MetaWell is all about changing the way we manage our digital dependence. Beyond just reducing screen time, we want to make our time online more nourishing.
So how do we determine a healthy relationship with the internet, without attaching numbers to it?
We asked three very different experts, in digital wellness and behavior health, to walk us through what healthy internet habits actually look like in their day to day.
1. How do you define or determine a healthy relationship with the internet in your own life?
“When determining healthy use of devices, it all comes down to whether you do what you say you’re going to do. So the key word here is intent.
If you intend to spend time on Netflix, or social media, or video games or whatever, if that what’s you plan to do in advance, according to your values and your schedule- then go for it! There’s no such thing as bad screen time or good screen time, just like there’s no such thing as bad food or good food.
It’s about how they are consumed and whether they are consumed with intent, or if it’s something that we do because we’re trying to escape an uncomfortable sensation.
If you say to yourself in advance, the day before, “Hey, I want to watch Netflix for two hours.” Great! “Hey, I want to play video games for 4 hours.” Ok!
Where I think it is unhealthy when we do it as an escape from real life, at the spur of the moment. I consider those behaviors unhealthy, because they don’t move you closer to what you really want to do.
Anything that you plan to do with your time in advance is traction, anything you don’t is distraction.”
“Rather than thinking about how I could spend less time on my devices or the internet, I invest more time in my offline. A healthy relationship with the internet is when you decide to make your offline life better than your life online.
I go online with intent. I started planning my day after I realized social media was invading my free time, the time where I had nothing to do. So I decided to invest in my passion, my hobbies, and my rest.
I also learned to stop blaming myself for not always being “productive” or “always on” and to embrace idleness.
I have started asking myself every time I go online “Is this nourishing my mind, soul, spirit?” If the answer is no, I quit.”
“Because these devices and technologies don’t have any kind of barometer built into the designs, all we have is our physiological experiences and emotional states as time tested indicators of how the relationship is going.
It’s likely that the relationship, like any relationship, will have its ups and downs, its trials and its triumphs.
I believe the most important step in regulating and remaining in control of the relationship with my device is to be consistent with my habit of checking in with myself to see how I feel, reflect on what I’m experiencing, and give myself time to take breaks or rest.
My ultimate goal is to maintain the wherewithal and bandwidth to set forth goals and tasks, that I can realistically accomplish.”
2. What daily habits or mental shifts have had the most positive impact on your relationship with the internet?
“The best mental shift I’ve adopted is not trying to make everything into a habit!
I think we’ve reached peak habit. People want everything to become a habit these days. But what they’re really saying is that they have something difficult in their lives and if they turn it into a habit, it’s going to somehow, magically, become effortless.
So they want to have done the behavior, not do the behavior. The best thing you can do to manage your screen time is to realize that the traction to do the things that you say you’re going to do requires discomfort. That’s part of the equation.
If we can recognize that and not try to avoid discomfort, but rather lean into and reframe these internal triggers in a positive way, we could actually use it as rocket fuel to propel us forward.
So the shift is not trying to escape discomfort by trying to make everything into habit, rather to have tools so that when we feel discomfort we know what to do with it.”
“Starting with the basics, I do have an analog alarm for the morning, my phone is on do not disturb, except for important numbers in case of emergency, and just outside my bedroom at night.
Based on Ulysses strategy, I’ve worked to create an environment where I don’t have to rely solely on my willpower, My partner knows when he can tell me I am spending too much time on my computer, I have breaks set on my phone, and every day I set aside time to meditate, do yoga and self-care.
Every fortnight I do a digital decluttering. I delete saved and organize them in sections- recipes I like, yoga tips, travel destinations books. I unfollow people whose page is none of my interest. I clean my desk on my Mac and I organize ‘my favorites’ on my computer. Every week I also delete photos and videos that I don’t find useful for my personal and professional life or for my memories.
Most importantly, I’ve learned to not compare the best version of someone I see online with the worst version of me. This is crucial for me. Comparison is the thief of joy, so I practice self-acceptance and self-love, in order to watch things with the right distance rather than comparing myself to someone else’s LinkedIn success.”
“I would say the number one habit that has made the most lasting positive impact on my relationship with my device is a buffer zone that I maintain away from my device, through a morning ritual.
For me personally, that ritual consists of some deep breaths, some stretching, saying good morning to my partner and my daughter, feeding our cat, brushing my teeth, drinking some water, making the bed, preparing our daughter for school, tending to the needs of the house.
Reaching for my devices is the reward that I get after this 30-60 minute period of time where I’ve accomplished the first tasks I’ve set forth for my day.
Other important daily habits include tethering the phone a.k.a. plugging it in to one spot in the house, so that it’s not in my pocket or on my person all day long.
I also schedule small breaks with the use of a reminder or Pomodoro timer.”
Nir Eyal is a writer, speaker, and investor known for his bestselling book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. @neyal99
Fernanda Maio is a digital wellbeing coach, yoga instructor, mindfulness facilitator and world traveller. @theyoganists
Adam Yasmin is a facilitator, speaker, and educator of tech-life balance strategies via immersive tea experiences & digital habits coaching.@adamyasmin_