Eight ways to improve your digital well-being

To counteract the detrimental consequences of excessive screen time and digital overload, we must take a thoughtful and balanced approach, writes Nisha P. Shetty

Nisha P. Shetty's avatar
8 Jan 2024
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Living in the most connected era has its perks, but excessive technology use has consequences. With many of our everyday activities now taking place online, it’s easy to become dependent on technology for amusement and communication. This can prevent us from living in the moment and cause feelings of melancholy, anxiety and isolation, among others. It’s not surprising that many opt for a digital detox: a deliberate break from digital engagement.

Technology robs our brains of the downtime they need to process information, which is why it’s so important to give our minds the rest they need. A totally tech-free lifestyle might not be feasible for most. However, to counteract the detrimental consequences of excessive screen time and digital overload, we must take a thoughtful and balanced approach. Here are some practical suggestions to improve your digital well-being.

Schedule regular screen breaks at work

It’s important to incorporate breaks into your schedule if you have a job that requires a lot of computer time. During your downtime, practise breathing techniques and mindfulness to promote present-moment awareness and mental clarity. You can also incorporate stretching exercises to correct postural issues.

Reduce or restrict unhelpful apps

Uninstall or restrict access to any applications that encourage aimless scrolling or prolonged screen time. Making it less convenient to access your social media profiles gives you time to evaluate your decision before logging on. Use tools such as Google’s Digital Wellbeing, screen-time monitors and focus modes to set daily use limits for apps and reduce distractions.

Power down regularly

Switch off your devices or turn on their “do not disturb” features before your evening meal. Leave them until the following morning to promote better sleep and reduce late-night distractions. Try switching your phone off for longer periods during weekends and holidays, or after completing a major assignment, to allow you to completely disconnect. Conferences, workshops and research retreats are other opportunities to disconnect from screens and engage in in-person interactions and collaboration.

Establish screen-free zones

Prohibit the use of technology in specific places. Completely removing electronics from the bedroom, for example, might enhance the quality of your sleep. Turn off notifications and stow devices securely so you can focus on other activities.

Practise proper tech etiquette

Be more present during face-to-face interactions by making a conscious effort not to use your devices.

Be selective about who you follow online

Remove clutter from your social media feeds by unfollowing and unsubscribing from social accounts that don’t enrich your life. You can be more productive on social media by following accounts that provide useful insights and tools that can help with your personal and professional development. To stay up to date with the latest research trends, follow the official accounts of scholars you look up to, professional organisations relevant to your area of expertise and respectable academic journals. Engage with educational institutions to stay abreast of achievements, discoveries and general academic activities. Explore relevant hashtags and groups to discover material that is relevant to your academic interests. Follow accounts dedicated to professional growth, online learning platforms, outreach and anything else that’s relevant to your practice. Follow a diverse range of accounts that offer varied perspectives.

Do technology-free activities you enjoy

Find a new hobby, work out or go for a walk without your phone. Take up sports or creative hobbies that take you away from your screens. Some academics find solace in volunteering for their local communities. Progressively extend the amount of time you spend without technology until you become less dependent on it.

Use technology to relax and build on skills

In certain situations, your devices can aid mental health and self-development. Meditation and relaxation apps such as Calm and Headspace and sleep trackers such as Sleep Cycle promote well-being, for example.

You can also use technology to develop skills. Access to a myriad of apps helps us explore interests such as photography, coding and language learning. Finally, you can use fitness apps to invest in your health.

Embracing the positive aspects of technology creates opportunities for personal growth and relaxation, enriching your downtime experience. A balanced approach to our use of technology is crucial. Being mindful of how we use it can help us adopt positive habits, improving our overall well-being.

Nisha P Shetty is an assistant professor (senior scale) at the Department of Information & Communication Technology at Manipal Institute of Technology, MAHE Manipal.

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