I was so connected with the outside world, I started to lose pieces of myself.
I fit into the category of Generation Z.
To summarize my generation: our online presence is practically an extension of us, we discover new products through social media, and our friends play an extreme role in our lives- not just externally, but also internally. On top of that, we need our voices to be heard(more than any other generation) and we undeniably fueled the age of Instagram(pop-up stores and selfies with AR filters).
To make my digital habits even worse, I work in social media. My job is to grow start-up brands on social media using modern marketing and visual tactics. To do this, I’m online almost all hours of the day. I scour Pinterest for the latest hipster trend, retain news from twitter(like most of my generation), engage with friends on Instagram, and most recently, consume too much tik-tok videos.
My life is like a black mirror episode. You know, the ones where they replicate digital attachment to humans.
One day, I started to notice something. I was developing bad habits and my life online was looking way too good than it actually was. When I realized that my inner being was affected by optimized media tools, I knew I needed to put the phone down. My mission was to hit the refresh button.
This is a story about digital backlash.
Without even realizing, I was losing precious time. I had trouble bouncing from one project to another. As I said, my job requires me to outsource the social atmosphere for good quality content. Finding content isn’t the hard part, but more so the distractions in-between clicks. Your friends post stories that you just “have” to watch, your favorite brands are consistently putting out content for you to watch… and the clutter continues. A twenty-minute project turns into forty-five minutes.
You don't have to work in marketing to feel my pain. How many of us click on social by default just because our subconscious is so used to doing so?
To take back my time, I used the “less is more” principle. Often a phrase used in design and product, this term can also be applied to life. The principle states that by approaching a project in a minimalistic approach, it is deemed more effective.
By shortening your to-do list, you get more done. By limiting pages and unnecessary links to your website, your customer is more likely to convert.
Applying the “less is more” principle in your digital life:
- Unclutter your pages. By putting applications in specific folders, your home page will look a lot cleaner. Filtering pages puts you into a position where you only open the apps you need.
- Mute your following. This simple technique lead to a 40% decrease in social media usage in just one week. On Instagram specifically, you can mute the people you follow by clicking on their profile settings. Don’t worry, they won’t know you shut them out. By doing this, you only see the pages you actually care about.
- If you like reading newsletters and articles, implement a schedule. To avoid content overload, I made a commitment to only read digital articles in the morning. Implement a routine and stick to it.
- Next, commit to only a handful of newsletters. There’s a lot of good content out there. Before my cleanse, I was subscribed to 9 different news articles(ones I actually interacted with). Reading those nine articles, processing it, and maybe writing about it can take up an hour of my day. To fix this, I chose the best publishers and committed to only consuming their content. I processed more information and saved half the time.
- Save time(and storage) by deleting apps you don’t use.
This one digs a little deeper into our brains. We’ve all heard the numerous case studies of how relying on digital screens has greatly affected our lives. You have kids sitting on their phones at dinner, google acting as our primary physicians, and “influencers” stunting around the hottest spots in town.
Over time, online connectivity took a toll on my personality. It was like a digital compound interest but in the opposite direction. Instead of compounding interest, I was losing it.
I fell into the trap of looking down more than I look up. It was as if the world in front of me paused every time I got an email from my favorite newsletter.
Over time, I started to notice my ability in small talk was deteriating. Once an energetic, outgoing kid who wasn’t afraid to talk to strangers, suddenly disappeared as I got older. To make matters worse, my response to small-talk leads to awkward conversations. I even went as far as reading articles titled “How to Start a Conversation”. Here’s how I combat connectivity syndrome:
- After 8 pm, I refuse to look at my phone. This weird thing started to happen to me. My eyes were dry after a certain time and brightly lit phone screens started to hurt my eyes(thank god, dark mode finally came out).
- I switched out digital devices with books, meditation, magazines, and podcasts. Books replenished my thirst to read. Meditation cleared my head from digital catastrophe. Podcasts, while still requiring me to play through a digital device, I made sure to hit play, plug in my headphones, and do other tasks. Washing dishes? There’s a podcast for that. Gym rat at night? There’s a podcast for that. There’s no doubt that our need to consume content is embedded within us; I’m simply replacing content consumption with ways that don’t require me to stay online.
Breaking down bad habits is a hard thing to do. My job, my life, requires me to be online.
Our job in the digital age is to not completely erase it from our lives, but find ways to limit them.
By placing certain limits in our daily routine, over time, we start to conquer and prioritize what needs to be done.
- I started to talk and look up more. Over the course of a few weeks, my phone went from being a necessity to a commodity. I internally felt I did not need my phone to move around the world. In fact, I started to prioritize what messages I needed to respond to, which ones could wait, and ones I could simply ignore.
- Facedown. By keeping my phone facedown on my desk at work, the chances of me being distracted from notifications were eliminated. Sometimes, I even hid my phone.
- Naturally waking up before my alarm. When committing to no screen time at night, my body felt a lot better waking up in the morning. Some psychological thing I guess… you know the feeling.