We often associate life in the digital age as something freeing and even empowering. After all, this is a world where we can connect with people from opposite sides of the globe within seconds of the click of a button. We can shop for just about anything with a few swipes of our fingers and get access to virtually any information we could possibly need instantly. While it’s true that technology has made life significantly easier in many respects, it’s also taken away a certain portion of human autonomy in the process.
For better or worse, it can often feel as if we’re constantly surrounded by a seemingly overwhelming barrage of notifications, alerts, and emails which make it tough to get a single moment of peace and silence. As a result, we find ourselves stuck in an endless cycle of needing to check our phones on the off chance something new and exciting (or even mundane and predictable) pops up. For countless people, this has become a source of tremendous angst, restlessness, and insecurity.
The fact is, this isn’t a problem we can afford to ignore. Rather, we need to step up, take back control and structure our lives in such a way that allows us to properly co-exist with technology without becoming slaves to it. To do this, it's essential that we take stock of our current situation and start looking for meaningful ways to address the issue at the source.
First and foremost, try to carve out a specific amount of time every day where you switch off from the online world and truly disconnect. Whether it’s 15 minutes every evening or a full hour every Sunday, put aside some designated screen-free time as soon as possible and stick to it to the best of your abilities. During this period, turn off your phone, avoid watching any unnecessary television and focus on developing a more tangible activity. For instance, if you own any instruments, jam on them, flip through a book, go for a walk, practice some yoga or even do some gardening; essentially, do whatever makes you feel most connected and grounded in the analog world.
Another approach to consider is cutting down on your use of social media platforms. There’s nothing wrong with these networks per se but it's important to remember that by continuously checking them and getting absorbed in the fictitious reality they offer, we’re often trading in our sense of independence in exchange for fleeting moments of dopamine hits supposedly derived from likes and comments. Whenever possible, we need to resist this urge, open the door and reconnect with the outside world.
On that note, one great way to do this is to look for activities that will challenge us to be in the present moment. Specifically, activities that require enough attention and focus that we can’t rush through them or pay them only half of the attention such as hiking, meditating, making art and so forth. These activities can potentially help us develop healthier habits and think more clearly about our values and priorities when it comes to online consumption.
At the same time, it also helps to build positive relationships with like minded individuals who share similar values in terms of internet usage. Making sure we’re surrounding ourselves with people who don’t mind taking a break from their screens every now and then can make a significant difference in the way we manage our time on the internet and our overall level of contentment and satisfaction.
All things considered, gaining control over our lives in the digital age is far from easy. It requires a great deal of introspection, restraint and measured effort along the way. However, given the right steps and effort, it can be done and can lead to greater freedom and self-mastery in the end.
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