I think we’ve all done it before: the mindless, endless scrolling when we get that spare chance to take a break from work or school. A few minutes of liking Instagram pics on the bus, or maybe a quick look at TikTok during lunch (with the realization that “oh crap!” it's actually been nearly an hour!). Sometimes if I’m in an awkward social situation I even pretend to be interested in my phone (wow, the weather app looks SO interesting all of the sudden). It adds up; so what are we losing to screen time?
Saying what most already know: technology and social media aren’t the best for us.
I look at my screen time and am always surprised by how much time I actually spend on social media. Yet I feel like I never have free time! I’m not alone in this. In a short survey I created last semester, I discovered that of the 45% of GVSU students that reported having no regular leisure time in their schedules, 62% also reported spending 1-6 hours each day on social media (some even said they spent 6-9 hours). It seems that many of us don’t consider social media as “leisure time”. Last year’s Unplugged blog by Sofia talked about how technology use can affect our physical and mental well-being. Today, I’d like to talk more about social media use and the need to constantly be checking our screens.
Screen addiction is a new concept; much of the science around it is from within the last 10 years. But here is something we are starting to realize: experts from recent studies say “the question of whether an adult, or a child, has a problem with technology can't be answered simply by measuring screen time. What matters most… is your relationship to it” (Kamanetz, NPR). Technology and social media use is linked to decreased psychological well-being, signs of addiction, and even physically changing your brain matter.
- Are you troubled, restless, or otherwise unhappy when unplugged?
- Is your technology or social media use increasing over time? Have you tried to limit yourself and been unsuccessful?
- Does your technology or social media use interfere with relationships, job, or school?
- Do you ever feel guilty about your technology or social media use?
If you answered yes to most of these questions you may be struggling with screen or social media ‘addiction’. It’s ok, many people are in the same boat. So what can you do?
What would you do right now if you didn’t have your phone or computer with you? Pretend like you don’t have responsibilities for a moment: the group chat isn’t blowing up, you aren’t waiting for that important email, that assignment isn’t due at midnight. What activities and experiences would you explore? This could be the time to revisit an old activity you used to love or try something new. When I was little I used to pull all-nighters in order to finish a book- I realized that in recent years I had essentially stopped reading for fun. Now that I limit my social media use, I found I truly do have the time to read (even if it’s just for a half-hour each night).
Here's what I did that may help you as well:
- Set screen time limits for some of your apps, especially the ones that are eating up most of your time or don’t make you feel good (hint: it’s probably the social media apps)
- Write blocks of time into your schedule where you can allow yourself to unplug. Often if I don't explicitly give myself time for leisure or unplugging, I don’t do it.
It doesn’t have to be reading. You could try a new workout, like yoga or kickboxing; pick up knitting; get lunch with a good friend (no phones at the table, of course). And try to resist the urge to constantly check your phone. I don’t think the world will end if you accidentally make eye contact with someone in public.
Speaking of eye contact, keep an eye out these next few weeks: I’ll be walking around asking GVSU students how they “unplug”. Share your answer with me and you could win an awesome Unplugged t-shirt from RecWell! Hopefully this gives you some inspiration to get off this webpage and try something new!
By: Stella Sterling, WIT Peer Educator
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Unplugging and Finding Time on January 31, 2022.