Limiting screen time is always a priority for me, but there’s something about summertime that brings this goal into sharper focus. After all, the thought of huddling up inside with my phone when I could be splashing at the beach or stretching out in sun with a good book just feels wrong! Finding ways to unplug, however, is not always as easy as simply leaving your phone behind.
Even though we know scrolling through Facebook is eating away at precious moments, for many of us (this writer included!) the co-dependency is real.
That said, there are plenty of easy ways to start breaking the habit of reaching for your phone any time you have a spare moment. And with unplugging at the top of my summer to-do list, I decided to road test a few of them. The following five tips—ranging from educating yourself on why we are so drawn to social media to scheduling screen-free time—have dramatically changed the way I interact with all of the technology I come across on a daily basis. Now all I need is a few phone-free friends to jump on board.
image by kristen kilpatrick
image by @sarahsantongar
Add Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life to Your Summer Reading List.
Journalist and influencer Catherine Omerod’s Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life is a great place to start if you’re looking for a deep dive into the ways modern technology affects us all. (And picking up a paper copy of the book is the easiest way to unplug on this list!) I devoured this book when I came across it last fall, and it affirmed in vivid detail what I already knew about my scrolling habit: often it does more harm than good. Omerod’s look into social media and our always-connected society covers everything from body image to politics, and includes great advice from influencers and academics alike on how to cope with the competition and comparison. If this doesn’t make you want to try to unplug, I don’t know what will.
image by ashleigh amoroso
Pay Attention to Your Screen Time.
One of Omerod’s most fundamental tips is to take a look at exactly how much time you’re spending plugged-in each day. Of course, some of this is time you can’t control, especially if you have a job that requires you to be on a computer for the majority of the day, so what’s key here is being ruthlessly honest about what you can control. One of the easiest ways to do so is to switch on your phone’s weekly screen time report or download an app like Moment. Both break down your overall screen time, most used apps, and how many times you pick up your phone a day, allowing you to get a clear picture of your phone usage.
image by studio
Identify What Social Media, Netflix, etc. is Giving You.
Once you have a good idea of how much time you’re spending plugged in—and which apps you’re clicking into the most—it’s time to do some social media soul searching. Think about what’s drawing you into that Twitter spiral or Netflix binge. Personally, I turn to Instagram when I’m looking for inspiration or am having trouble focusing on the task at hand (especially when it comes to writing…between friends, I’m on my fifth Instagram check of this story so far). Once you get to the heart of what that screen time is giving you, it becomes much easier to figure out IRL swaps.
image by TK
Swap in A Book. (Or a Friend!)
Speaking of swaps, if you’re turning to your phone for quick-hit entertainment, distraction, or inspiration, filling that urge with a book (like one of the 10 we’re planning to read this summer) or magazine instead of Pinterest or Instagram is a no-brainer. Think of how much you could read if you spent the same amount of time reading as you do on your phone! If you’re looking for connection when you’re plugging in, shift that time to connecting IRL. Instead of lurking on your friends’ Instagram stories, reach out to them and strike up a conversation—I guarantee you’ll feel better for it.
image by kristen kilpatrick
Pledge to Go Phone-Free.
Though it is not the easiest way to unplug, carving out time away from the screen is crucial to breaking the habit. And while ideally, we’d all get so immersed in summer fun that we’d just leave our phones behind, the reality is we likely need to be a little bit more structured with ourselves. So block off an afternoon on your calendar (or a whole day if you’re willing to take the plunge!) for a technology detox. The key here is sticking to it: plan out some IRL things you’d like to do during that time, and if it makes you feel better, you can give anyone who would normally reach you over text or email a head’s up that you’ll be offline.
Once you’re comfortable scheduling phone-free time for yourself, ask your friends and family to go phone-free on your next dinner out or game night in. (Pro tip: If Buy a disposable camera or bring along an Instax if you still feel the need to capture the moment—that way you won’t ever be tempted to bring out the phone!)