I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my real life and my digital life. I know that too much electronic consumption can be damaging to your eyes and your brain and your relationships, but I don’t always know how to put away my phone without throwing it away forever. I believe that media is a tool that can be used to connect and teach and yes, entertain, but when media controls us more than we control it, there’s definitely a problem.
Here’s some easy-to-use strategies for balancing real life with digital life. Each of these strategies is based on academic principles of health and technology, coupled with my own experience.
1. Set aside “No Technology” times/places
The best way to balance the digital world with the real world is to set clear boundaries. iKeepSafe.org cited a study that suggested, “Children with bedroom TVs score lower on school tests and are more likely to have sleep problems. Having a TV in the bedroom is also strongly associated with a higher risk of smoking and being overweight.” One of my goals is to make our family dinner table technology free. It’s not too difficult right now because there’s just the two of us (me and my husband), but when I have kids, I want them to know that family time is not technology time.
Read the iKeepSafe article HERE.
2. Find creative alternatives to media consumption
While doing research for this article, I discovered “Folk Rebellion,” an organization dedicated to finding life offline. Their website states: “Since the late 1970’s there’s been a 50% drop in the unstructured outdoor activities . . . The number of children riding bikes declined by more than 20% between 2000 and 2010.” (Check out Folk Rebellion HERE.) To be honest, this information stings a little. I work full-time as a designer and I spend SO MUCH TIME inside, looking at a screen. Some days I get home and I just have to close my eyes because they burn from staring at that bright backlight. Studies suggest that media limits our brain activity because it’s so single-sensory (meaning it only involves some of our senses--usually sight and sound). If we can find alternative activities that are multi-sensory, things like making a good meal or taking a bubble bath, we’ll create a much stronger connection between our minds and our bodies, and also experience greater joy in those real life things.
3. Make physical activity a priority
One of the biggest problems with massive media consumption is that we consume it sitting down. (If you don’t see why that’s a problem, watch this TED talk.) I believe that if we make physical activity a priority, we’ll be less interested in living on a screen and we'll want to have more real-life experiences. Not just that, but exercise gives us more energy, better sleeping habits, and stronger muscles! I personally want to try and take a 15 minute walk every day, either by myself or with a friend, just to unwind and enjoy real life/real nature/real time.
4. Create, don’t just consume digital media
It has never been easier to create and publish media online. So why don’t more people do it? Some of our hesitation may come from fear (after all, the internet can be a very scary place), but I think the real reason is LAZINESS. It’s easy to sit on the couch and scroll through Facebook. It’s much harder to illustrate a picture, edit a video, or type up a poem. But these activities are much more beneficial than mindlessly consuming . They help us make sense of the world, develop our talents, and explore different fields. I think it's important to fine-tune and express our own thoughts every once in a while, rather than just absorb everyone else's. And don't be afraid to create something just for the sake of creation. There's value in that, too.
Read more about consuming less and creating more HERE.
5. Value real life and real conversations more than anything on a screen
Here’s the truth. The only way you can ever balance real life and digital life is if you understand that one is superior to the other. The friends, the status, and the fun you have online can never compare to what you have in real life. So don’t try and force it! Use digital media to enhance your real-life connections, not REPLACE. This article from Psychology Today said it best: “Fundamentally, technology creates a mediated and low-resolution approximation of life that does offer utilitarian benefits and some entertainment value. But is it "real" enough to want to substitute much of real life? I don't think so. I'll take high-resolution and unmediated life any time.”
Visit Pyschology Today's article Virtual Life vs. Real Life HERE.
For more inspiration, check out these articles about creating a healthy balance between real life and your digital life:
I wonder if I could also ask a favor of you readers, because managing my real life and digital life is something I really struggle with. If you have a suggestion or strategy for other ways to balance your life online and offline, would you share them below or send me an email? I would love to learn from you.
Thanks for reading!