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It’s hardly surprising that doomscrolling – compulsively consuming an endless procession of bad news online – has really taken off in 2020. Between anxiously staying abreast of the news and desperately seeking some kind of diversion from it, we’re glued to our technology. Yet, the solution is not banishing our screens but rather developing a strategy for how, why and when we engage.

How to disconnect from your device

Drew Shannon/The Globe and Mail

Are we addicted to our phones?

People are over connected, but there are ways to manage and minimize the damage. Since cellphones aren’t going anywhere, author Neil Pasricha and filmmaker Tiffany Shlain discuss ways they’ve learned to control their behaviour around their devices.

5 strategies to help reduce your screen time
  1. Find ways to reduce reasons to look at your phone (disable some notifications, set do-not-disturb periods) to turn your technology habits into better ones, and give yourself more time – to read a book, to cook a meal, to catch up with a friend.
  2. Try a short-term digital detox to redirect the energy and attention given to social media, texting and binge watching back to yourself and your sense of purpose.
  3. Have you ever grabbed your smartphone to check the time only to be inadvertently bombarded by notifications, and the feeling of stress that comes with them? One surprisingly simple strategy to disconnect: Wear a watch.
  4. These customized apps can help you cut down on your screen time, allowing you to set up your own goals by cutting down slowly or going cold turkey.
  5. The blue light from devices isn’t only harmful for your eyes and disruptive to sleep – it can also damage your skin.
Is a dumbphone a smarter decision?
  • When Randy Boyagoda bought a dumbphone – a new phone with no camera and no apps – (if urgently needed, he could go online by tethering a laptop to its built-in modem), he found choosing dumb wasn’t that stupid.
  • Jake Howell writes that buying a phone without smart capabilities felt healthier than the overwhelming iPhone he had been using, despite people thinking he was crazy.
  • In this essay, Pasquale Casullo writes that he knows the Internet is necessary for survival, but he connects by disconnecting. He keeps a notebook to scribble topics to look up next time he’s online, either in a coffee shop or in a peaceful corner of a library during working hours.
  • Katie Hewitt explains why her husband loves new tech, and why she is inherently suspicious of it.
How smart will smartphones get? A look at the possibilities

Experts agree it’s tough to predict exactly what the smartphone of 2029 will be like, but the prospects are both thrilling and creepy. If you needed any more reason to cut down on using your phone, this might be your push to start changing your habits before it becomes even more addictive.

Story continues below advertisement

How to disconnect from social media

iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Can we ever kick our social media addiction?

Constant use of social media, too much screen time and digital dependence are changing the way our brains are sculpted. What are big companies and big tech to do? Jim Balsillie, former chairman and co-CEO of Research in Motion (now known as BlackBerry Ltd.) and co-founder of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and Norman Doidge, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and author, discuss.

The case for cutting the social media cord
  • In her new book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, writer and artist Jenny Odell says we’ve lost our connection to our community and are living in an attention economy.
  • Allison Hall’s muscles tense up when she looks at her Twitter feed. She believes that like her children, she’s being programmed to expect instant gratification.
Social media, kids and families
  • How do you tell family members to stop posting pictures of your kids on social media? Advice columnist David Eddie weighs in.
  • It isn’t surprising that parents are sharing more on social media, but they should ask themselves if they’re modelling the type of behaviour they want to see in their children.
  • One couple rejects the idea of sharing their engagement on Facebook, and letting the whole Internet in on such a private moment.

Kids and screens

The start of the pandemic and school shutdowns saw many children getting more screen time than usual. Experts say it’s time to rethink our children’s dependence on technology, especially as winter makes it all too tempting to stay indoors in front of screens.

We have tips from a parenting coach for weaning kids off devices, and we talked to the filmmaker behind a new documentary, Screened Out, about his attempt to curtail his kids’ screen time and discover whether smartphones really are addictive (spoiler alert: yes), what they do to us and how they affect young people.

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