I have a confession to make: I was a social media junkie till the end of last year. I woke up with social media on my phone and went to sleep reading on my Kindle app. I just couldn’t live without my phone even for a second. I was anxious and jittery all the time – checking for notifications every few minutes even when there were no new ones.
And then one day, I went cold turkey. My phone became a device it was originally meant for – calls and SMS (and Whatsapp – after a few weeks of absence on it too- since there is nowhere else to put it) Now, I don’t sleep with my phone or even have it next to me through the day. I am a lot calmer and the jitters are gone with the addiction. I’m not off social media but choose to be there when it suits me. And trust me! The feeling is truly liberating! Here are a few tips that I found are helpful to unplug and stay that way. So, let’s start:
I want to start with compelling reasons why we should quit the malady. Research – lots of it – already suggests that being surgically attached to our phones is causing more harm than good. To all age groups. Our cellphones have become an inseparable part of our physical person. And the stats are worse than ever:
– 67% mobile phone owners find themselves checking their phone even when there are no new notifications (Source)
– 44% sleep with their phones next to their pillows so that they have instant access to it
– 29% can’t imagine their lives without their cell phones with them (Boy! I was one of them and it is indeed addictive!)
– 53% respondents of a survey accepted that Facebook actually gave them a feeling of anxiety and inadequacy (not surprising since everyone on Facebook seems to be having the time of their lives!)
– Social media addiction is changing the very personality of our next generation making teens anxious and anti-social (Ironic, huh!)
– Being connected 24/7 actually makes us less productive than more!
If you ask me, the extent and effect of social media fixation is pretty much the same for everyone. And hence it is important for all of us to re-examine our slavery to the internet and the devices that give us access to it. We need to decide whether we want to control the machines or let machines take over our lives – the latter seems to be the case already!
Here are 33 practical tips that help unplug and lead better lives:
1. GO OLD SCHOOL
2. Read physical books
3. Get a night light to read those books, if you must read in bed
4. Buy an alarm clock and a timer
5. Carry a pen and paper/notepad for lists/tasks that can be accessed offline
6. Quit compulsive clicking of photos. Enjoy and create memories like we did before camera phones
7. REPLACE THE ONLINE WITH THE OFFLINE
8. Join offline groups for offline socialising
9. Talk to your neighbours
10. Subscribe to physical magazines of your choice (at least some of them so you have something to read offline too)
11. Go for a walk. It can clear your mind and better your bonding with nature
12. Develop a hobby – preferably one that involves your hands – learn an instrument or take up Yoga
14. MAKE RULES AND STICK TO THEM
15. No gadgets in the bedroom (Technology before bed affects sleep in a big way)
16. No phones at meal times. Talk to people around you
17. Don’t sleep with your phone under the pillow (this actually helped me sleep better!)
18. Limit online availability for work after office hours. 24/7 connectivity doesn’t mean better productivity
19. Plan a social media free weekend
20. Turn off notifications when you are with family or working on something important
21. Take to unitasking – do only one thing at a time. (Stop multitasking)
22. CUT DOWN ON SOCIAL MEDIA
23. Choose your social media platforms carefully. And DON’T access Whatsapp on your laptop
24. Be wary of joining every Whatsapp group around
25. Quit noisy/inactive groups on Facebook and Whatsapp
26. A little extreme but – delete apps from your phone. (This worked like a charm for me. Now, I am online only when I am on my laptop.)
27. Kill the temptation. And the above point helps a lot. Even if you don’t delete apps, put your phone away during down time.
28. Take one day at a time. Some days will be better than the others. But stick to your guns
29. Carry a book for waiting rooms to avoid mindless social media surfing (Even looking at people around you is better than mindless social media browsing)
30. Keep an activity log through out the day to keep track of the time spent online. This will also deter you from meandering away from the real tasks at hand
31. Focus on your breathe (I am not big on meditation but I think being mindful of our breathe can actually calm us down and help overcome temptation)
32. Make time and encourage face to face interaction between team members at work
33. Get a detox partner. Accountability always helps us fare better
I know how hard it is to kick the habit since I tried and failed – multiple times. And I know most certainly what a challenge it is to give it up. Thankfully going cold turkey worked for me. But that may not work for you.
And if I were to suggest one thing that’ll work better than the others as a good start – as a bonus tip – is to find offline alternatives. During some of my unsuccessful attempts, it helped to some extent to have lists made on paper so that I didn’t need to access notes on my phone.
I read physical books so that I could stay away from my phone. (Although having it next to me kept the distracting temptation alive and hence tip no. 27) I also looked up timers so that I did not have to depend on my phone for alarms. All these things reduced my dependence on my phone increasing my chances of staying away.
You can pick the tips that work for you best. The key is to start small and keep at it. That is the only way to stay in control of our lives and sanity.