Raise your hand if you spend way too much time on your phone, iPad or computer?
The other night, I was out to dinner at a restaurant with my son and I noticed that every table around us either had phones sitting in plain sight on their table or the guests were all scrolling on their phones while eating dinner.
I am as guilty of it myself — I never leave the house without my phone and often delay my bedtime by as much as an hour by aimlessly scrolling through my social media feeds.
Does any of this sound familiar?
As much as I love the connection I get from seeing photos on my Facebook or seeing updates from friends and family who I don’t see on an everyday basis, I have noticed for some time now how much time my life has become consumed by a screen.
When I was growing up, if I had to wait at the doctor’s office, I would read a book or magazine. If we were waiting to be seated at a restaurant, we would chat or play a fun game of 20 Questions.
These days, I spend the time perusing Facebook or Instagram instead.
My last straw with the way that digital media had evolved in my own life came when I scrolled across a post on a friend’s newsfeed, celebrating a milestone birthday of another friend.
I was hurt — to the point of tears and a day spent feeling badly — that I wasn’t included in the festivities.
If I hadn’t been on Facebook, I might not have even known about the birthday celebration I wished I had been invited to.
Think about it: How many times have you scrolled through your feed to see a family dinner or friend’s outing that you didn’t know about — and suddenly felt left out?
While social media is intended to bring us closer to friends and family, statistics show that it often does the opposite — making folks feel more isolated, more inclined to keep up with the Joneses and less connected to those in their immediate circle.
What I propose to you is a digital detox, to help you find more productive time in your day, relax your brain and make more meaningful connections with the real time people in your life.
Leave your phone in your pocket: This is harder than you think but try leaving your phone either in your purse or pocket — or even in the glove box of your car — during your next outing.
If you can believe it, there are even phone apps that can help you monitor your time.
Quality Time and App Usage are two popular options that track everything from app usage, time spent on each app as well as the most common times you are on each application.
Knowing this might be a wake-up call to see just how much time can really add up — and be just the splash of water you need to find a more productive way to use your scrolling time!
Track your usage for just a week — then find ways to use that time for something more productive or enriching! Use the half hour of time spent on social networking to add an exercise routine to your day or read a book.
Designate “No Phone Zones:” My son’s middle school introduced a new cell phone policy this year that I absolutely love.
While students are discouraged from bringing their cell phones to class, if they do, they are required to stash them in designated cubbies at the classroom entrance.
As a parent, I am glad he still has access to his phone for emergencies, but am so grateful he cannot access it when he should be engaging with his teacher or classmates.
Try introducing this in your own home.
Buy a cute cubby for your family’s electronics and stash them there during designated hours.
Simply removing the temptation to check your phone will open up more opportunities for distraction free, quality time with the ones you love.
I promise you, those couch conversations will be far more meaningful than anything you scroll through on Instagram!
Pull the Plug on Push Notifications: I don’t know about you, but my phone is like my own metal personal assistant.
I have notifications for new e-mails, new Facebook comments, alarms for various things throughout the day, weather and news alerts and medication reminders.
Getting constant updates on what’s happening in the world is informative — but it can also be super distracting.
Even though you can technically ignore them, these small notifications can add up to a lot of interruptions that can pull your focus away from what you should be focused on.
One easy fix is to turn off as many notifications as you can live without.
Go Analog: When I say “analog,” I simply mean to take a paper-and-pencil approach to something that you have entrusted your smartphone or iPad to do.
Instead of using the meal planning app on your iPhone, get out a white board and create an old-fashioned menu board with your family.
Feeling bored? Instead of scrolling for the latest social media updates, journal about your day and reflect on how you are feeling.
You may discover some old “classic” routines that you enjoy again!
(Editor’s Note: Kristine George is a freelance journalist who resides in Easton.)