Digital wellbeing and mindfulness is not necessarily about using technology less often. Rather it is being critical about how we use technology and reflecting on our motivations to engage - are we making a positive choice or simply being pushed around by addictive platforms?
This section will not focus on mindfulness and its links to meditation but instead on reflecting how we use technology and ensuring that it is aiding productivity and wellbeing, rather than hindering it.
"Disconnection leads to reflection which then allows for more meaningful moments in the digital domain"
Eric Stoller (2017)
Academia in the 21st century requires us to engage with technology on a daily basis. It is therefore very difficult to undergo a digital detox and switch off for an extended period. Digital wellness is therefore less about the act of disconnecting (which would be hard achieve) and more about the simplicity of understanding that you are in control of your digital presence and the way you interact online (more doable). It is of course sensible to take breaks for increasing your productivity and for health reasons. They are discussed elsewhere but here we reflect on why we are so connected.
Often, what people want from being online is often what they want from their face-to-face world - connection, information, time to relax, time to learn, a sense of being seen, a way to de-stress, and a way to participate.
Technology doesn't inherently cause problems; it is how we use it.
It is difficult to disentangle personal or professional spheres of engagement or tools, as our contacts and the content we digest, produce and share are, in many case, intertwined.
Adapted from Lanclos, D and Phipps L (2018) ‘Leadership and Social Media: Challenges and Opportunities.’ To be published in Rowell, C (2018) ‘Social Media in Higher Education’ [preprint] Available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sTa8P36Qft7183NZNc3eTx6wDVP3hvsO/view
This figure illustrates a way of compartmentalising digital tools into work and personal categories. Many overlap but it can be helpful in thinking about which tools you engage with a certain times of day. Also if some tools frustrate you, you can take measures to make them sit more happily into your working practices.
The interior of the triangle is where to map the tools and practices that you use as part of your work. The exterior of the triangle is for you to map tools that you use in your personal lives. Download the document below and fill it in reflecting how you engage digitally to help define how you might spend your time online.
Then add emojis to show how you feel about these tools. If they make you feel angry or sad, think about how you can mitigate these feelings?
Being mindful about digital activity involves acknowledging our agency in all that we do online. When we engage, we should do so willingly and knowingly. We should make active choices to delete accounts, disengage, and unsubscribe if we aren't interested. If you are driven by a desire to accrue followers or likes, as long as doing it knowingly then you are not being pushed around by social media. However, if you find yourself pointlessly scrolling through retweets at the end of the day, you might want to take a step back and think abotu whether digital technology is enhancing your working and social practices.
It is also important to take control of your digital activity by getting organised: from files on your desktop, to your notes for readings, to Tweetdeck for Twitter.
We have been described as being in a state of “continual partial attention” (Linda Stone, 1998). A digital detox can be helpful to make us appreciate what we miss about not being online 24/7. It can also be helpful to take a structured approach to your day so that in taking time away from technology you will get more work done.