I’m beginning to adopt a bad habit. It’s one I tend to critique others, especially when I see it in others all around my college campus. I could say the same for really anywhere I might go, and I know I’m not the first one making this observation.
The habit? Texting or checking my phone while walking between classes. Really, in any spare moment I’m not paying attention to somebody else or have something to do, I’m on my phone, and so is everyone else.
This is where millennials will roll our eyes at the older generations who criticize us for our imbalanced presence between the internet and the “real world.” Are we really just out of control and out of touch with how to live life? Certainly not, but we do need to ensure we’re treating ourselves well and grounding ourselves daily with mindfulness.
The first step of being mindful with technology is realizing why you’re using it in the first place. I have recently justified my prolonged social media presence by calling it productive, making the most of every spare minute toward practical purposes (as if social media is always a practical purpose).
Since deciding to make blogging and social media a side hustle, I spend far more time on it than I ever did before. I’m scrolling through social media, liking other people’s content, and trying to figure out more ways to create my own. I’m a workaholic as it is, so somehow I can rationalize that any moment I’m not looking at a screen to do something is a wasted opportunity.
Whether you’re on social media to work or to share memes, we all find ourselves in moments where our eyes begin to hurt from staring at a computer or cell phone screen for too long, not realizing the extensive time we just spent sucked into the digital realm.
You can be mindful and still use technology on a very regular basis, as long as you evaluate what purpose it’s serving. Are you working toward your goals by writing long Instagram captions and being creative? Then go for it, but don’t pouring your energy into it if you feel obligated to always be productive because your vessel will soon be drained.
If you’re using social media as the escape you need in the day from a stressful schedule and chaotic thoughts, treat yourself and take that well-deserved break, but stop if your anxieties and insecurities are forming into followers and likes and meaningless interactions that truly do not matter or define your worth.
Once you know why you’re using social media and technology, you can then make use of your time offline to balance your presence to best serve your needs.
If social media is more about work than play, then when you unplug, truly step away from it all and relax. Everything online moves and changes at an alarmingly fast rate, but seriously, you won’t miss out on too much if you turn off your phone for the evening.
Nobody is working 24/7. Even those working full time only put in 40 hours a week. For me, this means having hobbies that don’t require a screen. Reading, doing Sudoku and crossword puzzles, listening to music or podcasts, and drawing are important ways for me to decompress. Find what works best for you.
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If social media is about the memes and group conversations, then make sure technology isn’t taking away from living in the moment and accomplishing your goals. Like I mentioned, social media is distracting, and too often we attach a lot of ourselves and worth into it. When this happens, it’s especially important to take a step back and reevaluate ourselves and where our priorities lie. You cannot rely on others, especially other numbers, for self-validation and self-worth. That comes from within. A number of likes and followers is a momentary rush of self-confidence that, while nice, won’t keep you secure in who you truly are as a real person, not a highlight reel.
Whether it’s for a month, week, day or even less, try to narrow down and balance your presence online and offline. Do what will work best for you because there are plenty of resources available for unplugging, like apps that lock up social media and more. Replace one interaction that might have only taken place online and instead choose to meet in person to remind yourself how important and uplifting relationships can be when reconnected face-to-face. Turn off your push notifications for a while or even go on airplane mode, especially when you’re studying or working on a project. Even just leaving your phone and/or computer in another room away from reach can help in fighting the urge to immediately gravitate to them in free moments.
Evaluating our online connections is nothing new, and the information and advice already available is abundant enough beyond my suggestions. However, I think the most important step before diving head-first into a digital detox is figure out how you use the technology in the first place. If you’re using technology as an at-home hobby and/or supplemental income, it’s not always convenient to completely disappear from the internet and abandon an online presence.
Technology is so valuable, an asset that we tend to take for granted when we never take a break from it. Find that balance for yourself. Maybe we’ll never go back to a time where it wasn’t awkward to not be scrolling through your phone in the hallways and routes to class. Maybe our relationships made online are the ones that we’re relying on at this moment when nobody else is available for support.
Regardless of your unique situation, realize the blessing (and curse) that is technology and social media. A balanced presence is one that recognizes what tools are wielded each day and prioritizes mindfulness. You see the habits you have and how you spend each day, and you make sure that it will all encompass a life that is healthy and fulfilling.
How do you practice mindfulness when being online? Do you consciously balance your presence between social media and real life?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie