Life IRL

For almost sixteen months, the vast majority of our social interaction happened through screens. Whether it was work, school, meeting with friends, or online dating, research tells us that Americans spent more time on our devices in the last year than we ever had before, which is saying something.

But now in-person activities are considered safer if not safe, and families are talking about how to start setting the phones and pads aside more often. Wellness experts Jill Riley and Dr. Jodi Dworkin offer these insights into the transition back to life IRL (in real life).

  • Recognize that there was some benefit, and may still be, to screen time so do not try to eliminate it completely or all at once. We want them to continue to learn to build good digital citizenship skills as this will be part of their life in the future, and so that requires some screen time. But too much means they may be engaging in avoidance behaviors due to anxiety about returning back to public spaces, and also places them at greater risk for online bullying. When trying to find the balance for you and your family, and may help in the beginning to make pros and cons lists, and set specific limits on screen time each day but in terms of actual time and types of activities.
  • Not all screen time over the last year was fun, a lot of it was school and work. Adults and children are feeling the pull that they want something to do that is not online, and that is still not easy to find as society transitions at different paces in different spaces. Sit either by yourself or, if you have a partner or children, with them and reflect on what you love. Then, search for specific activities happening in your community that relate to that and get them scheduled in the near future.
  • Be a good example for colleagues and family alike, and look for good examples. Own the degree to which you have become somewhat dependent on screen in the last year and let people know. Look for simple ways to model a good relationship. If you are out to eat with friends, have everyone put their phone in the middle of the table. The first person to touch it has to leave the tip! At home, leave a basket by the door for devices and invite everyone, family or visitors, to leave their devices there for the first five minutes they are in the house.

Our relationship with technology changed gradually throughout the pandemic, and so we should expect that relationship will continue to shift back in the other direction as society opens back up. Be patient with yourself and with those around you.