Tips and tricks for dealing with everyday Internet addiction

Technology is a beautiful thing—most of the time. Every day, cool new apps and services aim to make our lives more fun and easier to manage. Still, that ubiquity is a double-edged sword. Finding the right balance between technology that inspires productivity and happiness and unplugging altogether is the key for survival in our hyper-connected world.

This week for our “Teach Me How To Tech” series, we answer questions about how much we depend on technology on a daily basis. Tech-inspired stress is a real thing, and here are simple ways you can manage yours.

Q: I have an online job that allows me to work from home. As a result, I often forget to eat lunch or get up from my chair. Pretty soon I find that it’s 5pm and I feel awful. How can I effectively teach myself to take breaks?

A:  Sitting all day has been proven to be quite harmful for your health. This is a well-documented finding and you can read about it online, starting with this study.

So what can you do about it? Make use of your smartphone’s alarms and enable a few throughout the course of your work day. If you’re a proverbial snooze button hitter, consider upgrading your break reminders to Google Calendar pop-up alerts, as they effectively disrupt your computer screen in a way that may break your tech-induced trance. If you’ve got an Apple Watch, the device can automatically remind you to stand up when you’ve been seated for too long.

Apple

Another great service to use is Motivation RPG. It’s a simple web-based health game that aims to reduce your inactivity. All you need to sign up is a username and a password and you can start playing. Based on an activity delay you can change in the options, Motivation RPG will then give you “exercises” to do to break up your monotonous routine. Make sure you tweak the alert intrusiveness option as well.  

Motivation RPG

You can choose to activate a variety of exercises that tackle fitness (pushups, laps), health (drink water, eye exercises), intelligence (math, puzzle solving), mood (meditation), posture (yoga poses), and voice (reading aloud). 

Q: I can’t stop refreshing my Facebook feed. Every hour. OK FINE, every ten minutes. How do I get control of my insatiable need to read about other people’s lives?

A: Schedule two Facebook breaks for yourself: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Make sure you stick to your schedule, either by using alarms or asking someone else to be your social media police.

If you access Facebook on your smartphone, uninstalling the app is a great temporary fix. You can use your phone’s browser so there aren’t notifications to tempt you.

You can also try out StayFocusd, a Google Chrome extension that restricts the amount of time you can spend on a website and renders it inaccessible for the rest of the day once your allotted time is done. This excellent extension works for any website that you might want to cut down on visiting.

StayFocusd

Q: My husband and I hardly ever talk anymore. We’re out for dinner right now and we’re both on our phones. Is there something I can do to keep the romance alive without the distraction of a smartphone?

A: Instead of making this a serious confrontation, steer the whole thing in a lighter, more game-like direction. Imposing rules for your shared behavior will lighten the mood without totally shutting down the conversation.

A few options for you to consider:

Option 1: Both people put phones in the middle of the table. Whoever grabs their phone first has to pay for dinner or do a favor of the other person’s choosing.

Option 2: Whenever someone gets a notification they want to check, the other person gets to respond to it however they want.

These little games can also work well for families and groups of friends. Making something frustrating into a challenge is a great way to work toward improving your behavior. 

Ultimately, staying happy and connected is all about balance. Try to weave breaks, games, and the tools we’ve mentioned into your daily routine and see how it goes. Tweak your routines accordingly and watch your behavior start to change for the better. 

Illustration by Max Fleishman

Jam Kotenko

Jam Kotenko

Jam Kotenko is a technology reporter and graphic designer who specializes in coverage of Instagram, Facebook, and other social media apps. Her work has been published by Digital Trends, Bustle, and Gotta Be Mobile.