How Much Screen Time? Avoiding Digital Burnout.
July 21, 2021
The connected world in which we live is great, isn't it?
Email in your pocket, books on your tablet, movies just a tap away on your television. But how much is too much when it comes to these marvels?
Is there something more to that tired-eyed, slightly rough feeling we get when we've had a long day in front of the computer?
For most of us, some amount of time staring at some kind of interactive device is inevitable.
Be it through our job, how we keep up with friends and family or as a hobby in itself; we're spending more and more time subjected to a flat surface firing photons at us.
The fact is however that if we're not conscious about it, a day filled with these screens of varying size can have some consequences which are further reaching than simply that little "unread" number next to our inbox.
Digital burnout happens when we spend too much time on our electronic devices.
Computers, phones, even television can leave us with the telltale exhaustion and stress which indicate this state.
It can even extend to trouble sleeping, diminished interest in things and in extreme cases depression.
While we're still learning about the affects the digital world has on our bodies, burnout is enough of an issue for the World Health Organization to have recognized it as an occupational phenomenon since 2019.
The issue is partially down to the difficulty in escaping the screen time monster. Messages to write, Zooms to attend, have you ever noticed how Netflix no longer shows end credits, instead skipping straight into the next show?
How often has a work email arrived well into your personal time, which you've then begrudgingly spent hunched over a screen in order to tap out a reply?
Or your favorite social media platform popping up a message late at night informing you about recent posts you should check out?
It isn't by accident. Even outside of work commitments, the things we enjoy online are by design exceptionally good at keeping our attention.
But what to do?
Well to paraphrase Marie Kondo: If it doesn't spark joy - switch it off!
The generally accepted amount of screen time for adults is two hours, outside of that which you spend at work.
Many devices now have a means of tracking how much time you spend on them. Perhaps put those features to use and slowly reduce your time down to a level where you don't feel anxious not having checked your phone.
There are ways you can lower your risk of digital burnout at work too, instead of replying to an email take that time to call the person; it gives your eyes a break, you can stretch your legs and it's widely regarded that phone calls are better for our mental wellbeing anyway.
Removing the screen-induced stress from our lives doesn't have to mean going cold turkey, it's important to remember.
Small changes to your work and personal relationship with electronics can add up to a large difference.
As someone who lives a technology centric existence, I can wholeheartedly attest to the joys of totally unplugging for a short spell.
It feels good to enjoy the outdoors, or to prepare a meal, or even to just go for a drive knowing that you're free from that telltale ding of yet another email arriving in your inbox.
Be kind to yourself, that reply can wait.
Richard Noble is the founder of Want For Tech, an IT company based in Glasgow.