in a drawer. Depending on your habit, this can be uncomfortable, and will leave you feeling edgy and as if something’s missing. But, the more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more you can focus on what’s really important.
Now set some boundaries
No one is suggesting that you do without e-mails and social media all the time, so when you do go back to it, implement rules to stop surfing aimlessly. Start by deciding to stay off social media when you’re in the bathroom or bedroom, and during meals. The idea is to start to manage your day much more effectively, extend the periods of time where you’re not distracted so you can get three or four times the amount done, and increase your quality of life.
Swap virtual for real
Pick up the phone to say “happy birthday” instead of just writing a wall post. Start collecting cards and post one to a friend instead of just tweeting. Old-fashioned habits have become rather special in our virtual world!
Time for a digital spring clean
Note how you felt after your two-day detox and how much more you got done. Make it a new rule never to get bogged down again. Keep your social media sites clean, and the time you spend on them to a minimum. Train people to respect your digital boundaries, and encourage them to detox too, so that you don’t eat into each other’s time so much!
By Fiona Wright