It was only a short time ago that the internet came onto the scene, and since then, our willpower and concentration skills have been put to the test by constantly having the world at our fingertips.
Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, online shopping, news sites, Netflix — the possibilities are endless, and we can start missing out on real life.
Here are five New Year’s resolutions we can make to help us beat our digital addictions and foster a healthier relationship with technology.
1. Be present in social interactions
We’ve all had the experience where we’re trying to be more interesting than what someone is looking at on their phone.
And yet, how many times have we been the ones looking at our phones while our friends and family are trying to get our attention? At some point we have to decide if that BuzzFeed article is really more important than spending quality time with the people we love.
This viral video by Prince Ea, which boasts 9.5 million views, helps illustrate the point.
Maybe for 2015 we can put our phones away in social interactions and only respond if it’s urgent. The internet isn’t going anywhere, but we’ll never get lost time back.
2. Don’t text and drive
Here are a few statistics to keep in mind next time we feel the urge to text and drive:
Texting makes a car accident up to 23 times more likely to happen, while talking on the phone makes an accident only 1.3 times more likely to happen.
Texting was the cause of 1.3 million car crashes in 2011, roughly 23 percent of all auto collisions.
The minimal amount of time your attention is taken away while texting is five seconds, or the time it would take to drive the length of a football field at 55 mph.
If the urge to text and drive is too strong, we can put our phones in the backseat or trunk. We’ll be much better off steering clear of the fatal statistics mentioned above.
3. Think outside of the chat box
We love connecting with friends and family over social media, and it’s especially convenient if we live in different cities. But how much of our social lives are being funneled into a digital reality?
What was once a world of predominantly face-to-face conversations — complete with body language, vocal inflections and physical surroundings — is too often being reduced to a one-size-fits-all chat box on a screen.
According to this article, Americans are currently spending more than seven hours per day looking at digital media, whether in the form of TV, computer or mobile devices.
The sad part is, we’re probably too early in the “information overload” era to gauge the long-term effects of overindulging in digital media.
But this much is clear: when we disengage our digital lives, we re-engage our real lives.
4. Limit web surfing time at work
Many of our jobs require a computer and internet access, and unless our employers implement strong website blocks, we’re on the honor code as to how we spend our time at the computer.
Once we finish our work assignments, the temptation to escape into a sea of mindless YouTube videos and social media outlets can be hard to ignore.
But when we’re still on the clock, getting paid to surf the web is a dishonest use of time.
An alternative use of time would be to ask our supervisors or coworkers what they might need help with, or to get a jumpstart on our next project.
If wasting an employer’s time and money doesn’t nag at our conscience, we can consider it in more selfish terms: Will this use of time help me grow professionally and aim to get that promotion I want, or am I just waiting around for 5 o’clock?
5. Use distraction-free apps
It seems counterintuitive… an app to help us not look at too many apps? Yes!
For those of us who have a hard time unplugging from our various devices but are not willing to give them up altogether (although that’s a solution too), here is a list of helpful apps we can use to keep us present and productive:
ColdTurkey (Windows): This app temporarily blocks social media and other time-stealing websites while we get work done.
SelfControl (Mac OS X): This app also blocks distracting websites for any period of time, and won’t let its Mac users off the hook until the time is up.
Forest (Andoid): This clever app motivates its mobile users to spend 30 minutes at a time not checking their phones. With each 30-minute interval spent not checking their phone, a tree grows. Eventually, users with the strongest willpower will have a forest to share with friends.
Focus Time (iPhone): This app is an elegantly designed timer for iPhone users who want to avoid distractions and get more done.