1. Become aware of what you’re doing.
As with all habits and patterns of behavior, becoming aware of what you’re doing is the first step. Try to pay attention to how often you reach for your device, and ask yourself why you’re doing it. If it is for a specific purpose, then it is fine. But if it is just habit, boredom or FoMO (Fear of Missing Out), then you may well benefit from spending less time online. Did you know that a growing number of people are actually unable to even go to the bathroom without their phones for entertainment? Internet Addiction Disorder is a real thing, so put your device down and try to just be in the moment. You don’t need to be entertained every waking second!
2. Engage with people face to face when you have the opportunity to do so.
Seeing entire groups of people totally transfixed by their individual devices is so sad! Make a point of putting your device away whenever you’re sharing a coffee or a meal with friends. Some restaurants have gone so far as to ban the use of digital devices on their premises – and if you can’t make it through one meal without access to your social media, then a digital detox is probably just what the doctor ordered.
3. Switch off your notifications.
Do you really need to be distracted from a conversation every time someone likes your Facebook post or Instagram photo? Unless you are using social media to make a living, you really don’t (and quite possibly not even then). So open Settings, tap Notifications, switch them off, lean back and relax. Then be pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have engaged with your content when you next open that app.
4. If you can’t help tweeting about what you’re doing, be honest about it.
As annoying as it is for those trying to talk to you, it is still better to check out of the conversation for a moment or two while you’re telling the world where you are, what you are doing, and who you are doing it with, than to leave the table with some feeble excuse just to post an update that your friends are bound to discover later – especially if you tag them in it (real life example).
5. Retrain your brain.
Stop drafting status updates and punny tweets in your head whenever something fun or interesting happens. Sure, everyone loves a funny update, but if you focus too much on how you will tell the story, chances are you will probably miss out on a lot of the action. Enjoy the moment, have a laugh with your friends, and trust in your ability to remember the situation well enough to retell it in an amusing way later – when you are on your own.
6. Build new habits.
Checking your phone shouldn’t be the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night. Most of us depend on our phones to some extent, but surely you can switch it off 15 minutes before bedtime and hold off switching it on again until you’ve let the dog out in the morning? (If switching off fills you with dread, try airplane mode.) Many people don’t wear watches as they always have their smartphones with them, and obviously when you wake up you will want to know what time it is. If you can’t just check the time on your phone and put it down, get a simple alarm clock to keep by your bed. At night, try getting through that novel on your bucket list rather than mindlessly searching for entertainment on your device. Not only should this improve your mood in your waking hours, but it will also give you a great topic of conversation for your next interaction with live humans.
7. Practice the art of conversation.
How about a Screen-Free Sunday? Meet up with friends, play a good, old-fashioned board game (how quaint!), have some drinks and nibbles and share stories about your week by means of conversation, not text speak. Basic conversation skills are at risk of becoming a thing of the past, so have a chinwag and create some real life memories! Chances are your friends will love it and want to make it a regular commitment. Your friendships will be strengthened, and you will create numerous special moments that you will treasure for the rest of your lives. Ever heard anyone say “Remember that time when I posted that update?” Unlikely. But you will remember that time when you went to that place with those people – and then that thing happened…