SCREEN TIME AND A MYRIAD OF MIRACULOUS SOLUTIONS
By Chelsea Adams
Find out more about Chelsea here!
I have not yet watched The Social Network on Netflix for the simple fact that I don't feel I need the existential dread of having to completely log out of my social media. This is mainly due to the fact that, yes, there is still a pandemic happening but also because engaging with this digital content helps me feel connected to something bigger. And no, I'm not going to lie when I say that there's also an element of escapism; it affords me the luxury of feeling like I've travelled or gone on holidays from the comfort of my home. Multiple times throughout winter I turned the heater on and streamed a moving live fire video to the television; with the flickering flames and sound of crackling wood making it feel like I'd gone on holiday to a cabin in the woods. More importantly, it allows me to continue talking to others, most of which had been out of my 5km radius up until now, with the ease in restrictions awarding us a new 25km circle of freedom. Hooray! To be completely honest though, I'd rather cosy up on the couch and watch the wonders of planet earth unfold as the familiar, soothing and grandparent voice of David Attenborough reminds us that "Nature is our greatest's asset." However, the continued hype regarding this digital Netflix documentary has helped me reassess the use of my phone and intake of the blaring 24-hour news cycle. And trust me when I first started looking at my screen time, I was shocked, it was as though I was magically carving out entirely new days that were just filled with social media time. As in, when I first checked my daily average it was 7-8 hours!! I was in every sense of the word: addicted. Unable to stop the incessant scrolling and beginning to no longer find enjoyment from the media I was viewing or reading but only this consistent babble and influx of songs, promotion & advertising and people saying "Hey, welcome back to my channel." In the next week, I began taking small steps to assess, editing and cull my screen time. After noticing many enlightening things from my behaviour, I realised that I really did have the desire to lower my screen time and attachment to social media; which I know is somewhat ironic cause this article will be shared through the medium itself, but when I decided this three weeks ago I made a commitment to myself. So, here are a few apps, tactics and techniques that I've used. The first section being apps or techniques I currently use now and have been using for a long time, that help with relaxation and disengaging from my social media, and the second section being new strategies and apps I have tried for 3 weeks now. So, without further ado, I present a myriad of miraculous solutions.
Screen Time – Breaking my addiction to those backlit blue light displays.
Yep, we've all heard it before, that the backlight of our digital devices reduces the dopamine produced by the brain tricking it into thinking its daytime, leading you to completely messing up your sleep cycle and so forth. The vicious cycle continues. But luckily for me, I'd implemented many things years ago, without realising it that would curb my screen time while increasing my productivity. I know, there's the highly debated word of the pandemic… "Productivity." Honestly though, when I say productivity, I mean anything that I'm currently working on that has meaning to me or brings me joy. Whether that be writing a song or working out or finishing a drawing, it all helps me feel like I'm accomplishing a task that isn't binge-watching an entire season of friends for the seventh time while consuming my body weight in chips and or ice cream. Sure, I felt fine doing that at the beginning of the year when I was still trying to adjust to lock down and the fact that by July, I hadn't seen another strangers mouth for over a month. But by now, blocking out my day makes me feel accomplished. Not to mention it also helps me fall asleep faster as it tends to mimic how busy I used to feel managing work, study, sporting and social commitments back when things were 'normal.' As a result, I've been paying much more attention to my thoughts and their rapid-fire when overwhelmed. I've possibly eaten a little too much chocolate but found that I'm much less stuck between confused emotional states and able to better regulate my motivation. So, whether you too are craving a digital detox or are simply looking for relaxation tools here are some things that have saved me from complete internal chaos spreading to actual chaos in my real life.
Regular Practices – Culling, Instagram and Do Not Disturb.
Over the last few months, I've only watched the news when I really wanted to be updated on something specific and I've also taken to a new practice I like to call my monthly cull. This applies to other apps too but began on my Instagram. I set a timer for 20 minutes and proceed to scroll through Instagram in a focused way assessing everything I'm seeing and whether it A. Has value to me, or B. Makes me feel good about myself. If the post or image does not, I click through to the profile and unfollow it. I noticed also that since the creation or reels on Instagram I have been particularly overloaded by sound with each post containing music that plays for the momentary second as I scroll past. The constant change of songs as I scroll the feed becomes a bundle of disoriented sound that is extremely triggering for me. So now when I have a short scroll through, I make sure my sound is off. Combined with this I place a limit of 2 hours on all my entertainment apps with the screen time function and have used the automatic do not disturb setting since 2013. I set mine to shut off all notifications from 10 pm-7 am Monday to Friday with the weekends being a little later. This has helped me with that urge to check my phone when I hear a notification. There is also a new feature within screen time where you can block specific apps from access while the do not disturb is active.
Headspace – The helpfulness of silence and relocating your apps.
