There’s no denying that the internet has changed our lives – but do you need to reduce your time online?
Online banking, working from home, ordering takeaways without having to speak to anyone – none of this would exist without the internet – and neither would UWP.
No-one should feel guilty for going online – but when does it all become too much?
Apple’s latest iOS 12 includes a tool called ‘Screen Time’ designed to help users monitor and control the amount of time they are spending on apps and websites.
A weekly activity report will highlight how frequently customers use their apps – and then provide them with the option to set a limit reducing the time they spend on them.
There are plenty of apps out there that already do a similar thing, but by installing this feature as part of its software, Apple is reacting to an issue that people are becoming increasingly worried about.
But do we really need outside help to curb our internet usage? Are we all that addicted?
If you are becoming concerned about your own behaviour and want to know how to reduce your time online, read our handy blog below.
1. Block time-wasting sites
If you’re reading BBC News instead of working then at least you’re probably learning something.
If you’re procrastinating by watching Top Ten Funny Cat Videos 2017 (which more than 33 million people before you have done), then you’re not.
It’s all too easy to get sucked into a time-wasting website and, before you know it, three hours of your life have been wasted.
If you are keen to reduce your time online and there’s a particular site you know you’re spending far too many hours on, download a site-blocking app or extension like Block Site, StayFocusd or Cold Turkey to prevent you accessing it, usually for a set time period.
Of course you might find ways around the ban, but hopefully seeing the blocked sign the next time you try and access the website will remind you why you should actually just get back to work.
2. Free yourself from your phone
An Ofcom study found that, on average, Britons check their smartphones every 12 minutes. Under 35s are the most avid users, with 65% reportedly checking their phones within five minutes of waking up.
Of course, we get that it’s difficult these days to leave your house without your phone. How will you know where to go without Citymapper? How can you pay for your latte without Apple Pay? What will you do if you can’t get an update on the football score every minute?
So yes, no-one wants to head out unequipped. But do we really need to carry our phones from room to room?
The world isn’t going to end if you miss a WhatsApp notification while you go and make a cup of tea or if you don’t hear a call from your gran (which you would probably have ignored anyway) while you are in the shower.
Taking our phones everywhere automatically means we are going to go online more – smartphone browsing overtook PC browsing in 2016 and shows no sign of slowing down.
If you’re serious about wanting to reduce your time online, then out of sight, out of mind is a good mantra to have in mind.
3. Turn off notifications
Are you one of those people who has to immediately pick up their phone every time it pings or lights up? You’re not alone – and apparently it’s a psychological thing.
But by doing so, you’re no doubt wasting time – whether it be getting into pointless conversations in a WhatsApp group or deciding that now you’re on your phone, you may as well check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the latest cricket odds. Before you know it, it’s two hours later and you’re reading ‘Ten Things You Wouldn’t Believe About Olivia Newton John’.
Turning off notifications is an easy way to make a big difference if you are trying to reduce your time online.
Whether you decide to turn them off while at work to keep you focused, or on an evening so you can actually spend quality time with your family and friends, stopping constant notifications can definitely leave you with a feeling of freedom.
And remember, if someone really needs to get in touch with you – they can ring you. That’s what your phone was actually made for.
4. Remove the temptations
Yes it sounds obvious, but how many times have you been working hard on something important when an email pops up and disturbs your rhythm? Shutting down your emails – even just for an hour – can help you from getting distracted.
Similarly, if you’re working in Word or in another document and don’t need the internet, close down your browser. Just having the internet open and so easily accessible makes it more likely you will go online, so it’s worth a try if you are serious about making a change.
5. Go back to basics
Nowadays most people use their mobile phones as their alarm clock – even though forgetting to put it on charge has led to many frantic mornings when it fails to go off.
But if you are trying to reduce your time online, going back to basics could be a big help.
Having your phone next to your bed means there’s a good chance you’re going to be on it before you go to sleep – and often until the early hours. That isn’t good for your health – or for your relationship with anyone you share the bed with.
It also means that when your alarm wakes you up in the morning, one of the very first things you do will be to check your phone to make sure you haven’t missed anything ‘important’ during the night. As Tristan Harris – an ex-Google Design Ethicist – wrote, this habit ‘frames the experience of waking up in the morning around a menu of all the things I’ve missed since yesterday.’
Buying a traditional alarm clock – your old one is probably still squashed somewhere under the bed – means you can leave your phone out of sight, helping you break your habit of starting and ending the day with your eyes glued to screen.
How to reduce your time online: a summary
If you’re happy with the amount of time you spend online then there’s no need to worry – but we know more and more people are becoming concerned about their internet usage and want to change their habits. Blocking problem sites, turning off notifications and leaving your phone in a different room where possible can all make a difference, leaving you more time to spend in the real world.
Check out our other blog posts here.