Finding Life Beyond the Handheld Screen

Teen lays on bed and gazes at a cellphone screen

Prabak Sarkar / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Three bloggers share thoughts on how to manage social media addiction.

I have a love-hate relationship with my phone. I like its smoothness and heft in my hand, and find it absolutely thrilling that it can pull up any piece of information I crave. The fact that I can text anyone, anywhere, anytime, appeals to my childhood telepathic fantasies.

At the same time, though, I am infuriated by my phone’s allure. I hate the spell it weaves over me, the compulsion to check it constantly, the panic that sets in when I don’t know where it is. I dislike the person I become when it’s in my hands, especially when my kids are around.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Lately, I’ve noticed a theme across some bloggers I follow, where figuring out ways of coping with the information overload and the incessant tug of social media in one’s hand has become a priority. Perhaps their thoughts on how to handle it will be as helpful to you as they are to me.

Brittany at Tiny Ambitions is striving for social media-free mornings during the month of May. As a website and social media manager, the urge to spend time scrolling, reading, and absorbing generally useless information is strong, with little reward:

“What I have noticed is that, with my increase of social media activity, I seem to be losing bandwidth in my brain to function and focus on other things. I am exhausted after juggling email, breakfast, and Instagram for five minutes in the morning – like I’ve already exhausted all of my brainpower to engage and interact.”

Social media-free mornings are as simple as they sound – not checking social media feeds of any kind until Brittany is ready to sit down and start her real job.

David at Raptitude noticed his stress levels rise after wasting time on social media. This bothered him more than actual lost time, as the random information he absorbed often pushed psychological buttons:

“More and more often, while making my morning coffee, I notice myself already agitated, or at least preoccupied, by something I read or watched in those impressionable few minutes after waking. It isn’t always about a serious news issue; it might just be a soccer player writhing flamboyantly to draw a penalty, or a guacamole recipe that contains some offensive ingredient like mayonnaise or green peans.”

His solution is to treat the Internet like it’s 2007. Gone are the social media apps on his phone, and now he’ll have to sit down at a desktop computer and log in with username and password to see updates.

Cait Flanders, who writes about mindful budgeting, shopping bans, and tackling debt, is taking it a step further. She has dubbed May “the month of slow technology” and will be avoiding social media until the end of the month. Already, she’s taken steps to limit social media’s influence on her life, deleting Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest profiles, receiving no notifications on her phone except texts, getting rid of her TV, and not checking email first thing in the morning.

“My goal for the slow technology experiment isn’t to completely disconnect from the online world or to isolate myself. It’s to make sure I’m using technology in a way that improves my life, rather than detracts from it. And it’s to press pause and take some time to outline how I can be more intentional with social media in the future.”

In the words of Andrew Sullivan, who wrote a fantastic article last fall on his distraction sickness, “We can’t escape screens but we have to put them in their place.” By whatever means you choose to do that, it will likely give you more clarity and focus in the mornings, greater satisfaction, peace of mind, time for reflection, and renewed relationships. How are you doing to do that?