Are you digitally distracted?

Joanna Michaels, Beyond Social Buzz

You know that feeling when you’re not doing anything and you ‘have to’ reach for your phone to find out something, to fill out the space? You check the news, look for the likes, play a video, to feel connected.

Research shows that an average person checks their phones 200 to 500 times every day, or every 12 minutes as per report from Ofcom (2018). But staying constantly connected in this way comes at a price.

Maybe you enter a work meeting or sit down for a coffee with a friend and you immediately put your phone on the table. Face up or face down, it really doesn’t matter; the bottom line is, you just can’t put it away.

We know that the mere presence of the phone next to us reduces our ability to focus. But now we also know it reduces our ability to empathise with the people around us.

Personal experience

I know these feelings very well because I’ve spent the past 9 years working in social media marketing. That’s a lot of hours spent online. So, I’m sharing my thoughts with you, not to preach, but to help you create a space, or in other words, increase awareness of your digital habits.

As we’re spending more and more time online, it’s important that we make technology enhance our daily lives, rather than distracting us from them.

Dopamine hit

We live in a world of constant distraction and we’re addicted to it. Most digital devices and social media platforms are built to fuel the addiction.

Every notification brings a warm ping of social approval, in the form of a
dopamine hit. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter made in our brains; it’s the chemical messenger that sends the message of pleasure. It’s released when we take a bite of delicious food, exercise or have sex.

As far as our brains are concerned, a social media ‘like’ gives us the same feeling. And that’s what makes us go back, over and over again.

Distraction kills creativity

That’s right. Our addiction to distraction is the death of our creativity. Research show that we need focus and a certain degree of solitude to be creative. (Though solitude in today’s world doesn’t seem appealing, due to the power of the FOMO – the fear of missing out – which makes us rush to get involved. That’s another story.)

According to Eser Buchholz, a psychologist and the author of The Call of Solitude, solitude is an essential ingredient for producing our best creative work.

Although, it is important to emphasise here, especially following the year of isolation and pandemic, that solitude can boost our creativity only when it is voluntarily opted for. This requirement for ‘creative solitude’ has been emphasised by Kenneth Rubin, a developmental psychologist at University of Maryland.

In search of balance

It’s important to emphasise that technology isn’t inherently bad. It can be miraculous in so many ways; being connected is a big part of our lives. It’s our relationship with technology that can make us feel anxious and overwhelmed.

We need to find a better balance that will benefit our wellbeing, productivity and purpose. We need to manage the digital world, rather than allow it to manage us, as many of us do at the moment.

In my view, and lengthy experience, awareness is the key. So, here are my tried and tested strategies to take back control, and kick the habit of dopamine hits:

Use Headspace App to start your day on your own terms.

Ok, I’m suggesting another app as a way to reduce digital distraction.

Well, this is my attempt to use technology as a force for good. It’s all too easy to pick up your phone and start scrolling from bed when you wake up. But how does it serve you? You can’t control what you’re going to see. If the news is bad (and it generally is) you could start the day in a negative, reactive mood.

The Headspace App has transformed my mornings (and to be clear here, this is my genuine experience and not any form of an ad). It’s given me the motivation to swap social media scrolling with a mindful morning routine that sets me for a better day.

I make a 10 minute space for myself each morning. It helps me to tune into my body, boost my focus and set intentions for the day ahead of me. So, I can start the day on my own terms.

You could also decide not to switch your phone on until you need to, and do some reading, light stretching, of just looking out the window, to start your day.

Disable notifications.

Chose which notifications you want to receive and disable all the rest. Since disabling notifications from social media platforms, ebay, whatssap, and countless other apps, my phone is no longer a source of constant distraction.

Minimise triggers

Have more control over your device use during the day. This follows on from the intentional morning routine. So, only start to use your phone with a clear intention and only when it makes sense for you. You don’t need it all the time.

Remember, there was a time in the recent past when they didn’t exist and we managed without them.

I try to keep my phone in silent mode most of the time, but particularly when I’m working on a specific task to minimise distractions. (I often lose it in the house and cannot call myself to find it, but that’s a different story)

Check in with yourself before you check social media

When I decide I do want to check social media, I pause and check in with myself — before I start scrolling. I ask myself::

  • Why do I want to do this, now?
  • What else could I do instead?
  • What will happen if I don’t?
  • What’s it going to give me?
  • How’s it going to make me feel?
  • Is it useful for me to be distracted?

Work that awareness muscle!

That’s all from me today. Let’s use our devices to develop better habits and start exercising that awareness muscle. It’s about restoring your freedom to make better choices.
No drastic changes, no forbidden activities (because if you are similar to me you’ll rebel against them anyway, to your own detriment). Only small, consistent steps towards more awareness.

Want to know more?
Message me, connect with me on Instagram and subscribe to my monthly newsletter below (packed with social media tips for business with a healthy dose of wellbeing).


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