If you weren’t reading this right now, what else could you be doing?
I’ve been spending a lot of time recently reading about the effects of screens and social media ahead of my Making Sense of Screens course starting on Thursday, and I must admit that all of the books and research I’ve been reading have been making me look at my phone in a different light.
As part of my research I took the smartphone compulsion test and, although I don’t always put a lot of stock in free online tests, doing this one really made me pause and check in with my habits. They needed to change. They still do.
Although Making Sense of Screens is focused on supporting children with their relationship with screens, the first week of the course is all about our own relationship with the internet as parents and adults in this world. Although it can be uncomfortable, I think that it’s vital to examine our own screen use – and the impact this might have on us – before we move onto thinking about our children. We are our children’s most important role models; it’s no use telling them not to use screens if we’re stuck to one all day.
As part of the course I’ve been pulling together practical advice to help parents renegotiate their relationships with their phones without resorting to throwing them in the bin, and as always I’ve been trying hard to practice what I preach (my view is always: if I can’t or won’t give this is a go, I have no business suggesting it to my clients!). For me, this has meant amongst other things limiting my screen time at weekends and on my non-working days, leaving my phone downstairs overnight rather than having it next to my bed, trying to limit screen exposure in the hours before bed, and having stricter boundaries around how I spend my time online.
I don’t always manage to meet my goals, but every time I fail I’ve been aiming to extend myself grace, reminding myself that I’m human, and gently pushing myself to try again (I have firmly decided that guilt is not going to help me on this journey so I am doing my very best to banish it). Although it hasn’t been that long, and i haven’t been following my own rules perfectly, it’s already made such a difference to how I feel.
This is especially important for me as my business means that I have to use social media for work; I can’t just go cold turkey, so I have to work hard to find a balance which works for me professionally whilst also honouring my physical and mental health. Many of my courses and my membership group are currently run through thriving Facebook groups, and Instagram is where most of my community hang out online. Everyday I get joy, inspiration, knowledge and encouragement from my online communities, but I have to admit, sometimes I want to hurl my phone in the sea and never look back.
Something I have found really helpful is making a list of all the things I want to do. Read more, cook more fun recipes, finish learning to drive, practice more meditation, find more ways to move my body… the list is long. It’s been a good motivator when I feel that urge pulling me back towards screens: if I don’t check my phone right now, if I don’t check my emails, if I don’t read that news article, then what do I have time for instead that will make me feel good? It sounds simple, but so far it’s helping.
How do you feel about your screen use? Have you got the balance right, or does it feel like a constant dance to get the balance right?
PS. You have until Wednesday to grab a spot on Making Sense of Screens. I listened to everyone who said they’d like courses to be available on my website, so it’s now possible to take the course without using a Facebook account. Click here for more information and to book your spot, and I look forward to working with you!
2 replies on “Navigating screens as an adult”
A little while ago, I noticed that our toddler often handed me my phone when it wasn’t near me. I didn’t think that I used it too much around her, but obviously I was wrong! I used to be really good at putting it away, but slipped into some bad habits when I had her little sister.
I find it helps to put my phone onto ‘do not disturb’ mode all morning, as when I hear my phone “ping” it’s hard not to check it. I also don’t have any social media which helps, but understand that isn’t an option for many.
Thank you so much for the thoughts you share on this blog – I’ve been following you for several years now and find your thoughts inspiring. I read/think a lot about technology for my job and am curious – have you read “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport? It just came out last month and it touches on many of the themes you talk about in this post in detail. Also, I’m sure you’ve found this in your research but “The Art of Screen Time” by Anya Kamenetz is a nice summary of the research about screens and kids.