How Does Your Digital Wellness Affect Your Social Wellness?
It’s important to strike a balance between using technology as a helpful social tool and abusing it as a quick social fix to avoid real-life interactions. Digital wellness is a term used to describe how well you strike that balance.
The Problem with Digital Reliance
Here’s the problem: Face-to-face relationships, whether they be with your boss or your spouse, really matter. The same cell phone that’s used to help a child Facetime with grandparents on the other side of the country can also make them feel detached from their phone-tethered parents. It’s important to strike a balance between using technology as a helpful social tool and abusing it as a quick social fix to avoid real-life interactions. Digital wellness is a term used to describe how well you strike that balance. To evaluate your digital wellness, you need to look at:
- How much time you spend on your cell phone and computer
- How often you look at your phone while talking to other people
- Whether or not you turn your phone off when it’s polite to do so (such as at the movies, on a date, or while driving)
Measuring Digital Wellness
Measuring digital wellness isn’t as easy as reflecting on your personal habits. For example, people notoriously underestimate how much time they spend on their phones. Luckily, a number of apps and organizations have launched to help people understand their personal digital issues and — more importantly — re-establish balance in their lives. Some of the best apps include:
- Brick: This movement encourages people to spend more time in the real world. It includes workshops, private coaching, community events, and phone-free getaways to help people get better at interacting face-to-face rather than face-to-screen.
- Moment: This app puts users through daily exercises designed to teach them to spend less time on their phones and to use their phones in more healthy ways.
- Onward: Onward is a phone app that gives daily, weekly, and monthly reports to users so they understand how much time they’re really spending on their phones.
- Flipd: This app teaches you how to focus, stay motivated, and stay on task.
- Streaks: Streaks is designed to help you set healthy goals and track your successes. It helps you remember the real-life activities you want to accomplish and holds you accountable to yourself.
- Freedom: This website blocker prevents you from logging into apps or websites that you don’t want to log onto so often, allowing you to live a more distraction-free life.
Mark Shapiro is on a mission to figure out how we can deepen our social connections using social media – which in many cases can seem like an oxymoron – as well as examine relationship building fundamentals, and empower people to prioritize the things that matter: authentic living and genuine support and connection.
Strategies for Improving Digital Wellness
Phone apps and websites are designed to be addictive to users. To combat the digital addiction and take control of how you use technology, it’s important to set boundaries around phone and computer use. After using some of the apps above to better understand your digital weaknesses, consider implementing some of the following strategies to improve your social health.
- Be More Physically Present: If someone comes to visit you in your home or you go out on a date, make a point of putting the phone away. Turn it on silent, put it face down so you don’t see alerts, or turn it off entirely. By teaching yourself to be physically present, you’ll find that you don’t just look down at your phone when you don’t know what to say to someone. Instead, you’ll learn how to converse more easily and be a better friend.
- Remove Addictive Apps from Your Phone: If you find yourself spending a lot of time scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, consider removing those apps from your phone. You’ll still have access to your accounts from a computer, but removing them from your phone means less unintentional scrolling and more consciousness about how often you’re on these sites.
- Give Your Technology a Bedtime: Often, our cellphone is the last thing we look at before we go to bed and the first thing we look at when we wake up in the morning. Turn that narrative on its head by turning your phone off at the same time every night — 30 minutes to an hour before you go to bed — and not turning it back on until after you’ve eaten breakfast. This gives you time with your own thoughts on a daily basis and can also improve the quality of your sleep.
If you want to improve your connections with other people, you first need to improve how you’re connecting with them. As you make a point of improving your digital wellness, you’ll begin to distinguish between using your phone as a tool to help you connect and using your phone to disconnect entirely. Over time, you’ll see your relationships grow stronger as you get better at being a present, active friend.
You’re Communal by Nature
These days, most folks find it easier to lock eyes with a screen than with another person, but on a social level, we’re biologically built to avoid loneliness in order to live happier, healthier, and longer lives. In the era of the great “disconnection epidemic,” when we’re more likely to kick back than venture out, it’s tougher than ever to maintain a tight-knit crew.
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