hello friends. in my page about digital wellbeing, i listed many ideas and resources that could be used to help a person readjust their digital habits to be healthier, and in this post i thought it would be interesting to delve into how i use some of these things in my day to day life. for me, i find reading examples of how other people create systems, routines, and habits to be very useful in giving me ways in which i could adapt such things into my own life.
this has been quite tricky to write as one scenario can easily be adjusted to fit another, and in addition, i know that i am quite lucky with how much i can actually control and i understand for many people these things arent necessarily possible. so please read this with an open mind to how it could apply to something in the way you live your own life. i hope that this can be useful or insightful to someone out there!
for a little context about me, i am a freelance artist who works primarily digitally, with a part-time job on top of this. for me, time is very important and i hate to have it wasted. art and creation is a top priority for me and i hate how i had my output negativly affected by social media for so long. being present and without distractions in life, whether it be in work, being with friends, or simply gazing out the window, is also important to me. i try to structure my digital habits around these ideals by creating as much of a buffer as i can between myself and what i consider mindless scrolling.
in this post, mindless scrolling will be used to refer to anything that is just that - scrolling, clicking, and browsing without any intention. this can happen on computers and phones, and it can occur not only on social media, but on youtube, playlists, neocities, emails, folders, bookmarks, etc.
i have an active tumblr and twitter which i use for posting my artwork. as i explain further in this post, i do not have these as apps on my phone, and my usage of them is heavily restricted.
in many ways, this post services as a reminder for myself of how id like my digital habits to be and how i can use certain tools and ideas, as recently ive been slipping back into habits i consider not useful. i am of course not perfect and am attempting to heal many years worth of deep addiction to social media and the internet, which can be difficult to explain to others even though it is something that almost everyone i know suffers from.
i also use these habits, tools, and ideas in great conjunction with other intentional habits and routines which i do to help me not only time manage but to live well, take care of my mental and physical health, and for the benefit of my work.
in this post, i will also reference the use of both featurephones and smartphones. though i switched to a featurephone some months ago, this past week it has stopped working, which means ive had to temporarily return to my smartphone.
everything i mention, and more ideas, can be found in my digital wellbeing page.
let us begin with some of the habits i maintain that contribute to all the segments below, so that i may not repeat myself.
the first which i have pracised for well over ten years is to turn off all non-essential notifications. this is something i implemented at a young age simply because i was tired of my phone constantly going off. the only things i have on are emergency contacts on my phone. on my desktops, i do not allow any kind of notifications to come through unless i visit the website itself. i made sure to go through all my apps, softwares, and accounts, to only receive notifications i find important, such as direct messages. this meant turning off notifications about 'someone liked your post', 'recommendations for you', 'emails about our company' etc. this helps to limit distractions and the danger of falling down mindless scrolling rabbit holes when these useless notifications appear.
when i used a smartphone primarily, i deleted all social media applications. on desktop, i only access the internet through browsers and not through their downloadable apps. the reason for this is so that i can implement website blockers.
i also try have the mindset that these devices are tools, and finding out what is useful to me. things concerning money, archiving, and my freelance work i find much easier and more efficient to do digitally. things like journalling, daily planning, notetaking, and more personal artwork, i prefer to do on paper. instead of needing to rely on a smartphone to track my steps - which for me, ive found using a smartphone to do anything very hard to not throw myself down some sort of mindless scrolling as this was the device i was addicted to the most, and of course there are the privacy concerns - i use a simple pedometre, which also serves as my watch. for the same reason, i have a separate mp3 player, digital camera, and clocks everywhere. this sort of thing takes some trial and error to figure out, and changes with time too.
one of the most important things is to remember why it is that these habits and ways of living are important to me, and be confident in my choices. the concept of digital wellbeing or internet addiction are not really understood by most people - not as a fault of their own, but rather because of the rapid progression of these technologies, the lack of serious mainstream education, and the fact that companies who benefit simply do not want you to stop using their services - we're encouraged to be constantly available and publically open about every aspect of our lives on every platform, app, or website. people may shun you for deciding not to participate in this, as it has become the norm. all you can do is defend your position, focus on you, and where you can hope to educate others. being less digitally available can feel very isolating at first, but i would say this experience is more 'FOMO' and not true isolation. i was far more lonely when i was constantly online than i am now. ive had to explain to my friends and other relationships why i do these things, because i dont want them to think im avoiding them on purpose. in fact, many people in fact find this to be relieving and wish to do the same.
i do find the periods of waking up and getting ready for the day, and winding down and preparing to rest to be quite important, and part of this is by resting the mind. it cannot rest if it is rapidly consuming information through a kind of mindless scrolling.
