Welcome to the Mind Your Self series, where we share tips and tricks for looking after your general health and wellbeing while you embark on your campaigning, volunteering, activism or learning.
It’s easy to spend hours using the internet through work or activism commitments, interest in a news story, boredom, anxiety or because we like keeping up with friends or a favourite creator. If you think you spend longer online than you’d like to, but don’t know how to improve your internet habits, we’ve put together some tips for more mindful internet consumption.
Consider what it is you’re consuming
If there’s a particular website or app that takes up your time, consider what makes you open it so frequently, or spend so long on there. Ask yourself how you feel once you’ve been scrolling, reading or responding to posts for a while. Do you feel invigorated and inspired, or sad, frustrated or angry? Establish if there’s a certain user that provokes a particular response. There’s nothing wrong with muting or unfollowing that user, or perhaps logging out of your account so it’s harder to leave comments or reactions to a post or article.
One of the reasons we write the Campaigning, Education and Activism series is that we know how stressful social media feeds can become, and want to provide resources in a different format. We love to follow a diverse group of people on social media, who are all working on niche topics or campaigns, but all those voices talking about X issue or Y petition, all at once and all with urgency, can become overwhelming. There’s nothing wrong with unfollowing an activist on social media and choosing to subscribe to their blog or newsletter instead, for a more calm or measured discussion of their work. Think of curating your social media use as pruning a rose bush. When you cut back dead wood and remove last year’s wilted flowers, new growth can begin. Yes, we are now going to show you a photograph of a rose. No, we aren’t gardeners, why do you ask?
Once you’ve taken stock of what it is you do on the internet, it might be worth considering how and when you use it…
Avoid the internet for an hour(ish) every morning
Start your day with a clear head and don’t look at anything online that isn’t essential, including work emails, news sites or social media, for an hour after you’ve got up. We’re not saying don’t check your messages or avoid the news completely, but perhaps you could swap the Facebook app for the Facebook Messenger app, which has less distractions, or listen to the news through the radio instead of scrolling on your phone. If a full hour’s not feasible due to work or family commitments, aim for half an hour – and then perhaps only check your emails, or only check your family group chat. Spend the extra time doing something for yourself that you never normally have time for – a cup of tea, a slightly longer walk with your dog, that meditation app you downloaded but never use. If you use your internet time to keep up with campaigning or activism and want to continue engaging with an issue, maybe you could read a book or magazine on that topic instead?
Avoid the internet for an hour(ish) before bed
We get it: sitting in bed with your phone is comfy! But a big news story, social media chatter or a message chain can keep us glued to our screens for longer than we realise. Try winding down your internet use an hour or so before you go to bed. Again, do something nice for yourself! Wash your hair, go for a walk, phone a loved one or get organised for the next day. If you’ve been meaning to try a new hobby, why not use the hour to do that? Or, if you do most of your ‘brain work’ in the evening and want to feel productive, try reading a non-fiction book or magazine instead.
Again, if a whole internet-free hour isn’t practical, perhaps change what it is you do online before bed. Swap Instagram for a fifteen minute evening yoga tutorial, or swap your news app for a video call with a friend.
Log out of certain accounts so you have to make the effort to log back in
It seems simple, but adding an extra step between ‘opening a website’ and ‘browsing the website’ can give us time to consider whether we really want to spend time there. This is especially true if you remove the ‘remember password’ function and have to tap out your login details every single time you open the page!
Remove apps from your phone
The best thing about smartphones is that the world is at our fingertips. The worst thing about smartphones is that the world is at our fingertips. If you find that you’re spending more time than you’d like on a certain app, try deleting it for a few days and see if you miss using it. Perhaps you could reinstall it at weekends, or once you’re feeling a little less overwhelmed by a particular news story, or once a work deadline has passed. Francesca deleted most non-essential and social media apps, apart from WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, from her phone over the course of four or five years, and can confirm that she feels calmer for it. She’s also less likely to purchase things she doesn’t need on a whim, because she only downloads shopping apps when she’s really, really, really bored.
Set up app and site blockers
If you have a deadline looming or you know your mental health is suffering from doom scrolling, and you’d like to spend less time on a site or app, perhaps set up a blocker. There are plenty of free apps and browser extensions to help with this: have a look on your phone’s settings to see if you can set up a time-based blocker, or try a browser extension. Francesca likes this one (this post isn’t sponsored or affiliated in any way!).
Establish time limits for guilt-free internet use
It’s easy to spend too long on a website we’ve previously tried to cut down on, then beat ourselves up about it. One way of allowing yourself guilt-free internet browsing is to give yourself half an hour each morning to go through your emails/social media feed/news app, and half an hour every afternoon. Don’t limit what you can look at! This is your time to consume cat memes and celebrity gossip and marketing emails! It’s your time to catch up with fellow campaigners and read the news and browse the Do Something Directory for cool new organisations you can join! Then log out from your device and don’t look again until the next half an hour rolls round.
What do you think of our tips? Do you have any of your own? Let us know in a comment!
Last updated on 19th October 2021.