Reducing Your Screen Time

Hello lovely readers,

How are we all doing? A quick update on me before we start: I’m now back home in Salisbury and I was meant to go back to work on Sunday, but on that morning my Mum’s partner, who lives with us, developed Covid-19 symptoms. Because I never got tested so we can’t be sure I’ve had it, I have to isolate with my family/household for the recommended 14 days. (Nearly wrote years then – it feels like 14 years!). My mood has been up and down – mostly down. But today I’ve had a bath, washed my hair and done some tidying so I feel a bit less useless. By the time this 14 days is over though, I’ll be chomping at the bit to finally be back at work!

It feels like there’s not a lot else to do in these times than be on our phones/tablets/laptops. Whether it’s messaging friends, scrolling social media or watching Netflix, we’re spending most of our time looking at a screen. I’ve become very aware of how much time I’ve spent, mostly on my phone, mindlessly switching from one social media app to the next and back again. I think I was pretty guilty of this anyway but under normal circumstances, I’d have work or uni or be meeting up with friends, and that would be screen free time. So during this time, I’m trying to make an effort to put the social media down and read a book or phone a friend instead.

We’ve developed an unhealthy reluctance to put our phones down, I feel. We live in an age where if your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner etc doesn’t text you back quick enough they must be talking to someone else or not be interested in you. I’m guilty of this pattern of thinking too. Especially now. I keep seeing posts, particularly on Twitter, saying things along the lines of:

‘We’re in lockdown, he’s got nothing else to do, if he ain’t texting you back, he’s not interested in you’. 

Of course, this isn’t remotely true. The person might be cooking a meal, taking a nap, or simply having some time away from their screens. If you’re starting to feel insecure about the reason someone isn’t texting you back, that’s probably a sign that you need to take a break from your phone. And it’s not just our private interactions (or lack thereof) with friends or family that can take a toll on our mental health. The internet can be a toxic place at times. You’ve got internet trolls who can’t find anything better to do than anonymously tear others down, you’ve celebrities and big brands creating adverts that make us feel insecure in order to flog products that will ‘fix’ our flaws, and right now a lot of the news is very upsetting. More than once, I’ve teared up at a news notification or become angry at someone on Facebook posting about how social distancing isn’t necessary if you take Vitamin C (NOT TRUE!).

I had a conversation about this with a friend the other day and when we ended the FaceTime call, I had a well-timed notification from my Headspace app. It said:

“As you pick up your phone to do anything, be clear in your intention. Do the thing and then put it away.”

As with breaking any habit, it can be easier said than done, but try and practice this tonight. I’ve had a think about some of the techniques I use to reduce my screen time and I’m sharing them here in the hopes that they’ll help you too:

  • Set time limits on your apps – if you have an iPhone, there’s a section under Settings, called Screen Time. You can see how much time you’ve spent on your phone in a given time period, but you can also set time limits for specific apps. When you’ve used up your chosen time, the app will be closed and you’ll get a message letting you know. You can override this if you choose to, and often I do if I’m in the middle of reading an article or watching an IGTV, but what’s great is that it makes you aware of how much time you’re spending and that once you’ve finished what you’re doing, it’s probably a good idea to put it down for a while.
  • Leave your phone on charge somewhere out of reach – I’ve been doing this a lot and found it really helpful. If I’m watching TV or reading, I don’t want to be constantly checking my phone or scrolling, but I don’t want to miss any important messages or phone calls either. So I’ll leave my phone on vibrate or on loud and then put it somewhere out of reach. This means I’ll hear it if it rings, and I can get up to answer, but I won’t be able to just absent-mindedly reach for it without a purpose.
  • Plug it into an iPod dock – in the age of Alexa and Bluetooth speakers, this one’s a little old fashioned, but if you still have an iPod dock, it’s worth trying. It’s similar to leaving it out of reach, except with this approach there’s a forfeit for going and checking your phone – if you pick it up from the dock, the music will stop! Are you really going to interrupt your favourite tunes just to scroll Twitter for 20 minutes or are you going to answer that text from your Mum and then put it straight back?
  • Set an alarm before scrolling – sometimes you are just in the mood for a mindless scroll, and that’s okay. You want to catch up with what’s been posted/tweeted/grammed and I can’t fault you for that. But when you pick up your phone for a scroll, trying setting an alarm or timer for what you feel is a reasonable amount of time to spend browsing the web. When the timer goes off, close your apps and move onto a different activity. This allows you to have a moment of mindless scrolling without getting carried away and realising too late that you’ve been at it for hours!

I hope you find some of these tips helpful, not just now but in ‘normal life’ too.

Take care and stay safe everybody. I’ll be back soon!

xx