in the mornings, i am awoken by an alarm on my phone. i dont find this to be ideal, but ive never got on with the violence of general alarm clocks so having the ability to choose a calmer sound to wake up to is better. however, i do this with a catch - i use an old phone with no connectivity to data or wifi. essentially, this phone has been reduced down to nothing more than an alarm and has no functionality beyond this. in previous years, my current phone was my alarm - but it would mean i would immediately start scrolling before id even had a chance to wake up.
after i wake, i prolong the period between this and touching a digital device with connectivity to the internet for as long as possible. the reason for this is that i dont want my mind and mood to be immediately affected by whatever demanding messages or depressing news might await me in the screen before ive even had a chance to think thoughts of my own. i can usually avoid it for almost two hours, but some days it can only be twenty minutes or so. either way, i try my best to give my mind some space. i always remember a quote from this video - "your eyes open, and even before your first thought or impulse to pee enters your head, the phone is the first impulse - thats sick."
on numerous mornings throughout the week, i like to follow short workout videos. i have various videos saved in a youtube playlist which i usually load up the night before so that i dont have my attention nicked by something else on the journey to said video. though i never have this problem thankfully, i might decide to download the videos as .mp4 files so i dont need to rely on the internet at all.
i try to make sure i shut off all screens around a half hour before i would go to sleep, which i then like to use to wind down and prepare a little for the next day. this time of day however is the hardest i find to turn off the screen as i am usually in the middle of doing something. similarly to the morning, ill use time before bed to get changed, brush my teeth, and read a book.
as i mentioned previously, i am a freelance digital artist and so i work primarily at a computer. of course, this poses a great challenge as a huge part of this requires me to have access to the internet. in addition, i like to use a technique called "time blocking" during my day. for example, i give myself 4 hours everyday to work on any freelance-related tasks, which is mostly spent in clip studio paint drawing, but this can also include communicating with clients, research, admin stuff, scheduling posts on patreon or twitter, and even updating this site. sometimes ill break them down further, and these tasks can be done in a 15 minute block, for example. this, in conjunction with the habits below, helps me to cultivate a sense of deep focus and so create great work.
these things of course can be applied to other projects, hobbies, studying, cleaning, etc.
along with the things noted in 'default habits', i have set up my computer and laptop in certain ways to help me focus. the browsers i use are set up with leechblock and forest which i mention often. with leechblock, i have set up two periods of the day which block websites i have perceived to be distractions. this is not only for social media, but other sites like browser games and even neocities browse pages. it is very convenient that i can block all of twitter, for example, but have the messages page still accessible so that i may speak with clients.
if im finding this is not enough (as it can be tempting to simply toggle the leechblock settings) i will use forest. this application is like a timer that i can use to encourage a deeper focus, by choosing to activate my blacklist or whitelist depending on what i need it for. if i have everything blocked but i realise i need to look something up, i note it down on a nearby notepad so that at the end of the blocked time, i can take a couple minutes to look it up.
in addition to this, i use three browser applications which are available in chromium based browsers - ublock origin (adblocker), unhook youtube, and hide twitter trends. these all allow you to block distracting features from certain websites. with ublock origin (and other adblockers allow you to do this!) you can block elements on a page. for example, on neocities, i have blocked the elements which show the number of followers and likes on someone's profiles. i also used this in conjunction with 'hide twitter trends' to hide other recommended for you boxes. unhook youtube has a whole array of elements which you can choose to block or change, including redirecting you from the homepage to your subscriptions to avoid youtube's distracting curated homepage.
one of the reasons i chose to continue using twitter and tumblr professionally is because of their schedule feature. using the time-blocking method, i usually take an hour or so every few weeks to sit down and schedule posts, usually also preparing patreon posts at the same time. this helps me to avoid posting and checking up on notifications, and in regards to my artwork, i get to sit with it for sometimes weeks on end and not have my opinion swayed by how 'well' it does on social media. in fact, i often forget something will have been posted as i just pick random days for them to be posted. i talk much more about this here. ill do something similar for this website. i REALLY love having my own site but i have found myself spending too much time on updates and ideas which eat into other parts of my day, especially when im already at a computer. in a notepad, i write down every update i want to do - then i will take a few hours every now and then to update the site as necessary.
while im working, i also find that music i know very well or instrumental music helps me to concentrate. i have CDs, mp3 downloads, and curated youtube playlists which make it easy for me to just put some music on and not waste time trying to find music to listen to. ive built these things up over a number of years, but you can probably build a nice little easy to access music library if you set aside a couple hours.
i am very lucky to have an outdoor studio space which is far away enough from the house to where i have no connection to wifi, so i also try to work from there if i can when i know i can just buckle down on drawing or something and i wont need to look much up. simply setting the device in aeroplane mode or switching off the connection to wifi, or even the wifi itself, is a good alternative to this. in addition, i my part-time job bars me from using my phone at all, so while i am there, i get another sum of hours away from technology.
when i am not working, i still have leechblock in action with a slightly less strict blacklist, so that i can better focus on personal projects or fun things i want to do. it is a shame that mindless scrolling not only impacts my work, but also fun things in life.
