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lifestyle PR + digital media

How to cut back on screen time when your work is the internet

January 28, 2020

The following sounds like a rhetorical question, but we assure you that it is not: is there a way—any way at all—to consistently disconnect from the Internet world while still operating in it? We’re not talking about joining a commune (although that idea does remain an oft-discussed Sprocket dream) or deleting our Instagram accounts; we’re not strong enough for that, and anyway, our jobs largely exist within the realm of social media. 

We’re talking about ways to stop being utterly glued to our laptops, and to successfully fight the urge to open Instagram during the course of writing this blog post. It’s a common question without an obvious answer: How do we strike the balance between being online enough and not being overcome by the need to be online? 

We were already asking ourselves this when we stumbled upon this Man Repeller article, which speaks so directly to the heart of it. Is there a way to be ‘medium online’—to not feel obsessed with or addicted to social media and screens, but to not have to renounce them altogether, either?

One of the highlights of the MR piece is its mention of a tech Shabbat—the idea of observing the traditional Shabbat practice of using no screens between sundown on Friday to Sunday morning. What a dream! An excuse to live in the world, on a night/day when those of us who are typically superglued to Google Drive for work can stay logged out. You better believe we’ll be observing a tech Shabbat this week. 

Some members of our team recently read How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell, which is particularly relevant to this discussion. The author cites her own visits to the rose garden near her home, as well as her near-obsession with birdwatching, as a method for checking out of the online world and checking into herself. Not to get all On Walden Pond on you, but connecting with the natural world—the opposite of the architecture of the internet in so many ways—seems like an obvious way to cut back on screen time, too.

Though members of our team have no fool-proof solution, collectively, we do have some ideas which range from using the built-in notifications to sheer willpower to deleting apps. Below, let’s get specific. 

“We were JUST talking about that. I use the timers on my phone to limit my time on social channels, and typically only allow myself to scroll Insta at night.” —Aubrey Gordon, Founder & President 

“I took an IG hiatus this weekend and it was effing magical. On Friday after work, I deleted Instagram and didn't re-download it until this morning. I did supplement a little of what would have been scroll-time this weekend with my computer, but overall felt like I decreased the amount of time I was on my device, and I was more present in general.” —Sarah Duffy, Social Media Director 

“I am a master at forgetting about my phone haha. I have taken the approach in life: "If I don't need to be taking a photo of this moment, I need to be capturing the essence of the moment within myself so that I can remember how it felt later on". I want to remember each important moment by fully immersing myself in the experience. For example, if I'm at dinner with Cam or hiking, I may check my phone once to make sure I'm not missing any important notifications and then typically put it away for the rest of the time. My phone stays on vibrate 24/7 (really because I hate ringtones), so it's easy to forget about. Lastly, I try not to wake up and grab my phone. Helps me wake up fully before connecting to technology. I feel like all of these practices make me seem like a grandma, but they do help me to experience life more.” —Kiana Staton, Account Executive

“I’ll be honest—I’m terrible at screen time. I’m deeply addicted to Instagram even though I’m simultaneously bored by it. I blow through the built-in timers. My tactic lately has been to delete the app for a day at a time—I’m trying to do so once every 2 weeks. When my Insta-free day is over, I re-download the app and move it to a different place in my phone so that I realize every time I instinctively click where the app used to be. I also always have an audiobook in my rotation so I always have something to turn to in a quiet moment instead of scrolling. It’s not perfect, but it’s kinda working!”—Kate Moser Miller, Operations Strategist

We beg of you: if you have good ways to reduce your screen time, please share them in the comments.