These days, many of us have mobile smartphones and multiple social media accounts. This means that we have access to a wealth of information at our fingertips but it also means that we’re contactable in more ways, and in more instant ways, than ever. The amount of ‘buzz’ we receive from the digital world can, at times, become overwhelming. It can exacerbate our anxiety and leave us feeling drained. Setting digital boundaries can help us to manage the way we interact with the digital world, which can ultimately help us to manage our mental health.
Apps That Show The Time We Spend Online
Before we start working out our digital boundaries, it can be helpful to get an idea of how much time we currently spend on our phones. There are apps that we can download that show us how much time we spend on our phones. Many of them split this into how much time we spend on each app. Additionally, some apps, such as Instagram and Facebook, will now show us how much time we spend on them each day, and the average amount of time we spend on them each day.
Though there are fewer apps available for laptops and computers, there are still resources to measure how much time we spend on our devices, and what we’re doing while we’re on them.
Apps That Stop Us From Accessing Things
Once we’ve realised how much time we spend online, and decide how much time we want to spend on digital time, we can start utilising apps that prevent us from accessing certain things at certain times. This can be an ongoing work-in-progress. We might find that sometimes we haven’t given ourselves enough time to look at everything we want to look at, or that we feel as though we’ve given ourselves too much time. Tweaking the way that we use these apps is part of working out boundaries that work for us.
Phones and social media can be addictive. We might tell ourselves that we’re only going to give our phones a ‘quick look’ then find ourselves down a rabbit hole of cat videos half an hour later.
These apps can help us to set up notifications that pop up to remind us if we’ve been online for a certain amount of time. Some of them can physically block us from certain apps for a specified period of time. As well as using them on our phone, we can also download apps to our laptop or computer which can do a similar thing.
Utilise Silent Mode
All phones have a silent or ‘do not disturb’ mode. Some have both. All laptops and computers have the ability to turn the sound off, and with many, we can now mute individual tabs when we’re online.
Utilising these modes allows us to choose when we check our phones or laptops, rather than having a ‘ping’ grabbing our attention and making that decision for us.
Turn Off Notifications
Each app we install on our phones allows us to customise our notifications. In the same way that popping our phone on silent allows us to choose when to look at it, turning off our notifications allows us to choose when we check each app. We can also personalise our notifications so that only certain types, or ones from certain people, come through.
Curating Our Digital Timelines
We are able to choose our own timelines, to some degree. The people we choose to follow make up our timelines, so it’s important that we only follow accounts that make us feel good, and that we unfollow any accounts that fill us with guilt or dread whenever they pop up. Sometimes there might be someone who we feel unable to unfollow (perhaps they’re a friend or family member), but who make us feel naff whenever they post. With these people, we can mute their posts. They won’t usually know that we’ve done this, and this allows us to choose when we check in on their accounts, rather than having their posts automatically appear on our timeline. If there are accounts that keep trying to interact with us, who we really don’t want to interact with, then we can block them. Many sites and apps now contain adverts, and although we can’t control which adverts pop up, we can choose to block any adverts that make us feel rubbish when they appear.
It’s important to be aware of our privacy settings, and who might be able to see the things that we post. Each app and site that we use will normally give us lots of different options when it comes to our privacy. There will normally be decisions to make over how private we choose to keep our accounts. On some sites and apps, we can even limit the reach of specific posts.
However shut-down our digital privacy settings are, it’s still important to remember that whatever we post has the possibility of being shared. Even if we make it so that only certain people can see our posts, there’s nothing to stop people from showing these posts to others.
Hide Your Phone
A lot of us are guilty of mindlessly checking our phone because it’s ‘just there’. We might not intend to go onto our phone for any reason, and then find that it’s in our hand and we’ve spent 15 minutes scrolling through people’s posts. Taking our phone out of our pocket, and off the coffee table then hiding it in our bag, or even in a drawer, can stop us from reaching for our phones without intention.
Buy A Watch
If we counted up all of the times that we check the time on our phone, and then find that before we know it we’ve started mindlessly scrolling, we’d probably lose count by lunchtime. Many of us now use our phones instead of a clock or watch. By buying a watch, we’re removing one of the ‘pulls’ of our phone and often find that it’s in our hand a whole lot less. Coupling this with taking it out of our pocket and putting it in our bag can drastically reduce the amount of time we spend scrolling.
Set Time Aside
Intentionally setting time aside to scroll through our apps and to reply to things can help us to be very boundaried about what we’re looking at and when. It can help us to resist constantly checking our phone because we know that we have time set aside for that, so we don’t need to be constantly picking it up and putting it down during the day.
Sometimes people get offended because we don’t message them often enough or reply quickly enough. This can leave us feeling guilty and upset at the thought that we’ve offended them. Because of this, we often feel a level of anxiety and panic around replying to things and often feel as though we have to get back to people straight away. This can lead to us feeling as though we need to have our phones within touching distance at all times.
Letting our friends and family know that we’re reducing our screen time and might not reply as quickly as they’re used to can take the stress off us, and can stop them from feeling offended or worrying when they don’t receive an immediate reply. It can also help them to understand that we might not read all of the things that they post on social media.
We can also set an out of office on our emails – both work and personal emails – to let people know that we might not get back to them immediately. This can prevent us from receiving lots of follow up emails before we’ve had the chance to read, and respond, someone’s original email.
Turn Everything Off Before Bedtime
Many of us spend a lot of time lying in bed, fiddling with our phones. For a lot of us, it’s the last thing we do before we go to sleep and the first thing we look at when we wake up.
This isn’t always very helpful when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. It’s often a good plan to turn our phone off a while before we go to bed, and to leave it somewhere other than our bedside table (or in our bed with us). We are unlikely to miss anything urgent during our sleep, and if anything urgent does happen then people will always find a way of contacting us.
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