02 Oct Digital Wellbeing In The Age Of Social Distancing
How To Connect With Friends Whilst Avoiding Digital Burnout
One more Zoom ‘pub’ quiz and I might scream.
In Spring I enjoyed the novelty of group calls with my friends, and in Summer I had a healthy mix of spending long hours outside and socialising with friends via screens for a few hours in the evening.
However, with many of us returning remotely to work and university, socialising via screens is no longer feasible if we don’t want to spend upwards of 10 hours daily on a screen. So how do we maintain and enjoy our relationships without compromising our digital wellbeing and running the risk of getting digital burnout?
With many of us still shielding, and local lockdowns being threatened (if not imposed, even), seeing friends in real life is not always possible or responsible.
Yet it is indisputable that connecting with friends is crucial. The past six months have been challenging for all of us, and these challenges continue. Especially as the days get shorter and the dark and depressing weather rolls in, along with higher infection rates and risk, we need to find sustainable ways of keeping ourselves healthy and happy whilst preserving some kind of digital wellbeing.
Write a letter to a friend
Whilst instant messaging is an okay way to have a real time conversation with a friend, it has nothing on sending a letter. Writing a letter allows you to organise your thoughts, and really think about what you want to say. So rarely nowadays do we get to take our time in our correspondence – we are all used to typing hastily to get your words out before you receive the next message. With a letter, you can pause and breathe.
Furthermore, not only is letter-writing a fun and therapeutic activity, it makes the recipient feel good. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose face and whole attitude lights up whenever I receive post from a friend.
Phone call a friend
Nothing beats hearing the familiar voice of friends and family. Whilst seeing them via webcam every so often is nice, it is not necessary for every conversation, and you may find that your conversation is better when you don’t have a screen to focus on.
I like to combine the phone call with a walk. That way, I’m not distracted by anything other than where my feet take me. I have found that the sensation of wondering aimlessly whilst chatting with a friend has instilled a bit of carefree normality back into my routine, as well as providing a welcome break from a screen, a good breath of fresh air and a healthy amount of exercise.
Alternatively, you and your friend could pick a hobby to take up whilst talking. Choose something tactile, like arts and crafts, and chat to each other over the phone whilst you hone your skills and create your masterpieces. Then, at the end you can swap photos. It’s a nice way to engage in normal activities with friends without relying on a screen.
Opt for non-screen-based activities
If we are lucky enough to be able to spend time together with family friends, whether with our household or socially distanced with other friends, look for activities where you can get away from the screen. For example, instead of playing video games together, do some arts and crafts, or get outside. Why not swap movie night for an evening where you all cook and eat together? Board games and playing cards are underrated and underused forms of entertainment and really help maintain digital wellbeing.
Share skills and hobbies with each-other
Whilst we may still be keen to sign up to Zoom classes and pick up new hobbies, this only adds to our screen-time and increases the likelihood of digital burnout.
So instead of turning to virtual classes, turn to friends instead. Whether over phone call or in person, take it in turns to teach each other a new skill: whether it’s how to cook a certain dish, how to draw in a certain style or how to play clock patience. We have so much to learn and to share from each other, after all.
Embark on a digital detox together to maintain digital wellbeing
After months of relying on our tech so heavily, a digital detox is very much needed. This can seem daunting, however, so find a friend with whom you can take on the challenge together.
Call each other to discuss how it is going, and what you find difficult. Going through it together will motivate you and reduce FOMO, a common excuse for not partaking in a digital detox. On the other side, you will have accomplished something together and worked out the best way to connect without relying on screens.