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5 Ways You Can Minimize Your Tech Use

Published:
December 14, 2023
October 16, 2023
Check out how to reduce screen time and learn to live in the moment with these five tips.

No matter where you stand on the tech debate, the reality is that tech is here and is an increasingly unavoidable part of everyday life. It is helpful, convenient, and fun, but it can also cause new problems as it seeks to solve old ones. It’s no longer simply serving a need but rather creating a necessity we can’t seem to live without that we believe will solve all of our world’s crises.

There was a time in my life when, beyond electricity, televisions, and cars, I didn’t interact with much tech. Instead of video gaming and communicating through DM’s, my sister and I explored the woods in our backyard, made up games, imagined and created our own worlds, and ran around the neighborhood with friends. As I entered young adulthood and started teaching high schoolers, I realized that kids today were having a vastly different experience of growing up than I had — one full of screens and void of face-to-face interactions.

At that time I also found myself arguably addicted to social media and phone use, and I realized that this tool had become a problem rather than a solution in my own life in so many ways. So I started slowly backing away from technology in a sustainable and effective way. And while I still use plenty of tech in my life, taking those steps has made more room in my life to encounter what is real instead of living in a virtual reality through screens, short videos, and photo squares.

If you’re resonating at all with this and also want to explore how you can start to minimize tech in your life, here are five baby steps you can take to begin that journey. The idea here is to create space to encounter what — and who — is real so that you live less through a device and more through your senses in the tangible world.

1. Dumb down your smartphone

I looked at my phone a few weeks ago and the multitude of apps and folders that cluttered the screen and realized I had no idea what my phone was for anymore. It was more of an appendage than a tool, more a computer in my pocket than a device for communication. I deleted the many apps I had no use for, created folders based on need, and logged out of my media platforms where the many hours of doom scrolling occurred. 

I’m trying to redefine my phone in my life, going to it when I need it rather than using it to numb or pass the time. It’s helped me tremendously to spend much less time looking down and much more time connecting with my family and community. 

What could this look like practically for you? Get rid of all your unused apps. Log out of social media so that you are less prone to scrolling for fun. Turn your screen to black and white so it is less satisfying. Turn the internet off except for mapping apps and anything else necessary in your day to day. Have designated times when you use your phone and times when your phone sits in a place in your home or work rather than your pocket or hand. Turn off notifications except for emergency contacts. Have a notepad handy to jot down reminders rather than feeling the need to rush to your phone and do them immediately.

2. Get rid of televisions in your home

One Advent, my husband and I put our one TV in a closet and only got it out when we wanted to watch something together or as a family. Since then, a television has not found a permanent place back in our home. Sitting spaces are organized to foster communication rather than focused on a blank screen, which ultimately just invites you to reach for the remote rather than look another person in the eyes. Every time we go to an Airbnb or home with TVs as the main focus, we immediately fall back into the habit of reaching for a remote and remember how grateful we are not to have that temptation in our space. 

We do have a projector in our basement that we use for family movie nights, but the headache of setting it up and plugging in our computers combined with its distance from our main living space is enough to keep us from mindlessly reaching for it. Instead of watching TV, we have been trying to reach for a book to read out loud, grabbing a guitar or record to put on, or going outside more to run around with our kids.

3. Plan outside and tech-free time

It wouldn’t be helpful to get rid of tech if you had nothing to fill that space with. Luckily, there are so many things you can do with your time that bring life, joy, and fulfillment rather than just pass the time. 

My first suggestion would be making time for prayer. There are many different ways to pray, from reading Scripture, to meditating on sacred art, to reciting traditional prayers like the rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet. Find a local daily mass or create a space in your home specifically for prayer. Make your favorite tea or treat to enjoy while you spend time in prayer. Growing in your relationship with God will only help you to prioritize your time.

My second suggestion would be to join a good book club. The communal nature of reading and discussing together not only fosters friendship and accountability, but gives you something to do in those down moments. 

Other ideas for tech-free time include walks with a friend, grabbing a drink at a brewery or restaurant, hikes, disc golf, training for a 5k or half marathon, joining a gym, taking a class, joining a sports league, service through a local organization or church, or hosting a brunch or evening social at your home.

4. Buy where you are

How long is your Amazon “saved for later” list? With tech making purchasing as easy as a few clicks, we can easily be sucked into online browsing for things that might make our lives seemingly better but that we (and our budgets) ultimately don’t need. A good parameter for yourself is to ask, “Am I willing to go into a store to buy this?” Or even better, “Is there a locally owned small business I can support and purchase this from?” These limits we place on our purchases also help us to steward our resources towards what we truly need rather than just what we might want on a whim.

5. Schedule regular time away from tech completely

When you’re surrounded by tech, it can be hard to remember what it’s like to be away from it. My journey away from tech started one Lent when I gave up social media. I won’t lie — it was hard. I felt isolated and distanced, but I also felt more peace and freedom from anxiety. This started me on a journey of healing that led to the ability to delete most social media completely without regrets or lost connections. 

You can pick a season, time period, or certain days when you take a step back from tech (this doesn’t just have to be phones — it can be internet usage, cars, even heating your house on these fall days!). Examine your experience and observe what happens in your body, mind, and heart when you give yourself space from technology. For many, it can be grounding and open their eyes to parts of life they had been distracted from.

While this is by no means all you can (or should at one time) do to reduce your tech use, just doing one of these can be a great starting point for examining how tech affects us daily, what we can actually live without, and where in our lives we can make space for encountering what is real rather than an often falsified or misleading virtual world. God created us with minds and intellects for creating such advances that tech allows for, but also with senses that actually need real, human, material connection to survive. And the more we hold onto that, the better we and the world will be.

Creators:
Claire Collins
Published:
December 14, 2023
October 16, 2023
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