We can all agree that the internet is pretty great. But sometimes it feels a bit too great. Specifically when it’s 1am and you tried to get an early night. Instead you’re lying in bed with pins and needles in your elbows and 98 weeks deep on a wellbeing blogger’s Instagram. Or when you really need to get that proposal out the door, but you also really need to check Facebook one more time.
UK adults spend 25 hours per week online, and 41% of people spend more time online than they intended. "Than they intended" is the key issue. This isn’t us using the internet in all of its glory, this is us getting stuck in mindless scroll holes.
That feeling, that ‘just one more scroll’, is where the Stop Scrolling challenge was born, over a glass of wine with my friend Zoë, a qualified counsellor. We both had high hopes for 2016, but knew there was one thing getting in the way of our goals: our compulsive social media and iPhone habits.
The aim of the challenge is to help those of us who like (or need) to be connected to reassess our relationship with technology. It’s about finding a healthier and more productive place without detox or deactivation - because those just aren’t practical for people who need the internet to work.
Here are some tips to get you going:
Start at the start
Will the world fall apart if you don’t check emails or Facebook until you’re ready to leave in the morning? Buy back the 10 minutes usually spent on the morning scroll and use a hair mask, meditate, do some stretches, stay in bed longer or get to the office early.
What do you really need?
Finding digital balance is about reaping the rewards of being online while letting go of the bits that don’t benefit our lives. If checking your work email 9am-7pm means you can work flexibly, don’t get rid of that. If having Pinterest on your phone keeps you up until 2am and you’d really rather sleep, perhaps you don’t need the app and restrict your use to desktop.
What can you take offline?
Having everything on our smartphone was hugely exciting at first: one device to rule them all. But going back to analogue in a couple of key ways has a knock-on effect when changing habits. Using an old-fashioned alarm clock or a pen-and-paper to-do list creates a distance from your digital activity at significant times you could do without being phone in hand: when you wake up, and when you get down to productivity.
What did you do before Facebook?
Our most popular day in the challenge focuses on downtime. When we have a lot to do, sometimes we feel guilty doing anything else, so we do ‘nothing’. But in 2016, ‘nothing’ is usually scrolling. What happened to hobbies? Reconnecting with activities we enjoy with purpose is a big part of overcoming mindless scrolling.
End at the end
We’ve all heard that the blue light from our devices disrupts our sleeping patterns - that and our inability to stop scrolling once we start at bedtime. If you complain about not getting enough sleep, set a bedtime and give yourself an ‘offline buffer’ of a couple of hours. See how many coffees you need the next day.