The app I've used for the longest is Headspace, a meditation and mindfulness application founded by Andi Puddicombe. While also having a relaxing voice as one of the speakers on the mediation portion of the app, Andy is an expert in this field and an accomplished writer and presenter. I can tell you right now that this app is not only what has aided in getting me to sleep over the last 4 years but also helped me through emotional extremes as they arise in day to day life. And before you go "oh it's just another overly priced mindfulness app" and wonder how you'll ever be able to sit still while meditation; which is the same thing I thought; there is literally everything for every type of person on this app. From walking meditation to mindful cleaning exercises and everything in between, as well as beginner and advanced courses in mindfulness basics this app has it all. In 2016 I began a trial of the app and completed the basics course and then proceeded to subscribe with a student discount the following year. I've now been a member for 3 years, have meditated for 4560 minutes which roughly translates to 76 hours and completed 392 sessions via the app. 5 major features are available to members including a search bar where you can type a word and a relevant meditation will come up. These features include a today/daily tab, the meditate section, sleep, move and focus. I use the sleep one the most which includes Sleepcasts which are ever-changing stories in soothing voices, short wind-down exercises, sleep music and soundscapes and much more. The meditate section has exercises and timers for short to long sessions as well as animated videos to explain the techniques and exercises regarding how mindfulness can be practised through meditation. The move section was added this year throughout the pandemic and includes great workout specific for stress relief and the focus tab includes music, exercises and soundscapes from BBC earth series which I used when studying. I had the greatest success with this app thought when I relocated where it was positioned on my phone in 2018. I moved my Instagram to the second page and placed Headspace where Instagram it used to be. I then became more likely to use it simply from where it was on the home screen. I have also moved my most used apps, Instagram and Facebook to the fourth home page on my phone and have been logging out of them after each use. This way I ensure that I'm consciously logging in to check on things and I avoid getting sucked into the black hole of endlessly scrolling without any way to stop.
New Discoveries – Focus, time blocking and avoiding endless scrolling.
Now for the new things I've discovered over this cluster of a year. Firstly, the Tide app and time blocking strategies. The Tide app runs similarly to Headspace but it's completely free and is only offers music and sound. Its features include similar aspect to headspace of focus, sleep, nap and breath tabs. The focus allows you to set a timer for a task and select a soundscape that will run in the background of the phone while you work. The timer will then sound when completed. The sleep function allows for timers on the music to be set as well as wake up alarms with the nap function working the same way but being practical with a nap timer too and wake up scheduled time. The breath function allows for timed breathing for 15 min or shorter with two exercises offered: balanced breath that improves mood and relieves stress and 4-7-8 Breath that relaxes the body and mind aiding in sleep. There is an extensive menu of landscape sound features that the app offers with more being available to people who subscribe. This app has been excellent, and I usually use the focus feature the most when I'm time blocking my day. I'll simply sit down and schedule out my day lightly dedicating certain hours for specific tasks. If a task is longer than 45min I will use the tide app and focus function to break it up into 25min sections getting a drink, snack, or walking around the block in between. Time blocking and the Tide app have ensured that I don't end up looking like the hunchback of Notre dame at my desk for endless hours only to check the time and realise that I haven't eaten or have evidently turned to stone in my desk chair.
Holiday While In A Pandemic – The magic and serenity of Slow Tv.
My next discovery aided with my sadness of not being able to travel over this time. Warmer weather arrived and the streamed virtual tv fire was no longer affording me the same escape. I introduce to you Slow TV. The magic of this type of media is its simplicity. Slow tv is essentially just that; a 3 hour, or more, stream of a vehicle of any type travelling somewhere. Whether it's a boat, car or train there are some amazing advantages to the immediate nature of movement that offer escapism and after watching feels like I've been on a small holiday. Visit the web page here https://www.sbs.com.au/programs/slow if you're interested in watching some. I have loved the Ghan train through central Australia and also enjoy Slow sailing videos too from a channel called SV Delos on YouTube. The SBS website has just now added a new category too called slow making, with the latest slow episode of the Cadbury chocolate factory. Yum!
In closing, the apps, techniques and strategies mentioned above have for me helped moderate my consumption of digital content, have stopped me from continuing to engage with social media that is not supportive for my mental health or body image and most crucially stopped my binge-watching from ruining my sleeping patterns. Why Netflix didn't remove the 'Are you still watching?' button over the pandemic period, I'll never know. But it certainly only enabled the mind-numbing watching of series after series. As they say: "If you keep watching that your eyes will go square." But to be completely honest maintaining a healthier understanding of my social media use for the last three months is probably the best decision I've made since I joined Facebook in 2013. Millennials these days (myself included) think gratification can be as immediate as instant noodles, but the truth for me at least is that less online content and more present experiences in the world around me have made me happier, and that is something to strive for.