If you live your life through your phone rather than engaging with the world around you, then it’s time to do something about it.
Tech addicts read on: author Paul Levy shares his 21 tips from his new book ‘Digital Inferno: Using Technology Consciously in Your Life and Work, 101 Ways to Survive and Thrive in a Hyperconnected World’, to help you reduce the time you spend with your face buried in a screen.
But why do we need to switch off? What’s the importance of ‘holding your own’ in the world of digital gadgets, platforms, tools and programs?
Levy comments: “We are spending more and more of our time reacting to it, getting drawn into it, feeling split between the person in front of us and the text that just vibrated our phone.
“We notice our children spending more time on social media that is the same hunting ground of sexual predators and businesses pushing products and services we might not want them to know about, let alone buy,” he added.
“We are also aware of how amazing the digital realm is, connecting us instantaneously across the world, firing our creativity, informing and inspiring us, making us giggle and reflect.”
Levy continued: “It’s a wave of technological change washing over us faster than any other change in history. Holding your own is clear-sighted.”
So, some tips…
1. Create some digital-free spaces at home, where you choose not be to connected or distracted. How about the bedroom and places where you eat?
2. Create a dedicated charging station for all of your digital devices in the house or at work. Put them ALL there, turn them off when not in use, unplug them when they are fully charged.
3. When your laptop is booting up, get up and do something else. Better, look out of the window and connect with the world out there; don’t stare impatiently at the screen.
4. When having coffee with friends in a cafe, get your device off the table; give your friends your full attention; it is a myth that the digital realm can’t wait. It can and it rarely impacts negatively on us.
5. Don’t let the digital realm get too pushy with you. Switch off “push notifications” on your phones and tablets, for at least certain times that you choose. Push notifications are the alerts that keep you “always on”. Check your emails three times a day instead of constantly reacting to them as they bleed into your life.
6. Read a message out loud or in your head before you send it; you will almost definitely then edit it or rewrite it and send a much better written message.
7. Get smart on digital security; learn the habit of good password setting; protect your privacy; don’t be like someone who leaves windows open when they go out and says “well, it’’s never happened to me” only to come home to a burgled house.
8. Don’t hunch over your laptop like an old miser. Keep your back safe and always ensure you take breaks from bright screens. Get support for your wrists if you type a lot. Don’t store up all kinds of back, neck and other problems for later life.
9. Go “in” fully for a digital hour of your choice – enjoy surfing and playing in the digital realm – then come out! Drink some water and take a walk outside. For each hour “in”, have a couple of hours “out”. That isn’t because the digital realm is bad; it’s just that it claims your mind and senses very powerfully.
10. Take a day to declutter your digital life; clean out your digital attic – sort pictures, delete what needs deleting and make your desktop clean and fresh; don’t feel mired in chaos.
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11. Protect family and social time; you will enjoy digital interaction better when you choose to do it rather than drift into it. Can you leave your device on off or, even at home, for a couple of hours?
12. When sending a text, picture the person you are sending it to; make the send an intended physical gesture (sending across space) as well as a digital one (sending through cyberspace).
13. If you think you are digitally addicted then name that honesty. Paul Levy is addicted to gaming & to Facebook. Call that by its real name and then you might just begin to recover from it.
14. Spend time online with your kids. Don’t berate them or over-police them. Get digitally aware and talk their language. Be there for them and then, when they really need you, they are more likely to seek you our as a parent. If you police them, they’ll feel like criminals. Dialogue over any conflicts where possible!
15. The next time you reach for your device to capture “that moment”, stop, put the camera down and look again with your (physical) eyes; breathe it in. True, you may have missed capturing the moment in pixels; but you’ll have enriched yourself and also have a story to tell.
16. Step away from being digitally dumb. In small steps, check out the privacy settings on Facebook or Twitter; learn about “rules” and labels in email. Open your word processor and experiment with one new feature. Get digitally wise to enjoy and get more out of the digital realm.
17. Find and create healthy spaces for your digital work and play. A good chair; some natural light or access to fresh air; a favourite cafe, a social space or somewhere where you can also easily step away. Create one room in the house where we enjoy our digital time instead of coach-slouching or taking over the kitchen.
18. Learn to write haikus and you might just tweet more eloquently!
19. Don’t use the digital realm as a free or cheap babysitter. Go online with your younger children; guide them, dialogue with them; they will take to it like a duck to water but this isn’t a playground to leave them alone in.
20. If you type or text quickly, your writing will often be more repetitive and cliched. Slow down. Occasionally say the message first or even hand write it; watch your writing quality rocket.
Digital Inferno: Using Technology Consciously in Your Life and Work, 101 Ways to Survive and Thrive in a Hyperconnected World by Paul Levy will be published in the UK on 13 November.