Digital Health in a Digital Age

by Oscar Francis

Digital hygiene is incredibly important in this day and age, because as we all know, the profit motives inherent in capitalism have caused a small number of tech barons to create an unprecedented array of global communication platforms that are unfortunately geared towards hyperbolic sensation at the expense of user wellbeing. This is because profits follow clicks, and clicks follow negative emotions, so anger, fear, hyperbole, and demagoguery are incentivised in your newsfeed far more than constructive insights, community building, and nuanced, deep, enlightening discussions.

What I’m saying is that, as you’ll be aware if you’ve ever logged onto the internet at all, is that sometimes social media can be a sewer, and you wouldn’t take a dump without washing your hands would you? Read on, for the low down on digital isopropyl and how to use it.

1) Take Some Time Out
If there’s a single strategy that can be used to lessen the negative impact that the internet is likely to have on your wellbeing it’s monitoring the time you spend on the web. It’s up to you to moderate your screen time in order to make the most out of life. Apps like SelfControl, or using the focus mode on your phone if it has one can really help you get that assignment done.

2) Meaningful Screen Time
Be conscientious about what it is that you want from your engagement with the internet. Maybe when you’re playing video games, you’re looking to catch up with online friends. Maybe with Facebook you want to see what events are on during the weekend.

The point is, knowing what you’re looking for will help you to find it, and being present and self aware will lessen the chance that you wind up spending the best part of your day doom scrolling yourself into a digital pit of despair. You really want to avoid social media becoming a default, passive time-filler activity — because you’ll definitely start to feel terrible before long. Try phoning a friend instead.  

3) Post Positive

Decide some guidelines about what it is you want to post (and consume) before you get online. “If you don’t have anything positive to say, don’t say it” is a pretty good rule of thumb. Why? Because saying things that are negative online will eventually make you yourself feel bad about you for bringing bad vibes to the digital party. Post your wins instead!

This doesn’t mean you have to shy away from posting anything difficult or controversial. But ask yourself: Is the point to make a positive, constructive, contribution to The Discourse, or is your take just a knee-jerk emotional response looking to feed the antagonisms of the algorithm?

4) Take a Tolerance Break
Like any habitual drug user will tell you, sometimes the best thing is just to take a break to restore your brain chemistry to equilibrium. This might be a break from posting, or it might be from scrolling. It might just be a break from specific online communities. But the point is to take at least a week off whatever it is that’s bringing you down, to give your brain a chance to reset and recover.

It’s likely you’ll realise that the internet was affecting your mood more than you thought, and was taking up more of your time than you realised as well. When you come back the dopamine will hit way differently, and you’ll be able to engage in a much more mindful manner.
The internet is always going to offer you more than what you need, and it will leave you feeling hollowed out and empty, as well as dazed and confused, if you try and take it all in. Leave some content for later and brave the analogue world for a bit, because all that data crowding your head ain’t going anywhere. Like every surfer worth their salt will say: “You can’t catch every wave.”

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