As PR professionals, we crave news and information. We need to be in the know five minutes ago. That’s a good thing; it’s why (and how) we’re good at what we do.
But all the constant refreshing is not without its toll, especially of late when it seems that newsfeeds are little more than virtual vitriolic battlegrounds (bring back the baby photos and cat videos, am I right?). If you’re anything like me, all the snarkiness can start to take a pretty significant emotional burden.
Not too long ago, I decided I needed a digital detox of sorts. I needed to realign and be present in my own life instead of constantly and mindlessly scrolling. I didn’t do anything drastic (er, heroic?) like abstain entirely from social media or delete my accounts (which would have been impossible due to the nature of my job, anyway), but I did take a few measures to refocus my own sanity. Know the feeling? Perhaps one or two of these ideas will help:
Get serious with yourself
The average Internet user spends 118 minutes on social media channels per day. That last part is worth repeating: PER DAY. That’s nearly 14 hours in a week! Without a doubt, social media check-ins are essential to our jobs. What’s not essential, however, is climbing into bed for the night, deciding to check your phone “real quick” only to then realize it’s an hour and a half later and you’ve scrolled to 2012 on a stranger’s feed. Never happened to you? Oh, cool, me either, that’s a, uh, friend’s story. But, in all seriousness, take a hard look (and maybe even keep a log) of how much time you’re truly spending on social media. You’d be surprised how many minutes you’re losing to those “real quick” check-ins.
Know the difference between being “immersed vs. informed”
It’s our job (as PR pros) and responsibility (as citizens) to stay current. But that doesn’t mean staying continuously plugged in all day every day, because doing so isn’t healthy. Take a break. And when you do tune in, make an effort to balance your news and your news sources. Also, read some happy news from time to time. It’s still out there (I think).
Turn off notifications
Most days, I wake up and check my social media feeds and news apps before I’m even out of bed. I listen to NPR on my way into work, read news updates in my inbox the second I get to my desk, Snapchat my way through the afternoon and so on and so on. Plus, my kids are crazy adorable so Facebook and Instagram need posts from me regularly. But it’s a spiral. Seeing those little red iPhone badge alerts is too much for my type-A personality, and I find myself with a compulsive need to check them. For me, turning off the notifications was instantly relieving. I still access my feeds quite regularly, but not in the middle of meetings, lunches or during my time with my family. It can wait. Guess what? Haven’t missed a thing yet.
Go hardcore old school (just for a day … or a few hours)
Okay, this one’s admittedly pretty hard. A few months ago, my husband and I declared our home to be a “tech free” zone on Sundays. We keyed in family and friends that we’d be incommunicado for the day, and then we locked up our phones and hid the TV remotes. It definitely started off as a measure intended to benefit our kids (here’s one of my favorite reads on that subject). But, I’ll be honest: I feel pretty spectacular come Monday mornings. Maybe a whole day won’t work for you; try it for a few hours in the evening, or even just during your lunch break. I won’t wax poetic and tell you the colors of the leaves look brighter or I discover a profound inner peace every Sunday, but I do play with my kids more and read actual books before bed, so there’s that.
According to which article you read or which expert you ask on any particular day, tech may or may not be ruining our lives. Safe to say, though, it’s certainly running them. Take a beat and step back. I guarantee you’ll be pretty happy with the decision.