One of the hardest, but best, things about being on The Amazing Race was not having access to our phones. Before you take off you surrender all technology. I was heartbroken not to have contact with my kids for that long, but it would be no fun if teams had access to GPS and Google translate. It took me a few days to adjust. I would hear phantom ::dings:: or reach for my phone instinctively to search a question about a show on the hotel TV. But after those days of adjustment, I grew to LOVE not being tethered to a device. I promised myself, upon our return I would “be better” about how often I checked my phone. That lasted about 14 seconds.
I’ve made a promise to myself to blog every day in September as a way to focus on my mental health and it’s become clear I need to face the ugly truth: I spend way too much time on my phone.
I realize the extreme hypocrisy as Penn and I make our living online and most of you access this content via phone. For me, social media means community. I feel so thankful every day that I can jump on Facebook or Instagram and communicate with you all. I love replying to your comments and messages and it gives my introverted soul a real connection. And let’s face it, we wouldn’t be making videos without this online community. But there’s a balance. The internet can be an ugly place. It’s hard not to fall into the cycle of comparison and self-doubt. So let’s talk about my very favorite buttons…unfollow, mute, and unsubscribe.
Bye, Bye, Bye
There are three main reasons that I might hit those buttons. First, if I find myself on a celebrity or influencer’s page and it makes me feel bad about myself. I have some favorite people I follow for a laugh or inspiration, but there are just as many posting impossibly curated and filtered photos. I know enough about photoshop to spot it and it drives me bonkers.
Don’t get me wrong, use those filters! Do what makes YOU feel good. But there comes a point, for me, that it becomes harmful to ingest that content. (We don’t filter our photos, but if you find following us isn’t good for your mental health —- unfollow us!)
There was a point when I followed a lot of families and couples who traveled around the world full time. I love to travel and I would daydream about exploring far off places every day, but seeing those pictures made me feel bad about my own lovely little life. My kids would revolt if I pulled them out of school and away from their friends. I found myself sitting in the carpool line, scrolling to see a perfectly coordinated family eating gelato in Italy. Instead of being inspired, it caused me to feel envy. I don’t like that feeling. ::unfollow::
(I know I need to unpack why it made me feel envy and not inspiration. Perhaps there’s something I need to work on there.)
Next up is family. I know this is pretty controversial but I’m sure we all have that one relative who we just don’t see eye-to-eye with. Even if I don’t engage with the things they post, it can set me off to see a lot of negativity. So, I hit mute. Luckily, Instagram doesn’t tell that person that you are taking a break from them for a while. I know for a fact relatives have unfriended or muted me. IT’S FINE. Just because we’re related doesn’t mean we need to be Facebook friends.
Sometimes it isn’t just a specific person. More often than not, I’m just doom scrolling. Aimless and bored, I seem to reach for my phone when I’m looking to avoid a task I’ve been putting off or to numb myself on an anxious day. That’s when it’s time to hit unfollow on the app itself. I use my iPhone’s screen time feature to set time limits on certain apps. There is no reason for me to be spending more than 30 minutes on TikTok.
REPLACING THE HABIT
For me, I need to replace my doom scrolling with another habit.
I decided to put my Kindle and Audible app right next to my social media apps. That way, when I find myself reaching for those, I will read or listen to a book on my phone instead.
Right next to those apps, I saved a free, unlimited Wordle site to my homescreen, so seeing that is a reminder to keep my brain busy in more productive ways.
It seems like every day I’m having to retrain myself to put down the phone or at least engage in more brain healthy activities.
I know this will take a lot of practice but at the end of the day, I feel better reaching a balance. I love this online community, but real life is pretty great too.
How do you strike a balance with technology? I’d love to hear your tips on how to use it all in a healthy way.
Thanks for reading,