Offbeat | ​​Taking the “I” out of phone— Ways to step away from social media and technology in general

Offbeat is a bi-weekly blog offering new and meaningful takes on all things media — podcasts, Instagram posts and everything in between.

By Jillian Rowan, Staff Writer

It looks like we’ve reached that point in the semester — it’s cold outside, motivation is low, everyone’s itching for Thanksgiving break. As a result, we all gravitate toward picking up our phones and locking into the talentless art of mindless scrolling — it takes zero effort and brain capacity, but somehow depletes us of so much.

Whether we are aware of it or not, youth culture has dug itself a hole quite difficult to crawl out of — the social media rut. Here are eight ways to be more mindful of your online intake and even break the addictive social media cycle entirely.

  1. Get an actual alarm clock

What’s the first thing you do in the morning? If you say anything besides going on your phone, I commend your willpower. Having a tangible alarm clock instead of your phone’s built-in alarm grants space between us and our devices — it gives us time for a moment of presence.

You can breathe, think and come into your day with an air of mindfulness, versus jumping straight into the online realm. What we see the moment we open our groggy eyes can dictate the quality of our moods, intentions and overall day. Allow yourself some peace before instantly entering the anxiety-inducing Internet.

  1. Notifications be gone

We are Pavlov’s dogs, and notifications have become the bell we salivate over — literally. However, if our screen isn’t lighting up every few seconds, we have less incentive to get lost in our phones. Go into your notifications and ask yourself, “which apps do I absolutely need to see content from?” Text messages, emails and phone calls are all pretty essential, but can we say the same about Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok? Lessening your exposure to certain applications limits how deep you fall into that bottomless pit of social media.

  1. Clean that sh!t out 

The less cluttered your digital space is, the less stressed out you are about it. Answer the texts you need to answer, delete the hundreds of screenshots of last year’s math homework, clear out your Canvas messages and put the phone down. The tiny red dots that pop up in the corner of our apps can be anxiety inducing — they send our brains into fight or flight, alerting us that we need to do something right now. Likewise, the more together your space is, the less drawn to it you feel. 

  1. Set your screen time 

For those days when even the absence of notifications cannot stop you, setting a screen time limit can be helpful. If you click on your screen time daily average, you might be absolutely horrified. Eight, nine, ten hours or more a day? Screen time on Apple devices shows you how many hours you spend on certain apps, how many alerts you get from those apps and even how many times a day you pick up your phone. Seeing your attachment to your phone in terms of analytics can be jarring, ultimately making you more aware of your technological intake. Honor the time limit you’ve set for yourself — put down your phone when you said you would. 

  1. Ctrl+alt+delete

When nothing can suffice the need to scroll, deleting social media apps entirely may be the best option. Removing the apps from your phone takes away those urges, allowing you to focus your attention elsewhere. Though uncomfortable, a social media detox can be wildly freeing. You don’t have to delete TikTok forever, but until you develop a healthy relationship with it, saying “bye for now” can be the best thing to do.

  1. Stay connected IRL

Learn to cultivate your relationships in real life. We sometimes forget how to foster friendships in the physical world, especially when nurturing them online is so much easier. However, the best thing we can do for our social lives is to make sure our friendships and relationships count offline. COVID-19 has wrecked our human-to-human experiences, so being in the company of others is a great way to recharge our in-person social batteries slowly but surely. Hug your friends, look them in the eye and use your voice instead of your thumbs to tell them you love them.

  1. Do what makes you feel present

I’m going to sound like an out-of-touch mother right now, but go outside and touch some grass — I mean it. Engaging in activities that make you more mindful of the world around you sucks you back into reality. Get in touch with sides of yourself that have gone long unnoticed and allow time for self-reflection and presence. You can journal, exercise, read a book, go on a walk, listen to a podcast, draw, meditate, sing, dance, talk to friends, play a board game, clean your closet, cook dinner, watch the sunset or just breathe. You’ll begin to remember how good it feels to not be chained to your phone.

  1. Remember, social media is not real life

The strenuous relationship we have with technology comes as no surprise — social media companies, by nature, compel us to scroll for an infinite amount of time, with their personalized logarithms and appealing layouts. When we remember this, we have the power to realign our values and take back our relationship with technology.

The moment we stop allowing social media to control our lives is when we regain consciousness — we finally end our obsession over the past, cultivate more authentic relationships and feel better overall. No longer caring about what everyone else is doing at all times is healthy, and you can finally get back to worrying about the most essential thing in life — yourself.

Jillian writes about a range of media topics. You can reach her at [email protected]