Ways to have a health­ier re­la­tion­ship with your de­vices

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Success - By Jeff Ber­covici

I| n a Pew Re­search Poll con­ducted last sum­mer, 47 per­cent of U.S. Face­book users ages 18 to 29 said they had dis­con­tin­ued us­ing the ser­vice for sev­eral weeks or longer at some point in the pre­vi­ous year.

Mean­while, in a study in PLOS One, Kenyon Col­lege re­searchers found that col­lege stu­dents said they would re­quire an av­er­age of $1,000 in ex­change for giv­ing up their Face­book ac­counts for a year.

It seems we have com­pli­cated feel­ings about our so­cial me­dia habits.

We love our tech­nol­ogy, but we also re­sent it. It comes into our lives and makes things smoother and eas­ier, but it also changes us in ways we of­ten don’t an­tic­i­pate and don’t like. By the time we be­come aware of those changes, though, it’s too late, or at least it feels as though it’s too late. Go­ing back to a life be­fore Face­book, In­sta­gram, con­stant email up­dates, text mes­sag­ing, etc., seems unimag­in­able.

Of course, we don’t want to get rid of all tech­nol­ogy, and we need to see work emails, but many of us crave a health­ier re­la­tion­ship with our tech. The new year has just be­gun, so this is the op­ti­mal time to do it.

The av­er­age Amer­i­can spends nearly 11 hours a day in­ter­act­ing with some type of screen, so es­tab­lish­ing a more mind­ful ap­proach to one’s de­vices is ar­guably as ben­e­fi­cial as sign­ing up for a gym mem­ber­ship or ab­stain­ing from al­co­hol for a month or two. And giv­ing up some so­cial me­dia and other screen time can free up time to hit the gym, read more, work harder, or ac­tu­ally speak to hu­man be­ings.

If you’re look­ing to re­boot your tech be­hav­iors in 2019, here are a few ways to use your smart­phones, lap­tops, apps, and feeds with­out get­ting used by them.

Take a so­cial me­dia hia­tus

Many of us say we feel so­cial me­dia has be­come a drain on our well-be­ing, yet we still find it hard to walk away. That’s partly be­cause Face­book, In­sta­gram and Twit­ter are ad­dic­tive by design.

One sim­ple way around this prob­lem is a tem­po­rary hia­tus. Psy­cho­log­i­cally, it’s eas­ier to con­tem­plate giv­ing some­thing up for a few weeks than do­ing it for­ever, even if you’re likely to ar­rive at the end of that break feel­ing like quit­ting for good would be sur­pris­ingly pain­less.

By this time last year, I had al­most en­tirely stopped us­ing Face­book. A few weeks ago, the re­ports about data min­ing and pri­vacy breaches fi­nally per­suaded me to de­ac­ti­vate my ac­count. The only neg­a­tive con­se­quence I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced is find­ing my­self spend­ing more of my new­found free time on Twit­ter. So, in Jan­uary, I’m tak­ing the whole month off from Twit­ter and In­sta­gram as well.

Turn off no­ti­fi­ca­tions

Shut­ting off alerts from all your apps is the sim­plest and most re­gret-free ways to re­store a large mea­sure of your dig­i­tal san­ity. Even call­ing them no­ti­fi­ca­tions is buy­ing into the fic­tion that they ex­ist for your con­ve­nience rather than the app mak­ers’.

Call them what they are: en­gage­ment prompts and growth-hack­ing tricks.

So­cial me­dia apps are plenty ad­dic­tive enough with­out dings, buzzes and badges de­mand­ing your at­ten­tion ev­ery few min­utes. If you turn off Face­book no­ti­fi­ca­tions and then for­get to log into Face­book for a few days, that’s a pretty good sign you’re not get­ting much util­ity out of Face­book.

You might feel that you need to know about new emails or Slack mes­sages as soon as they come in, but un­less you’re await­ing a re­cently har­vested or­gan for trans­plant, you’re bet­ter off check­ing your var­i­ous in­boxes on a sched­ule that al­lows for un­in­ter­rupted spans of fo­cused work.

Stop wear­ing your wear­ables all the time

Wear­able fit­ness track­ers are not un­like so­cial me­dia: When you first start us­ing one, it’s easy to grasp the ben­e­fits, from more phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to bet­ter sleep. The prob­lem is when they be­come a daily habit.

If you’re go­ing to be giv­ing a com­pany vast amounts of data about your per­sonal be­hav­iors, you should be ac­cru­ing pro­por­tion­ately large ben­e­fits over time, and that’s sim­ply not the case with most wear­ables that ex­ist now.

Save the wear­ables for when you have a spe­cific pur­pose for them, such as los­ing weight or train­ing for a race.

Es­tab­lish no-phone zones

The qual­ity that makes smart­phones so in­dis­pens­able is also what makes them so ne­far­i­ous: They do ev­ery­thing. Cook­ing, ex­er­cis­ing, watch­ing TV — they can help with al­most any­thing.

But they also are time wasters and a hin­drance to re­la­tion­ships and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

It’s great that we can find out how much screen time we’re log­ging each week by check­ing our smart­phones, but a sim­pler and more ef­fec­tive rem­edy is to pick a few places where you of­ten find your­self fall­ing into a scroll hole and des­ig­nate them smart­phone­free zones.

If you’re hav­ing lunch or din­ner with friends or your fam­ily, keep the phone out of sight. Don’t bring it into the bed­room when it’s time to sleep. At work, put your smart­phone in a drawer and don’t look at it when you’re try­ing to fo­cus on a task.

Chances are your mood will im­prove, your pro­duc­tiv­ity will soar and your re­la­tion­ships will be­come more mean­ing­ful. Jeff Ber­covici is the San Fran­cisco bu­reau chief of Inc.

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