I caved and finally downloaded TikTok a month ago. Now I am appalled at how much my screen time on my iPhone has increased. I don’t know what they’re doing with their algorithm, but IT WORKS. I’ve found myself mindlessly scrolling way way wayyyyyyy later than I had thought/intended and my once healthy relationship with technology has suffered. Clearly, I need to re-evaluate and set some digital boundaries.
A Healthy Relationship with Technology
You know that joke where we spend all day staring at the medium screen and then reward ourselves with spending time staring at the big screen while scrolling on our little screens? It’s funny because it’s true. And then it starts to get awkward because it’s true…
Staying at home throughout the pandemic definitely resulted in increased screen time for me. First, it was constantly checking the news for pandemic updates, then escaping reality via Animal Crossing (I’m looking at you Tom Nook) and Legend of Zelda, then it was Youtube, then Instagram, and now TikTok. The list goes on and on with Reddit, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Of course, there’s also the vicious cycle where one app doesn’t have what you want, so you just cycle through them all.
Apple kept sending me my screen time notifications and I kept ignoring them. But, after a while, something had to give and I started implementing a few changes to get back to having a healthy relationship with technology.
First, it’s time to evaluate. What devices/technology do you have? For me, the devices I use are my work computer, personal computer, apple watch, ipad, kindle, iPhone, nintendo switch, and television. It’s a lot, I know. However, my main culprit for screen time is my phone. Here are the nine steps I use for setting some digital boundaries and establishing a healthy relationship with technology.
1. Clear Out Your Phone.
Clean out and reorganize your phone. When I did this, I basically deleted all of my apps and thought long and hard about which ones I wanted to put back on. Remember, you can still access most of the content on your computer/the internet.
2. Set App Timers.
For the apps that make the cut, evaluate how much time you spend on the app and if you’re okay with that. Then set a timer using the iPhone settings to help you follow through. If there’s a big difference between the amount of time you spend, remember to take baby steps! For example: I spent a ton of time on Instagram (that reels feature though…) and wanted to cut back. I started with setting a timer for 1 hour a day. Then, a month later, I decreased that to 45 minutes a day. While that may or may not sound like a lot of time to you, I was really proud that my system of setting the timers worked!
3. Mute Notifications.
Go through each app still on your phone and mute notifications. You can leave notifications on for important apps. I left it on for phone calls and texts. This will help you stay focused and resist the urge to pick up your phone every time it dings. For me, every time a notification showed up on my screen, I wanted to look at it and usually, I did. Those quick two seconds to pick up my phone made it harder to focus and hampered productivity. Plus, did I really need to know that a friend sent me a meme on instagram? Or that postmates had a coupon code for me? Maybe, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t wait or that was worth interrupting whatever else I was doing. I still check my instagram messages when I go onto the app, but I don’t need to have a notification to immediately check it.
4. Use the the Do Not Disturb Function.
Use the DND function (especially when you’re at work!) This is similar to the above, but it really helps you to focus and not get distracted.
I also love this feature on my work phone. I put it on DND when I log off for the day, and take it off DND when I log on in the morning. This also helps me set boundaries for work and when I’m accessible, while working at home.
5. Schedule Device Free Times in Your Day.
Think about when you spend the most time on my phone that you could probably cut out. For me, this was the mindless scrolling time in the morning and evening. So, I put a line in my habit tracker to have 30 device free minutes after waking up, and 30 device free minutes before I went to sleep. I also started using my Echo Dot as my alarm clock so I wouldn’t start my day with my phone in hand to turn off the alarm.
6. Set Device Free Areas (Kitchen Table, Bathroom, Bed, etc.).
This may sound silly, I know. Maybe I’m already turning into my parents, but I love this boundary. It’s really helped me be intentional with my time and in spending time with others.
7. Set an Episode Limit when You Watch TV.
If I’m watching TV to wind down at night, I set expectations with myself before I start watching. I will tell myself that I’m only going to watch two episodes before it’s time to turn off the TV. Setting expectations beforehand makes it easier for me to adhere to the boundaries I set because otherwise it’s just so easy to passively sit and watch just *one* more episode (but it’s never just one). That’s not to say that you can’t extend your time, but at least this way, it’s an active choice you are making, not a passive one.
8. Set a Time Limit for Your Devices.
Similar to the above, I try to set a time limit for how much time I want to spend doing the activity. For example, if I’m going to play on my switch, I set a timer for how long I want to play. This helps me remember to look up and breathe. I feel like game makers intentionally remove clocks from games so you aren’t aware of how much time you’re spending on the console.
9. Take Breaks
Using technology is great and sometimes, you just don’t want to stop. That’s okay! Just take a quick break. If I’m coming near to the end of my preset time limit but I know I want to extend my time, I’ll try and wrap up the activity and then take a 20 minute break before going back on. This allows my brain/eyes to have a short break. After, I can re-evaluate if this is truly how I want to spend my time.
Closing thoughts on digital boundaries and a healthy relationship with technology:
I had a pretty healthy relationship with technology — or at least I thought I did… but too much time spent at home combined with a more passive attitude caused me to relax my digital boundaries. It’s important to be active with your boundaries and reset them every so often. I didn’t download tiktok until much later, but now that I have I know it’s probably a good idea to go back through my checklist and make sure that I’m happy with how I’m spending my time digitally. So, that’s how I’m setting my digital boundaries and reinforcing some old ones. What about you?