#makeITsafePH Keep your humanity, lay off your phones

The world of today is very much digital in nature. A lot of things are done online and can be had online. People shop online, pay for bills online, book their travel online, consume content online, get news online. At least in my immediate circle of friends, I haven’t seen anyone buy the papers and read the news that way. Prevalently, people get their news via social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. These are the go-to places in the online world that people go to to get their news. If it’s on social media, it’s “news”.

Going through all of that content online can be tiresome and can definitely suck time like it’s nothing. And that’s a dangerous thing. In more times than one, we’ve been caught by others that we’re too engrossed with our online activity through our devices. We’re too engrossed that we forget that there’s a world around us. Because Globe Telecom is one of the country’s purveyors of a digital lifestyle, they’ve launched a campaign – #makeITsafePH – to help every Filipino become more aware of cybersecurity and cyberwellness. It’s a brand new world out there and the threats in the online world are real. And in addition to threats, there are also “rules” that are constantly adapting as to how one should behave online – online etiquette.

So back to where we were. Getting way too engrossed with that we’re browsing and “consuming” onilne that we forget the real world around us. Without thinking too much, this reminds me of the movie Ready Player One. If you’ve seen the movie, you’d know that the peoples’ reality in that movie is actually within the virtual world already. Everything revolves around their lives as whoever their avatar is in the virtual game world. But you’ll also know that in the end, a compromise was made by the protagonists of that movie. A compromise to let people know that there’s a real world around them.

But what about us? What about you and me? Do we have a compromise? Do you have a compromise? I sure hope so. But if you still don’t have one or are having trouble putting one in place, I have a few tips that might be of help to you.

Delete your social media
No, I don’t mean deleting your account. I have a feeling that for a lot of us, that’s an impossibility. More so, if your work and livelihood depends on your social media presence. But just because you’re on social media, it doesn’t mean that you can’t control the time you spend in there.

Delete the app from your device instead. The big three social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – can all be accessed via their websites. Deleting their apps from your devices, will make you do extra steps just to be able to access those platforms. You’ll have to open a browser and login. For a lot of us, that’s a bit tedious. We’ve always been used to just tapping on the app icon to launch the app and start browsing. Since you’ll have to login first, it may be a chore already and will, hopefully, stop you from compulsively opening those apps to check on your newsfeed. Less time on those apps, more time to complete tasks in the real world.

Turn off notifications
I have found this to be quite effective for me. Like they say: out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t see notifications from your favorite apps, you won’t mind them that much. At least, that’s the objective. Surely, the struggle will be at the early stages where you start weaning yourself off from too much screen time with your device. And let’s not forget that nagging feeling of “fomo” or “fear of missing out”. You might be in a group chat with your friends and because you’ve disabled notifications, you’ll miss out on the juiciest “chismis”. Believe me when I say to just keep at it. Don’t let “fomo” distract you. If your friends really need to get hold of you, they will send you a text message or call you directly.

Install time management apps
I haven’t used any app to help me detoxify my time being on screen with my phone. I found that deleting the app itself works well for me. But if you really don’t want to delete any of your social media apps, there’s a slew of apps out there to help you get your time back in the real world or at least prevent you from engaging too much with your device.

A writer from Lifehacker tested a few apps early this year and she wrote about it and recommended one app. Wired also published one article about a specific app to help you crawl out of that gravity well of mindlessly browsing through social media. That’s also worth a look. In fact, I might try out two of the apps mentioned in those two articles – Flipd and Forest.

When with friends, “phone stack”
Literally, stack your phones on top of the other. When you’re with friends somewhere having dinner or having drinks or just hanging out, literally, stack your phones on top of the other. Whoever picks up their phone first will pay for everything. And if you’re just at home hanging out, perhaps, that person will buy pizza for everyone. Why pizza? Well, because, pizza is love.

Seriously though, this works. It’s a bit heavy handed for most people but it’s an ugly yet effective way of curbing screen time. You all can now talk to each other like civilised, social human beings and not a conglomeration of drones who are huddled around in a circle, not talking to each other.

There are so many other ways to do to be able to take back the ground and time we all lost to being with our phones incessantly. In the end, it will take lots of will and nerves of steel to keep oneself away from our devices. It will take a lot of energy and effort to start regaining our humanity. Like I always tell my friends, our devices and the online platforms we are all in are mere tools and shouldn’t define who we are. It’s okay if you’re not hella active on social media. It’s okay if you just have ten followers on your Instagram. It’s okay if the only group of people you interact with on Facebook is your family.

It’s okay.

Be cyber-well.


Cover photo by:
unsplash-logoMarvin Meyer