5 Tools to Improve Your Technological Health
Social media can be exhausting. Recent research links excessive use of social media to many different mental health issues, including increased anxiety, depressive thoughts, and a reduced attention span. But when 78% of the U.S. population uses social media, how do we find balance between checking up on grandma and getting lost in an endless scroll?
I recently returned to Facebook after a year-long hiatus, and found that a significant break was the only way I could re-evaluate my overindulgence. Feeds and timelines are designed to suck you in, sometimes keeping you there for hours (guilty). But the way you choose to react to them can, and should be, entirely up to you.
If you're struggling with sleep, distraction, or productivity issues, here are some tools and general tips for social media moderation that I've found useful, both as a professional and a human.
f.lux is an app that helps regulate the color of your computer's display to align with circadian timing. When your body's circadian rhythm is out of whack, meaning when it's not abiding by the biological process our ancestors used to determine when to wake up and when to sleep (i.e the sun), it can result in health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and fatigue. Studies also indicate that blue light specifically affects the production of melatonin, and can cause sleep issues, further disrupting your circadian rhythm.
Luckily, f.lux changes that blue-ish hue of your screen to match the time of day - so it automatically adjusts to the circadian rhythm of your surroundings, depending on where you live. Some devices now have this feature built-in, but if yours doesn't, you can download f.lux here.
I cringe when I see a group of people out to dinner and they're all face down in a screen. Or when they're on the bus, ignoring the city literally passing them by. Or in the street, when they're about to run into you.
Buffer can schedule those social media-worthy experiences while you live in the moment. So when #foodporn strikes, you can share it with your family before you share it on Facebook. This is really helpful if, like me, you rely on social media for a professional online presence, but also want to have a presence IRL. Try it out here.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo, named after the tomato shaped timer he used in college. Its underlying principle is that when tasks are spaced out in increments, specifically 25 minute periods, mental agility can improve and burnout is reduced.
The PomoDone app syncs with your project management tool - Trello, Slack, or JIRA, for instance - and a timer is installed to that app. Visually, you'll see the amount of time you're spending on a task, and PomoDone can also block certain websites while you work on it. If you're finding it difficult to avoid checking Reddit ceaselessly throughout your workday, PomoDone may be the answer.
Deleting social apps from your phone
I know you aren't going to like this one, but it's probably the most obvious, right? We might default to checking social media when driving, in the grocery store checkout line, or in the waiting room at your therapist's office. Without availability, you might just spark a conversation with an actual human instead. If you're feeling an overload, try bringing a book with you, or leaving your feed at home when you go for a walk.
Setting a social media bedtime
Setting boundaries for myself has been crucial to improving my technological well-being. When Instagram feels as habitual as brushing my teeth in the morning, I knew I had to sleep with my phone across the room instead. I set a phone bedtime for 10pm. Some studies indicate that the mere presence of a device in your bed outside of sleeping hours can affect sleep patterns, further compromising the impact on your circadian rhythm and ultimately, your life. If you really want to get serious about your social media consumption, you may want to prioritize some similar boundaries of your own.
In what ways do you moderate your social media intake?