We’re on Zoom calls all the time at Gonzaga, whether on campus or at home. Computers are in constant use both in class and outside, and we’re also usually on our phones or social media at any hour of the day.
With so much internet and screen use, symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, eye strain, stress, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed are frequent and becoming normalized as we devote much of our attention to the digital world and rely on it more and more in daily life.
If the internet is unavoidable and essential, what can we do? Do we let it kill us or go completely off the grid?
I reviewed the new Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” which dives more deeply into the growing issues of the digital world and does offer some solutions to this query. I wanted to offer some of those to students, as well as my own discoveries with how to use social media and the internet.
Here’s my advice if you want to cut down on screen time or make better use of time:
Intention is the first step to internet use. Be aware of why you’re doing what you’re doing at all times. If you open your laptop to attend class, then go to class and ignore the email or text notification. If you mean to scroll down Instagram, then do so when you mean to and not simply out of boredom.
Notice the time. Often, I find I spend more time than I intend online, which can be helped by an increased awareness of the hour or setting timers on apps and sticking to these rules you set for yourself.
Beware of rabbit holes. All too easily one YouTube video leads to another or clicking on a BuzzFeed article points to the next. They’re difficult to resist, but a conscious understanding of the process can certainly be a start in recognizing when you’ve gone too far.
Read multiple, opposing news sources. If you read the news then read nonpartisan news, not only conservative or liberal leaning outlets. This can lead to awareness of biases as well as being intentional with time and use.
Post with care. Before posting that selfie on Facebook, think carefully about everyone who will see it and if you want them to. Does Grandma need to see me partying with friends? Probably not, especially during a pandemic.
Take nonscreen time seriously. If you’re at dinner with family or friends, the Twitter notification can wait. Don’t let the phone or other devices distract you from your offline moment, whether you’re hiking, in an in-person conversation or taking time for yourself.
Be flexible. Like with a diet, sometimes you may slip up with your screen intentions or other circumstances interfere, and this is OK. Forgive yourself and understand that maybe your plan needs to change, with more or less internet time.
In short, start developing healthy screen habits now. These will vary from person to person, as we all have different lifestyles and needs, but as long as there is care, intention and commitment, some of these negative effects of increased screen time can be mitigated. Believe in yourself, and good luck.