Being totally present in a world full of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and texting can be hard. However, shutting it out completely doesn't seem like a particularly realistic option for most of us. It's why finding ways to balance your social media and offline life are actually super important for a meaningful existence.
According to an article in Quartz, Americans now spend an average of eight hours a day consuming media, and daily Internet use has doubled in the past five years (with the increase in smartphones mainly behind the growth). Basically, we spend over half our days plugged in, and a mere five years ago we were spending twice as much time present in the physical world around us — whether it was going for walks, talking to others, or just looking out a window.
And I know that many make the case that technology is our friend and makes everything more convenient and makes people and ideas even more connected than before. And while that's definitely true on certain levels, deep down I think most of us wish we were more present in our lives and just doing more on a daily basis.
If any of this is ringing true for you (and more power to you if it's not!) here are seven tips I've compiled for balancing social media with real life that will help you get the most out of both worlds.
1. Buy A Real Alarm Clock
In a compilation piece on practical ways to break free from you social media addiction on Real Simple, getting a real alarm clock — as opposed to using the alarm on your phone — ranked in the top three. Think about it — how often do you turn off your phone alarm, only to find yourself compulsively checking your e-mail or Facebook before getting up and starting your day? If you remove the phone from the equation, you might just find yourself with a few extra minutes of tranquility.
2. Make A "No Bedroom Allowed" Rule
This one leap frogs off the first tip and even takes it a step further. According to an op-ed in the New York Times by award-winning tech columnist Nick Bilton, we should all banish our cell phones from the bedroom entirely. Text goodnight to your friends, and then spend the last 30 minutes before bed reading a book or writing in a journal. If you do this Sunday through Thursday, you've already given yourself two and a half hours of extra mental space a week.
3. Dedicate Time For Face-To-Face Contact
In a piece for the technology and design site Hongkiat, lifestyle writer Michael Poh stressed the importance of making time for face-to-face interactions with friends. He noted that ideally, social media compliments the relationships we have in life as opposed to replacing them, and it's important to carve time out for real conversations and interactions because of it. Make a standing date with your closet bud every two weeks, or make a point to see a good friend every Sunday. It will make such a difference.
4. Call — Don't Text — A Friend
And in the face-to-face vain, it's also worth picking up the phone and actually calling friends and family. In an interview with Everyday Health, Louise Hawkley, Ph.D., a research associate in the psychology department at the University of Chicago, said that research shows people seem to feel best when their relationships happen face-to-face or over the phone as opposed to just through social media. So the next time you're feeling the urge to connect, trying making a call to a friend instead of posting a thought online.
5. Section Off Specific Time For Surfing The Web
In an article for Inc, tech author Damon Brown said he reserves an hour every morning for gluttoning himself on social media. "It's like reading the morning paper," he said. "I'm sitting there with my coffee and my bagel or whatever. Then it doesn't matter if I don't go on every five seconds. Since I started doing this, it's really changed how productive I am, both for that hour, and for the rest of the day." Try reserving a concentrated hour — no more, and no less — to social media every day and see how it feels.
6. Use Blocking Software
In that NYT's piece, Bilton noted that there are actually apps you can use, like Self Control or Cold Turkey, that will actively block your computer from specific websites, meaning you won't have to rely solely on your own willpower to stay off social media. This is an especially awesome tip for the workplace or for when you really need to be efficient with your time.
7. Take A Day Off
Brown said that he implemented little technology vacations every now and then, in which he keeps his phone and laptop off all day. "Personally, I know my level of focus increases dramatically," he said. "It's helpful during work, but it's also helpful for paying more attention to my wife or even going for a walk," and noted that just having technology inaccessible makes us all the more present in the moment.
Technology should ideally enhance our lives, not take anything away from us, and yet it can be incredibly hard to strike a healthy balance between our online and offline lives. The good news it, it's not all that hard a problem to fix — you just need to be a little proactive and have a desire to change.
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