Published: 23 November 2018
So much of our lives are spent online. This is where we communicate with other people, share information about ourselves, learn more about others, and build connections. More and more of our day-to-day lives and interactions have become dependent on technology, and we have now reached a stage where it’s hard to ever imagine our lives without it.
However, in many ways we can become too dependent on technology. We might spend more time on our phones, tablets or computers than we even realise, and often the things we’re looking at online can make us feel bad about ourselves.
Taking a break every now and then to detox from the digital world and reduce screen time can be great for our mental health.
Protecting your wellbeing online
Since we spend so much of our time online, it’s important to look at ways to make it a more positive experience. If you find that going on social media often makes you feel bad, then there are things you do to make it better.
Watch who you follow
Think about who you’re following and how they make you feel. If someone is always negative online, does this make you feel negative too? Is there someone you follow who seems to have a perfect life and makes you feel bad about your own? Thinking about how the accounts you follow make you feel is a good way to know if you should be following them.
Unfollow or mute any accounts that make you feel bad online, and find people to follow who are positive or who make you feel good. This will help to improve your experience.
What we see online is not necessarily reality
Many people try portray a perfect picture of their lives online. Filters allow us to change an image so that it will look “better” to other people, and often people choose to show happy moments, making it look like their life is great all the time. This version of their lives does not reflect reality, because they are choosing to leave out the times when things are not so great, and a lot of the moments they do show might be staged.
Keep in mind when going through social media that what you’re seeing is not reality, it’s just what other people want you to see.
Mute, block, report
Almost every social media platform has a mute, block, or report function. If there’s a social media account who is acting abusive towards you or someone else, know that you don’t need to keep following that person. You are in control of who you interact with online.
If someone is sharing something you don’t want to see, mute them. If they are being abusive or bullying you or another user, block them and report them to the social media site. Everyone deserves respect online, and you should only engage with the people you want to engage with.
Learn more about cyberbullying, how to avoid it, and what to do if it happens to you here.
Think about what you’re sharing
Be careful when it comes to what you say and share online. Try to avoid posting things in the heat of the moment. Instead, draft your post and then wait a few hours. If you still want to share it, then hit publish.
Once something is posted online, anyone can find it. This is especially true for anything that goes viral within a few hours of posting. Even after deleting the post, it might still be possible for someone, such as a future employer, to find it through search engines. This is an important thing to keep in mind before posting online.
Remember, if something is not okay to say in person, then it’s not okay to say online. Treat others with respect and dignity, and everyone will have a much better time.
Take regular breaks
It’s important to take regular breaks from social media. If you take time to step away, you will enjoy your time online a lot more. Make a point to put your phone away every now and then and do something else, whether that’s going for a walk with a friend, reading or watching something, or doing an activity like yoga or running.
Try to resist the urge to post on social media for a whole day and see what that’s like. Think about the things you would normally share and whether or not they’re important or if it’s a good idea. Taking time to think about the way you use social media will help you to decide if you need to cut down.
How to do a digital detox
If you want to reduce screen time or take a few days away, it helps to start off by understanding the way you use your phone at the moment.
Track your usage
Download an app or take a look at your settings to track the way you’re using your phone. A tracker app can tell you how many times you unlocked your screen, what apps you use the most, and how many hours you spent on your phone overall. You might be surprised at the results, and it can help you to work out which apps you need to cut down on the most.
Set yourself a time limit
Once you know how long you’re spending on certain apps and websites every day, think about how long you would like to spend on them. Set yourself a time limit, whether that’s restricting the number of hours you spend online in a day, or only allowing yourself to use certain websites at certain times of the day.
This can be difficult, but if you stick with it, you will find it gets easier over time.
Find other things to do
Find other ways to fill your time when you’re trying to stay off your phone or computer so that you won’t be tempted to pick it up again. Try and do an activity that requires attention so that you’re less likely to be distracted, and consider removing your phone or laptop from the room while you’re doing it.
Knowing what you’re going to do will make it a lot easier to stay away.
Work on your routines
Is your phone the first thing you look at in the morning and the last thing you look at before bed? Try to change your routines so that your phone is not the first and last thing you reach for at the beginning and end of the day.
In the mornings, decide how long you want to wait before looking at your phone, or pick at least 3 other things to do before you start browsing social media. At night, it’s a good idea to stop looking at screens at least one hour before you go to bed. Try doing yoga, reading a book, writing, or chatting to a family member instead.
Build offline connections
If you spend a lot of your time talking to friends online instead of in person, try to change that. Encourage your friends to meet you for a walk, visit their house, or think of another way you can spend time with each other instead of messaging them. When you are together, really pay attention to them instead of browsing on your phone. Social media can be great for keeping in touch with someone, but building connections in person is what makes a good friendship.
Talk to someone
If the time you spend online is getting you down, talk to someone about how you feel, such as a parent, guardian, or another trusted adult.
To find out more about Internet safety and wellbeing, visit WebWise.ie for information, advice, and free resources.