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Take Control: how to unplug from your smart phone and/or digital addictions

 

I don’t watch TV.

Seriously… I don’t.

Well OK–sometimes I’ll go to a tap house to watch some sportsy sports with friends, and occasionally I’ll sit down with a date or friends or family to watch a movie or a particularly binge-able TV series, but for the most part, no: I don’t watch television.

I’ll admit that it started with me being a cheapskate and simply not wanting to pay for cable, but now it’s been almost two years, and while I continue to enjoy not paying the bill, I don’t think I’d want cable even if it were significantly cheaper. Maybe not even if it was free.

Because let’s be honest: television is, for the most part, a tremendous waste of time. Seriously, is anyone’s life significantly better because they saw the new episode of Top Chef or Survivor (both past favorites of mine)? I mean, not really.

Even a show like Game of Thrones–which was incredibly well thought out and produced (although I hear the ending was a bit lacking)–does it really lead people to live better lives or grow as human beings?

Again, probably not.

I’m not suggesting there’s no reason to indulge in some mindless entertainment from time to time, but if we’re honest, our society doesn’t lack for mindless entertainment. Indeed, most Americans spend more time being entertained than just about anything else.

And that’s the point of today’s blog/podcast. It’s about unplugging. From the television, our phones, social media, etc. Not to the point where we never enjoy them or eradicate them from our lives, but to reclaim the vast amounts of time and energy people spend starting at screens, isolated from others, seeking meaningless validation, mindless entertainment, or both.

Is this good?

One very basic question people should ask themselves more often–is this good? Or to expand: is what I’m doing adding value to my life? Is it making me happy, giving me purpose, helping me learn, improving my relationships, etc.? Is what I’m doing healthy?

And when it comes to our smart phones, social media, television, etc., the answer is most often: no.

Take Instagram for example. Everywhere I go I see people mindlessly scrolling through their feeds for that dopamine hit, and when I open the app on my phone there are new pics and stories every minute… but really what are people getting out of it?

For 99% of us: not a goddamn thing.

Because unless you’re running a business or putting out content or promoting an event (and if you are doing these things, chances are the algorithm won’t show it to people anyway because they want you to pay for ads), what really is gained? Last I checked, you can’t sell likes, and the number of followers you have is ultimately meaningless unless it translates to something you can monetize or use in some way.

Seriously, an ape can use Instagram. Watch the video.

In the meantime, the person scrolling through or posting a story to Insta is missing out on everything happening around them–the people, the scenery, the conversations, etc. Deep down we all know that it’s far more engaging to have an in-depth conversation with a friend, look at beautiful scenery, listen to a good album, or hell, even read a book.

So apply the question: is scrolling through Instagram or posting a crap load of photos or stories every day good?

No. It’s a waste of time and energy–and I’m sorry, but unless you’re famous, no one gives a shit.

Quick disclaimer: the reasons I’ve outlined above don’t even begin to get into what Instagram and other social media platforms do to your mental health. Studies show that the more you use Instagram, Facebook, etc., the more likely you are to be depressed, bored, anxious, commit suicide, have problems sleeping, have less satisfying relationships, less sex, and less likely to receive a promotion or make a high salary than people who use social media less frequently.

Seriously, social media is easy and a cheap, boring source of entertainment in the short run, but overall, it’s a waste of time and a risk to your health and wellness.

The answer is simple: stop.

As I’ve stated many times, no one is forcing you to read this blog or listen to this podcast, just as no one forces you to post to Instagram or binge watch New Girl or spend all day reading threads on Reddit (although if you’re actively reading and writing posts on Reddit, that probably is good).

So the answer is simple: stop. Or just do it a lot less. It’s the opposite of my new novel–instead of Saying Yes, it’s about saying NO.

And yeah, it will feel weird at first. When I initially went without television, it was a little strange not to be able to turn on a football game on Sunday, or watch Survivor.

But after a few weeks, it was just a given, and not long after that, it didn’t matter at all.

Earlier this year I deleted Facebook from my phone. Do I miss it? No. Not at all. Hard pass. Indeed, I’m grateful to reclaim all the time I wasted arguing politics with people who were never going to change their mind about anything, or scrolling through the same photo I just saw them post on Instagram.

As for Insta, I just don’t log on much–the only reason I haven’t deleted that app from my phone is that as far as I know, you can’t post from a computer and I do have some followers who find out about podcasts, blogs, and books that way. Otherwise I’d delete that too.

The other thing about Instagram is that constantly posting photos is not a high value move–it’s actually demonstrating lower value. It means you’re alone a lot, ignoring the people you’re with so you can be on your phone, and/or bored with what’s happening around you, in search of false validation because you don’t have people in your life who can give you real friendship and love. It also comes off as narcissistic–like seriously, you’re so fucking special you needed to post eight updates to your story today? How about actually enjoying your fucking hike instead of making shitty videos to prove you went on one?

Harsh, but true.

10 Strategies that help…

  1. Leave your phone at home when you go for a hike or walk.
  2. Do what Tim Ferriss does and purposefully avoid using your phone and/or computer as much as possible one day a week. I think he does Saturdays.
  3. Leave books around the house–on your bedside table, in the bathroom, near the couch, in the kitchen–anywhere you have a tendency to get out your phone when you’re bored. Trust me, you’ll get far more out of reading a good book, whether fiction or non-fiction, versus scrolling through Instagram or playing a video game on your phone. If it makes sense, do this at work as well.
  4. Put your phone on airplane mode while you’re at work or just turn it off. Do the same after a certain point in the evening.
  5. Get an alarm clock so you don’t sleep in the same room as your smart phone.
  6. CUT THE CABLE! Seriously, you’ll save money and thank me after awhile, because not having TV will force you to find better things to do with your time.
  7. Delete the social media apps from your phone–even just one. Again, trust me, you WON’T miss them.
  8. Cut your Instagram photos down to your favorite 50-100. Then don’t allow yourself to go over whatever you set your limit at–this forces us to think about whether or not it’s really worth posting that next one. Also, ask yourself: is that story is really a story? Is what you’re doing adding value to other people’s lives? Did something interesting happen or do you just feel compelled to film yourself?
  9. Before you log on Facebook or Twitter, ask yourself what your purpose is in doing so–are you just on there to get pissed off about politics or virtue signal or waste time? If so, maybe grab that book you stashed nearby instead.
  10. Track your screen time and use apps that restrict the use of your phone. There’s actually a great article I’ll link to about what happened when a guy deleted all the apps off his phone–the TL;DR is that he had way more time, was far less distracted, wrote a couple books and got rich.

As I’ve said before, this blog/podcast is all about helping you to live your best life. And your best life is REAL LIFE–the time you spend with friends, family, partners, lovers, pets; the time you spend out in the world, whether strolling the city streets or hiking through the forest; the time you spend reflecting on who you are, learning, living, and working on the mission of who you want to be and what you want to contribute to the world.

And the honest truth is that most of the above is accomplished when you’re not on your phone, watching television, or dinking around on the internet. Remember too, that this is hard–this cuts against the grain–and most people won’t do it. Which means there is all the more advantage for the people who do.

So seriously my brothers and sisters… unplug. Trust me: you’ll fee better. And more importantly, you’ll live better.

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