Why I made a conscious decision to stop being hyper-connected to the online world –
Ever since I purchased my first smartphone, the last thing I did before going to sleep and the first thing I did upon waking up was check my phone. I used to have a different notification sound for every single thing – text messages, calendar reminders, emails and social media activity. I quickly changed that years ago and the only sounds I have is when someone calls me and when my alarm rings. I do enjoy reading and try to make time for it every night, but I still found myself checking my phone after reading, before falling asleep. However, in the last couple of months I’ve made a conscious decision to change all that. I realize I don’t need to be so hyper-connected to the online world.
When I first started living with my husband, before we got married, I was adamant about not having a TV in our bedroom. It caused a bit of a fight, but for me the bedroom is the one place where you can turn off from the world. It should be quiet, peaceful, cozy, decorated in soothing colors, have plush bedding and soft lighting. I don’t need the light, sound or mindless distractions of the TV in the bedroom.
Yet, in the last few months I’ve had to ask myself what’s the difference between a TV and a smartphone? They both beam light and have all kinds of sounds and mindless distractions.
As I mentioned before, I like reading and try to read almost every night before I go to bed. Before living in Brazil I only ever bought physical books, I had no desire to start reading e-Books. Then when I arrived in Brazil and went to a couple of book stores within the first few of weeks, I discovered not only could I get many of the books I wanted, they were a fortune because of the import taxes. Naturally I had to resort to reading books through the Kindle app for the iPhone. I was thrilled because I could get any book I wanted and keep up-to-date with my reading.
Upon returning to the U.S. in 2014, I continued reading books on my Kindle app. This was around the same time a lot of people were writing about the effects of blue light from our smartphones. I didn’t pay much attention to it and continued reading my e-Books.
Then a couple of months ago I started to think again about my reasons behind not having a TV in the bedroom. I thought the only real difference between a TV and a smartphone is the size of the screen, coupled with the issue of the blue light, it was time to make a change.
So I decided to go back to purchasing physical books and when I go to bed, I turn on my bedside lamp, set my alarm, read for thirty minutes and fall asleep.
Even though I made these changes to my bedtime routine, I didn’t even think twice about my morning routine. Like clockwork for years I woke up, turned off my alarm and immediately started going through my emails, then Facebook, then Instagram and it must have been a good half hour before I would even think of getting out of bed.
With all the talk of the “blue light” at night and how that disrupted what our bodies naturally do to prepare for sleep, it wasn’t the same upon waking. So, why would I need to make any changes?
What I started to think about was, how do I want to start my day?
When I had a full-time job, there was always this sense of urgency to check my work emails. You know, I wanted to prove to my boss and my team that I was on top of my stuff. Now when I look back and since losing my job, what was I really gaining from doing that?
And mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, why would I want to start my day doing that? I will admit, I absolutely love the “On this day” feature, but there was no urgency in checking that or anything else that’s happening in my feed.
And then there’s Instagram, which I love. I’ve curated my feed so there’s a mix of travel, beauty, fashion, health, etc. and it’s more visual than Facebook, so what could be wrong with it? Well nothing, but again, is that how I want to start my day?
For the past month when my alarm goes off, I turn it off and lie in bed with my eyes closed for about five minutes. Depending upon what I have to do, I either read, or meditate, or slowly get ready to work out. If I need to write content first thing in the morning, I still lie in bed for a few minutes when I wake up, then I’ll slowly get up, brush my teeth, make myself a coffee and while I have the first few sips, I’ll check my emails and social media.
All of this leads to a couple of recent changes made by Apple and Instagram.
The most recent update to iOS is the ‘Night Shift’ feature, which changes your screen from blue light to a warmer amber light. I think this is a fantastic update. We should be protecting our eyes and allowing our bodies to be able to naturally prepare for sleep and if you enjoy your phone at night in bed, this is the best update you could ask for.
As for Instagram, they announced there would be changes made to their algorithm whereby they would be choosing what you see in your feed, based on the accounts you follow and how you engage with them. Part of that change includes asking people to use the “Turn on Notifications” for all the accounts you want to keep up-to-date with.
On Monday of this week, because people were frantic with this algorithm change kicking in, two thirds of my feed were filled with “Click the ‘Turn On Notifications’ button to continue getting my latest post!” For some of my friends that did this, their phones started blowing up with notifications of course. They were so frustrated that they immediately turned them off.
Some accounts that I follow actually went against the “Turn On Notifications” crusade to tell people not to and instead make sure to engage with them by liking and commenting on their posts. In this way, the engagement may prompt Instagram’s algorithm to have that account’s posts show up regularly.
However, is this hyper-connection to Instagram necessary? I don’t think so. There are certainly some accounts I absolutely adore and I love checking them everyday, but couldn’t I just manually go to their account and see their latest post? And because Instagram is such a visual experience, many of the accounts I follow post similar content, so will I really be missing out on any content?
As for the Night Shift feature in iOS, again, I think it’s great. For those that must check their phone and scroll mindlessly through social media and of course for the diehard Kindle app users, you should rejoice.
For me, my days of being constantly hyper-connected with the online world are over. Of course during the day I’m connected, because I’m researching, writing, posting on social media, building my fans and followers, and the like. But for the precious hours right before bed and upon waking up, I’m consciously disconnected and loving it.
Do you go to bed and wake up looking at your phone?
Are you constantly connected to the online world?
Are you overwhelmed with notifications?
Leave your comments below!
Scientific American – Q&A: Why Is Blue Light before Bedtime Bad for Sleep?
The Huffington Post – Learning to Live in a Hyper-Connected World