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Surviving Scroll Free September

Reflections on my progress and how I plan to make it through the rest of the month.

Night owl: take a break from social media every evening, after 6pm.

We’re about a third of the way through September, which means the first third of Scroll Free September is in the bag!

In my previous post about Scroll Free September, I pledged:

…to switch off from social media at 6pm everyday during September (night owl). I’m also going to stop using social media in the bedroom (sleeping dog), so no checking social media as soon as I wake either.

How did I do?

On the whole, I’ve been doing really well but…

I have a confession.

On Tuesday I was running late for an appointment with my GP, so I was completely focused on getting to the surgery and Scroll Free September was at the back of my mind. I was sat waiting to see the doctor when I checked Twitter, to respond to a notification. As soon as I did that, I realised it was after 6pm.

I was really disappointed with myself. For a minute. Scroll Free September is not about beating myself up, for making a genuine mistake. I think the important takeaway is that I immediately became aware of my actions and did something about it.

Apart from that, I’ve stuck to my pledge, to switch off at 6pm every night and I’ve stopped checking social media as soon as I wake.

From a wellbeing perspective, I’m not finding it difficult to stay away from social media. I would if I went cold turkey across all my channels though! There have been occasions when I’ve wanted to share something and it has been after 6pm. Social media platforms harness psychological models to create dependency amongst users and that desire to share, is part of that dependency and addiction.

These methods are so effective they can activate similar mechanisms as cocaine in the brain, create psychological cravings and even invoke “phantom calls and notifications” where users sense the buzz of a smartphone, even when it isn’t really there.

“Facebook, Twitter and other companies use methods similar to the gambling industry to keep users on their sites,” said Natasha Schüll, the author of Addiction by Design, which reported how slot machines and other systems are designed to lock users into a cycle of addiction. “In the online economy, revenue is a function of continuous consumer attention — which is measured in clicks and time spent.”

Social Media copies gambling methods ‘to create psychological cravings.’ (The Guardian, May 2018)

My Scroll Free September strategy

The following tips are helping me stick to the pledge.

1. Spread the word

I posted about Scroll Free September across all of my social media channels. I did this for two reasons:

  • To manage expectations and by making my pledge public means my friends and connections can hold me accountable.
  • I wanted to encourage my social media connections to participate too.

2. Calendar app

I’ve scheduled Scroll Free September in my iCloud Calendar and put it on repeat for everyday throughout the month. I have alerts set for 5.30pm and 6pm each day. That first alert gives me chance to respond to any important messages before I switch off for the evening.

Using iCloud means both my iPhone and my Mac receive those reminders. I’m definitely finding those alerts helpful as they prevent me from getting sucked in. I don’t know why I missed them on Tuesday evening though. I guess I might have deleted multiple notifications together. I do that sometimes, when I have too many.

3. Switch off notifications

I use the calendar alerts to remind me to stop using my social media apps and to prompt me to switch off notifications on my phone. This stops me receiving pop-up previews and hides the red notification dots which are visible on app icons along with the number of notifications.

Hiding notifications prevents me from feeling like I’m missing out.

3. Keep my phone on silent

I do keep my phone switched on, but it’s always on silent. Seriously, it’s rare that I switch the volume on. I use my phone to support my wellbeing and use apps for tracking my sleep, so I need to keep it close and on, when I go to bed. However, I do think that keeping it on silent all the time, may encourage me to check it more often. So I’m going to test out a different approach.

4. Close down social media on the computer

I close down social media channels which are open in the browser, before 6pm. By removing social media from my web browsers, I don’t accidentally open those accounts.

The benefit of restricting my social media use

The last week or so has created some space to focus more on reading and writing. And I’m really enjoying that.

My plan for this week

Now I’m feeling in the flow with Scroll Free September, I want to consciously make better use of the time I’m reclaiming. I’d also like to work on reducing the amount of time I spend using my phone because I do still feel addicted to it. So I’m setting some goals to support that:

  1. Monitor my phone usage: I’m going to experiment with an app to monitor my phone usage and I’ll report back on that, later in the month.
  2. Keep reading more: there are a couple of books I’m reading at the moment which I’d like to finish, to make way for more books. 🙂
  3. Learn something new: I have a Lynda.com account which I could use more frequently. I also have access to free courses via some specialised online community platforms and there are lots of things on my list I want to learn.
  4. Meditate: my practice has slipped the last few months, so I’ve not been meditating as often as I should. I shay ‘should’ because meditation has such a positive effect on my wellbeing.
  5. Exercise: I have fibromyalgia which include widespread pain and chronic fatigue. I also work full-time and then takes up most of my energy. But I want to start integrating a little more exercise which can help some of my symptoms, so long as I don’t over do it. Unfortunately it doesn’t take much for me to over do it.

How are you getting on with Scroll Free September? Let me know what works for you.

Originally published at medium.com

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