Whether you’re starting a new year, celebrating a new beginning, or just looking for a change, there’s never been a better time to look at your digital wellness.
You probably received a plethora of “year in review” e-mails over the last few weeks. I have to admit, I took a look a quite a few of them myself. One stood out – something along the lines of the best social media moments or memes or the like of the past year. As I was reading through the things I wasn’t to have “missed out on”, I realized that a really didn’t miss much. A challenge to break your leg on a milk crate, a new slang word, the hottest meme (although I have to admit Bernie in mittens was great). Entertainment is great, but if this is what our society is coming to, it’s no wonder movies like “Don’t Look Up” resonate so well.
(TL;DR – “Don’t Look Up” is about scientists who discover an earth-killing asteroid and society becomes comically divided on whether to believe the science. Sound familiar?)
Another thing that stood out at the end of the year – the alarming figures about the declining state of mental health in the country. Could our media consumption and social feedback loops play a part? Of course.
As a technology professional, I have spent, on average 40-60 hours per week in front of a screen for the last 20 years. I don’t have all the answers, but here are some tips I think are important for staying sane in today’s world of digital overload.
Digital wellness tips
I hope these tips give you an advantage as you navigate your year digitally.
Simplify, simplify, simplify
How about starting the year by simplifying? Take an hour and delete old files (remember to back up first!), e-mails, bookmarks. Remove apps you haven’t used recently. Close accounts you don’t use.
Get your passwords sorted
It’s the task no one wants to do, but you’ll thank me when you have this done. Take some time and get control of your passwords. Do you have 2-factor authentication (e.g. an extra code via text) turned on for important accounts? Do you re-use passwords? DON’T – go change them!
Avoid the endless scroll
Did you ever notice there are never any straight paths or clocks in the casino? Why? They’re good at keeping you there. Do you know who else is good at that? Social media.
Social media, in limited amounts, can be good to keep tabs on acquaintances. But remember, you are the product. Why you don’t pay $20 a month for Instagram or Tik-Tok? Because they make money on you – the longer you stay on the app, the more money they make. Trust me, as a tech professional, I’ve helped many clients on the selling side by pushing ads to you.
Catch up on your friends, post your update if you want, then get out!
Don’t fall down the feedback loop
Back in the good ol’ days, you could visit a website and you’d see the same thing as everything else. Then came online shopping, cookies to save your cart, and “customized results”.
Tech companies have become very good at collecting data. Don’t believe me? Go and download your Facebook data (you can do this from your account settings). Or, take a look at your Google timeline.
The result – you’ll see exactly what you want to see when you surf the web. Good? Not when it comes to staying balanced on important issues.
With a few likes on social media, you can be studying the planets one minute and reading about the subterranean lizard race the next. You can switch from election security analysis to a criminal ring running out of a D.C. pizza parlor.
Be aware of what’s happening. I’ve found it helpful to only consume news from bias-rated, balanced, sources. Here are three services I recommend:
- Ground news – app/website
- The Factual – app/website/browser extension
- Tangle – politically balanced newsletter
Avoid FOMO and false narratives
No, everyone online is not having a good time. Everyone else isn’t prettier or more handsome than you. The model in the jet is just as likely to be unhappy as you. Many studies have shown that social media consumption leads to negative feelings. FOMO (fear of missing out) is one: gotta be on the app, I might miss something! (you didn’t) I have to do the latest thing I saw online (you don’t). False narratives are also traps. Everyone isn’t having a good time! In fact, everyone is fighting their own hidden battles. The sooner you realize this, the better you’ll feel about yourself.
Consume to your goals
You scrolled a hundred headlines this morning, but did you remember anything? I encourage you to look at your goals and consume deep and meaningful information towards those goals. It’s only when you dive into a 3-5 minute read on a subject that you begin to understand something.
Avoid click-bait, and before you go down the rabbit hole on something, remember there’s only so much time in the day and so many things to discover. Make your time count! And here’s a tip, consider reading a book! You’d be surprised at how many books you could read if you added up the mindless headline scrolling.
You can stay digitally well
We live in a most amazing age – you carry around a supercomputer in the palm of your hand. You can access information about anything on earth. Just choose wisely – a lot of the information out there is rotten!
Take a minute at the end of the day to consciously think about how you used your technology. What did you learn? What did technology do for you – did it contribute to your day or did it own it? I hope you make the right choices to stay digitally well this year!