i try my best to enjoy eating without looking at a screen at all. i like to focus on my food and not having another distraction helps me to appreciate the food itself and to not rush it. of course, this cannot always be helped as i do live with others and so eat near a television or radio and engage in conversation - but i find this much better than mindlessly scrolling. i also spend less time 'at lunch' even though i might eat slower, as i dont tack on additional time by mindlessly scrolling even after id finished the food. this sort of idea applies to almost everything on this page.
commuting from place to place has always been a part of my day since being a young school student. even on days where i am just at home, i make sure to go out for a walk around where i live. i used to (especially as a sad teen) spend these times listening to loud music. when i go for walks, i no longer do this so i can be intune with the environment around me and listen to nature and my own thoughts. when i first started doing this, it felt very weird and i would itch for music - but now i much prefer it without, and i realise i used it as a distraction from my own thoughts. this meant i couldnt be honest with myself, and also meant i wasnt giving my mind the freedom to think of projects and ideas and solutions properly, or even to have a moment of peace as this was in conjunction with constant smartphone and internet use. occasionally on the commute, if i dont have a book to read or i want to experience a new album, i will listen to music. my music listening becomes a bit more intentional this way.
when a smartphone is with me, i ensure the data is off. people i know know to text me on my phone number in case of emergencies.
around friends and family, i ensure to not use any digital devices at all and instead give them my full attention. even though this can be hard sometimes as they are instead on their devices, i hope that by not following suit and being on mine maybe theyll take notice and feel inspired to do the same. most people i know do make an effort to put their phones away, which is good. as i mentioned above, ive also made this known to my friends and others. ive dealt in the past with people who cannot respect this and almost try to force me to be constantly online.
i like going out to concerts and visiting new places. i think in many ways wanting to document things is part of man's urge to survive, as having photos and videos is reference, knowledge, memory, and reassurance - but even this can become unhealthy, especially regarding smartphones and social media. it sounds strange, but since having stopped taking photos that i can immediately access i can remember the things ive seen better. i no longer see things and have an urge to take a photo of it just because itll make a funny post on my instagram story. even using a digital camera over a smartphone camera has helped with this.
and despite all this, i love the internet. for me, fun on the internet is researching things i like, chatting with friends, browsing neocities, and catching up with artists and people online who do cool stuff. i dont need to do these things every single day, however, as this is what leads to toxic relationships to these things. it can be difficult to differentiate between spending time online doing stuff i like and just mindless scrolling, and it is difficult to describe how i know if ive fallen into the latter, but eventually ive learnt to tune into myself well enough to realise when what im doing isnt something fun anymore and pull myself out of it. often ill use the time block technique to give myself time to mess around on the internet a couple days a week.
in addition, many of these habits have helped to improve my relationship to certain media. mindless consumption of media has been ramped up to the next level thanks to the internet - i ended up growing up sinking time and money into certain aspects of a franchise i didnt really care about because the timelines, videos, and even newsites i was constantly scrolling through would leave me feeling left out if i didnt watch/complete something in ample time, or participate in an event or buy DLC. a couple weeks ago, i completed pokemon legends arceus. in the past, i would stop everything to complete a video game in less than a few days, costing my school work and health. not only did i manage to avoid spoilers completely for months after its release, i was able to really enjoy the game in my own time, and i didnt feel like i needed to rush to keep up with everyone. now, most people have moved on from the game - but this feeling encouraged me to just play the games i truly enjoy even if theyre years old and itll take me a long time to complete them.
sometimes, even though i love browsing, coding, digitally drawing, and playing video games, i feel that i have just spend too much time with technology - especially on days where i end up spending the whole day at the computer. i think it is very important to have hobbies and things to do outside of technology. for me, hobbies like sewing, reading, or sketching help, or perhaps something like tidying, walking, or visiting friends or nature. though i try to include a variety everyday, ill try and make sure at the very least my morning and nighttime periods, as described above, are tech free.
throughout the day, especially when i first left sites like instagram, i felt myself being bombarded by my brain of things i could look up, especially looking up other peoples accounts for some reason and keeping myself extremely up to date with current events. i have found that this has lessened a lot, thanks to the things i have implemented above, but i still get the urge to look up random things. if the thought occurs while im away or working, ill write it down to look up later or discard entirely. this is because often, i find i dont even care anymore by the time i can look it up. looking inessential things up threatens my concentration while working by leading me to mindlessly scrolling, or perhaps 'doom scrolling'.
i also avoid new sites, trending pages, and the like. im sure i dont need to describe or define doom scrolling and what is feels like, and it is something which all of the habits i implement help to curb. avoiding doing such a thing allows me to form my own opinions and avoid misinformation. important news will still reach me even if im off the internet for a whole day. i can be more selective on what topics i stay more frequently informed of too.