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What You Need to Know About Screen Time & The National Day of Unplugging

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Day Today data science team, "75% of Americans spend at least 3 hours a day on a device. 48% of Americans spend 5 hours or more a day looking at a screen while13% spend 10 hours or more".

To an extent, living in a digital world requires the use of technology, and the convenience of smart phones, tablets and laptops for on-the-go access to just about anything we need at our fingertips can't be denied. However, it's no secret that there's an addicitive aspect to using our smart phones and social media in particular that's easy to overlook. In her book, "Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence", Stanford psychiatrist Anna Lembke describes how our brains are hard-wired to release dopamine (the feel good hormone) when we engage in certain behaviors. Historically, engaging in behaviors that increased our odds for survival were rewarded. Living in a modern world where we are generally no longer forraging or hunting for food and shelter or warding off predators leaves us looking for other dopamine sources. Because of their easy access and instant reward, scrolling the internet and social media rise to the top of the list. Social media becomes particularly addicitive because our brains are hard-wired for human connection, and because companies design their apps with the reward centers of our brains in mind, making sure we want to use them more. (Watch the Netflix documentary "The Social Dilemma", or if you're short on time read more about that concept here).

What's really interesting is that despite the initial dopamine hit social media offers, it stops the instant you sign off and actually leaves your brain with a dopamine deficit which (you guessed it) makes you want to come right back to get that next fix. Additionally, research shows that 1 in 3 people feel worse after visiting social media and less satisfied with their own lives with social comparison and FOMO (fear of missing out) as common by-products. Frequent usage can also diminish our ability to fully engage. If we're constantly checking our notifications and taking/posting pictures and videos of our experiences, we're not really fully present for the experiences themselves.

So what can be done?

  • Consume consciously - Review your daily/weekly screen time, and make a conscious choice about how much time you want to spend on your devices. Use the features in your devices to set timers on your social media apps. Unfollow accounts that leave you feeling worse than when you saw them.

  • Take regular breaks - Make time to unplug! For example, some of my friends and collegues have implemeted rules like:

    • No devices at the dinner table

    • No devices in the bedroom

    • Shutting devices down before bedtime

    • Setting device hours (e.g. no devices before 10am or after 8pm, etc.)

    • Taking a day off from social media a couple of times a month or on the weekend.

    • Identifying no post events - Engage in and enjoy an activity just for you and don't post about it.

  • This year, March 3rd is the National Day of Unplugging. Join the movement and try unplugging for the day!

    • Get outside!

    • Connect and be fully present with family, friends and loved ones.

    • Volunteer

    • Do something amazing and fun and don't post about it!

    • Tackle that project you've been procrasting on

    • Take a class

    • Read a book

    • Cook a favorite recipie! Need ideas? Try these!

    • Tackle a creative project

    • Engage in some self care! Need ideas? Try these!

Tell us in the comments how you set screen time limits and what activities you'll be doing on National Day of Unplugging!


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