I’ve been looking forward to this month’s Unplugged issue. I need the Unplugged issue. I’m guessing many of you do, too.
I’m a wife, a mother of two young children, and I have a demanding but fulfilling job. I often find myself wishing I had more time — more time to work, more time to play with my kids, more time to talk with my husband, more time to sleep, more time to reach out to my friends, more time for myself.
Yet though I know it’s not good for me or for my relationships, I still spend more precious minutes than I know checking my email and scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feeds. My iPhone is the first thing I reach for when I wake up. I have sworn not to have it in the room when I’m with my kids, but somehow my almost-4-year-old knows how to navigate to watch videos and play the games on the “Sesame Street” app. He knows Siri by name. My 17-month-old holds the phone to her ear and babbles. And they’re smart. They know when my husband and I are stealing glances at our phones. I wonder what effect all these devices will have on our children.
It’s unrealistic for many of us to completely unplug from our social networks. They do help us stay connected to friends and family who live far away. It’s a medium that, if used judiciously, can help us learn more about the world we live in.
I know I’m not the only woman who struggles with the challenges of having multiple, often competing demands, the unusually strong pull of social media. So I’m making a pledge to set boundaries. Let’s challenge ourselves to limit one of the distractions in our lives. Here are the steps I’m going to take to find more time, restore my sanity and better manage my use of technology. Join me!
Step one: Limit the information you receive.
- Unfollow toxic and chronically negative “friends.” Unfollow media and business accounts that are no longer relevant. Unsubscribe from newsletters that aren’t essential to your job or your passion. Delete push notifications that interrupt and distract. Feeling relieved?
Step two: Limit when your receive information.
- Activate the “do not disturb” setting on your phone so you can limit when you receive calls, messages and notifications. The setting will allow for phone calls from favorites to get through if you’re worried about missing an emergency call from your mother.
- Don’t check your email or your social media feeds first thing in the morning. Don’t feel obligated to answer early-morning text messages from family or co-workers. Set your intentions for the day before they are hijacked by someone else’s demands for your time.
- Set specific times to check and respond to emails. Turn off those annoying notifications that pop up every time you get a new message in your inbox. Change your status to “busy” or “do not disturb” on your messaging app until you complete your top priorities for the day.
Step three: Limit access to your phone.
- Charge your phone in another room at night. Don’t depend on your phone for its clock or alarm. That way, you won’t have a reason to have it in your bedroom and scroll through your feed first thing in the morning.
- Do not rest your phone on the table during meals, whether you’re having a family dinner at your home, on a date or having brunch with your girlfriends. You’ll have more meaningful conversations.
- When you’re spending time with friends or family, leave your phone in another room. If you want your phone nearby so you can take photos, limit yourself to that use and don’t check your feeds.
- Do not text and drive! Put your phone in the glove compartment, if you have to.
Step four: Manage what information and images you post.
- I like the meme that has made its rounds on social media: Think before you post. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? It is kind? You can add: Would you say what you’re posting to someone face to face?
- Keep photos tasteful, and if you really must post a selfie or a photo of your dinner, limit it to special occasions.
- Keep it real. We all know nobody’s life is perfect. If you’re going to post on social media, also post when things don’t happen according to plan.
- Social media seems to be at its best when it connects people who need help with those who are able to help. Help facilitate those connections when you can.
Step five: Respect other people’s valuable time.
- Follow the instructions on the signs at businesses and retailers and put away your phone when you’re in line or at the counter.
- Do not be a bully or a troll.
- Give priority to the people you are with.