Throughout the pandemic, I started noticing something disturbing: my screen time was skyrocketing. Instead of taking notes dutifully as I used to during lectures, I found myself reaching for my phone, to go and scroll through Instagram and Reddit, while the professor’s voice lulled through international regulation. I was spending hours mindlessly watching YouTube videos, bookmarking clothes I’d never wear to sort through later. Roughly four regrettable purchases in, I started looking for answers.
Delving into the psychology of why we’re extremely addicted to our phones, it became much clearer why I was pushing myself deeper into this rabbit hole. Social media is literally designed to be addictive. They’re making money off of you being on the app, right? So they’re going to try and keep you on it as long as possible. I declared war on technology soon after this discovery. I wanted to reclaim the lost time I had lost.
The first battle-plan was to outline my strategies. According to my research, color played a big part in this addiction. And thus I eliminated color by setting my phone to grayscale. And this helped an insane amount—I honestly could not believe how my screen time dwindled after this. I found myself clicking out of Instagram pretty quickly because of how unexciting everything looks when it lacks color. This also worked for my other apps; instead of constantly checking out of boredom, it turned me off immediately to see the grayscale instead of the vibrancy I was used to. I also turned off all notifications, so I had to manually check to see when I had received a message.
Another key thing I did was create a mandate that after 10 pm everything had to be turned off. I’m a known workaholic, one who doesn’t dedicate enough time to self-care. I forgot what made me, well, me. And so during this time, I bought a lovely ten-pack of bullet journals to fill up and journal, books to read, and dedicated time to building an actual skincare routine. My therapist always told me this: when creative people become stressed or anxious, they find themselves creating less. And that makes them more stressed and anxious, turning this into a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break out of.
Before this little experiment, living too much in the digital world really began to get to me, especially since it was now my education, life, and work. It felt like I wasn’t living my own life anymore, and it was honestly horrifying that I was spending up to eight hours a day on my phone. In one year, that’s 2,920 hours. Life is short and that is 2,920 hours I would never get back. I’ll admit it: I was stressed and anxious, and I stopped creating my art because I was comparing my life to a stranger’s on Instagram. But by implementing digital minimalism strategies, I’ve managed to write a poem or two every single night. I finally started my novel. And I finally find myself reclaiming my life as my own, not something influenced by others.