Digital Wellbeing & The 'Life-Technology' Balance
Updated: Mar 28
The term 'Digital Wellbeing' has been around for a few years but is only really coming into play now given the massive shift to online working in Ireland and across the world. So what can we do to help ourselves given the staggering volume of apps, online platforms and social media networks along with a seemingly endless array of PCs, laptops, phones and other gadgets?
The following are some tips when it comes to setting technological boundaries in a tech obsessed world:
1. As you may have put in place a structure for your day, you may well need to consider introducing a structure for how you interact both online and with your devices, most especially your mobile phone. This could include adhering to 'technological etiquette' namely not checking your mobile phone while in company or crossing the street while wearing headphones, oblivious to the world around you. Such practices are not very thoughtful towards colleagues or family and also potentially dangerous if you are not looking where you are going on a busy street or junction.
2. A very simple measure to end the growing tyranny of the 'ping-ping' on your mobile phone every time a text or email comes in is to opt for the 'Do Not Disturb' option, which blocks all calls and alerts, except for your selected exceptions. This convenient option allows you the space to concentrate on a task at hand and is the technological equivalent of putting up a similar sign on your office door.
3. The 'Do not Disturb' option is available on a lot of Apps including WhatsApp where you can also avail of the mute conversation option or if you are being stalked (only kidding) the 'block option', again these underused options are useful for removing some of the technological noise that is intruding on the effort to strike a 'work-life' balance. WhatsApp also has a status range to choose from including: Available, Busy, In a meeting, At Work etc. Worth checking out.
4. Technological companies that came under some scrutiny a couple of years ago over habit-forming technologies now have a 'Digital Wellbeing' option built into their systems that shows you just how long you have been on a device. I recently had to upgrade my phone to the excellent Samsung A10 and I was surprised to see options coming under this heading including the ability to 'wind down' your phone using 'greyscale' mode whereby at a chosen hour the display on the phone turns to grey, indicating to you the need to start preparing for bed.
5. When it comes to getting effective sleep, it has long been known that the 'blue light' from the mobile phone, tablet or laptop can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body's internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later schedule. One way around this is to set a curfew for technology, for example, no devices after 9pm or 10pm, which gives your mind a chance to wind down from the day’s technological activity. Another option which I have really embraced is the 'night' or 'dark' option for Twitter, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp and Outlook. This friendly display again reduces the amount of 'blue light' being directed at the retina and I personally find it a very comfortable viewing option.
6. Striking the right balance with technology and online platforms is crucially important. Some of these systems can really pull you in and I am sure we have all experienced hours passing in no time at all while we scroll through the latest remarkable cat videos on Twitter, Facebook or Youtube. Achieving the 'life-technology' balance is not easy but the first step is to have increased awareness of the creeping role technology is playing in all our lives and the impact on the relationship with self and others. To my mind, technology is there to enhance our lives and not become our lives, so bí cúramach.
7. Another useful option in Outlook is to activate your 'out of office', so if you work in a 9-5 or 8-8 role then you can set your out of office, with a pleasant automatic reply, for the hours you are not actually contracted to be in work. The big plus with activating this option is that it will instantly reduce the 'ping-ping' sound of work or personal emails, which can cause many of us to react or at the very least, quickly review. If 'out of office' is not an appropriate option for your workplace, then simply go to notifications in settings and click 'disable'.
8. I found using positive or inspiring images as profile photos and screen savers on my mobile phone, tablet and PC always give me a bit of a lift and I tend to rotate them quite a bit for the same reason. Some people opt for family photos, shots of landscape or motivational quotes. Pick whichever works best for you.
9. There are a range of 'Digital Wellbeing' apps that can be downloaded from the Play Store including ones for mediation, counting your steps, running and cycling, positive quotations etc. There are also a range of motivational talks via podcasts and Youtube and there is Family Link which helps parents manage the apps their kids use. Google also has a training programme to help kids stay safe online called be Internet Awesome. The programme covers how to avoid scams, protect privacy, report inappropriate content and deal with online harassment and is available here.
10. Google are putting time and resources into trying to assist people when it comes to Digital Wellbeing and their dedicated page is worth checking out. This year Google also released five new Wellbeing Apps for Android users including: Unlock Clock, Post Box, We Flip, Desert Island and Morph. Apologies to Apple users but I never crossed over that river.
In summary, technology has massively enhanced our lives and we see it now more than ever during the #Covid19 crisis. It has never been more important to put in place technological boundaries so that you run the technology and the technology doesn't run you (or your loved ones). The ability to work from home may well save some companies and organisations from almost certain disaster but for employees caught up in this current crisis, it is all about the technological balance being struck. Before she would impart advice, the famous Oracle at Delphi used to remind the ancient Greek Kings to 'know thyself & to engage in nothing to excess'. And so it goes with technology.
Blue Light has a Dark Side by Harvard Health: http://tiny.cc/26zwlz
Google's Digital Wellbeing: http://tiny.cc/0a0wlz
Google's Digital Apps for Android: http://tiny.cc/8l0wlz
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