Digital well-being: small steps for bigger balance (#TELUS_Partner)

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This fall I had the absolute honour of talking about digital well-being and happiness to over 100 elementary school students in the Edmonton area. It’s a topic that has been on mind more and more lately, and something I started to think about differently after taking a TELUS Wise digital literacy workshop over the summer.

Something you might not have realized about TELUS is that it’s working to help Canadians stay safe and healthy in an increasingly digital world by offering free TELUS Wise digital literacy education programs to Canadians of literally all ages, from Grade 2 to seniors. TELUS is a huge advocate for well-being. 

Workshops cover topics like how to be good digital citizens and keep your digital ‘footprint’ clean, how to be in control of your digital activity, how to positively grow your online reputation and deal with cyberbullying, how to ensure your digital activity is healthy and balanced, and how to be safe on social media.

You can do workshops online or request a TELUS Wise ambassador come and present to your school, group or office—again, entirely for free!

TELUS Wise Happiness Workshop - Creator Summit
I was so inspired after taking a TELUS Wise Happiness workshop at the TELUS Creator Summit in June 2019.

When I took the TELUS Wise Happiness workshop in the summer, I was with a group of other very heavy social media users (#TELUS_Partner ambassadors / content creators). It was a pretty eye-opening discussion touching on digital pressures, comparison, and what TELUS calls “nourishing and depleting” online activity. I left the workshop wondering what kind of change I could make to ensure my use of social media wasn’t making me feel bad.

For me, that included:

  • Turning off my social media notifications. This was huge for because it put me back in control of when I check my phone. Notifications are no longer what defines when I am using social media. I still check my phone a fair bit during the day—it’s the nature of my work and play—but before I turned off notifications, I didn’t fully recognize just how much the screen lighting up with a notification was dictating actions on my phone. Now, I’m choosing when I check. 
  • Not replying to social media messages instantly. Increasingly I was feeling like there is an expectation that because I’m active online, I should also be replying immediately online. Now I make sure I’m choosing to reply to people during specific times instead of as I get messages, and I’m prioritizing who or what I reply to first. This sets better boundaries for my digital use.
  • Muting accounts that made me feel bad. You could take this one further and block or even delete or unfollow accounts too (though in some cases that might cause more drama and negativity), but something I have started doing is muting social media accounts that made me roll my eyes, get frustrated, annoyed, jealous, or any kind of emotion that wasn’t neutral or happy. There’s no reason why you *need* to consume content that makes you feel bad and I think somewhere along the way, people forgot that. Heck, it’s why dog and cat accounts are so popular—that type of content energy is what we should all be striving to feel when we follow folks online, lol.
  • Not checking my phone overnight. I usually wake up at least once in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom (and/or let Artie out so he can go to the bathroom, he’s quite annoying about it lol). I found sometimes instead of going right back to sleep, I’d ‘innocently’ check my phone. WHY? Whenever I did this I would end up mindlessly scrolling through my social media feeds or end up going down some click-happy tunnel where the next thing I knew it was an hour later and now I was having trouble falling back asleep.
  • Not only posting the positive. My ‘brand’ online is pretty positive. I’m generally a fairly positive person (or I try to be). But part of the problem with depleting digital behaviour is the whole aspect of comparing yourself to the ‘perfect’ digital lives you see online. So while I do generally remain positive, I also take the opportunity to share when things aren’t going so well. For me, that means talking about my infertility struggles online, but also sharing my ‘Instagram vs. Reality’ moments, to show that my life isn’t perfect or always positive, as a reminder that no one’s life is, no matter how good it might look online. (If you haven’t seen this video ‘Are you living an Insta lie?’ yet, you should watch it. It’s like, horrifying and yet such an accurate portrayal of the state of social media right now—for some folks lol).
TELUS Wise Happiness Workshop
No one's real life is as good as their social media life!

Really when you think about these steps, you’ll see they aren’t big steps. They’re actually pretty small things I did, but the impact they’ve had on how I use or approach my digital activity, and how I feel about my digital activity, is huge. It’s about small steps that can help you create a bigger balance!

I was so excited about these small steps I was taking and the impact it was having on me, that I really wanted to share what I learned with others—not only through this blog, but also as a co-presenter of the TELUS Wise Happiness workshop.

TELUS Wise Happiness Workshop - Edmonton
Stacey Ponich is the TELUS Wise Edmonton ambassador and he delivers some amazing talks to groups of all ages and sizes!

So I teamed up with local TELUS Wise ambassador Stacey Ponich and we presented the Happiness workshop this fall for 140 students at two schools I’ve presented on social media to before in Edmonton and Spruce Grove. In my previous presentations, I talked about how social media could become a career for these students. In the Happiness workshops, Stacey and I talked about what these kids could do to ensure their time spent online was more nourishing than depleting, gave them realistic, relatable examples of the negative effects social media might have on your mood and yourself, and talked about the small steps they can take—or at least consider taking—to make sure their use of social and digital media was a happy, nourishing experience, not a negative, depleting one. (We also suggested they talk to their parents about what they learned as well, because it’s really an issue that affects us all!)

Something that was important for me to say throughout these workshops was that I LOVE social media. I love my phone. I love being connected. I love digital technology. I love all of the good that can come from the Internet. I didn’t want the students to walk away thinking that social media and being on their phones or being active online was a bad thing—no way. But I wanted them to know that aspects of being online can be bad and can start to consume you in a pretty negative way if you don’t recognize the negative behaviours and feelings and take those small steps to create a bigger balance with your digital use and well-being.

TELUS Wise Happiness Workshop - Edmonton
Talking about nourishing & depleting digital activity with students!
TELUS Wise Happiness Workshop - Edmonton
If social media makes you feel bad, do something about it!

Try taking TELUS’ 24-hour Challenge, where you go a day without your phone. Do what fellow #TELUS_Partner Julia (@littlemissottawa) started doing, with her #NoSocialSaturday. Choose one of the very small but big impact things I did after taking the TELUS Wise workshop, and see if that helps you. Or, try one of these digital well-being tips some of my followers shared with me:

  • Screen-free Sunday afternoons (@phiiiillll)
  • Forced airplane mode at certain times of day (@lillhabits)
  • When you encounter trolls, block them! (@pursuexcitement)
  • Leaving your phone in a different room when you go to bed (@kiasfitness)
  • Try to only send work emails during work hours (@zandaleec)
  • Uninstall social media apps for a certain period of time (@jmkenyon)
  • Change your phone wallpaper to say ‘focus!’ It works (@melaniemarkiwsky)
  • Designating a time of day FOR checking social media (@crave_honey)
    • And lots of people who have also turned off their social media notifications!

I think the important thing is that whatever you choose to do to try and balance your digital health and well-being, make sure it’s realistic and actually do-able.

I’ve seen a lot of motivational, digital detox kind of content that is suggesting things that just simply aren’t realistic for my specific situation. Like, NOT being on my phone PERIOD, just isn’t going to happen given my business is on my phone. But those five steps above that I am currently doing, that’s realistic and manageable, and I think is making a big difference for me.

I can’t recommend the TELUS Wise workshops enough. Truly—whether it’s for your office or your parents, your niece and nephew or your kids class. Consider booking a free TELUS Wise workshop or using the resources online.

Ultimately, just be honest with yourself. 

When something you do online leaves you feeling bummed out, or way too wired, stressed, or frustrated, consider how you can do less of that, remove yourself from that, or what other small steps you can take to make sure your digital activity is far more nourishing than it is depleting.

Thank you to TELUS for inviting me to take part in the TELUS Wise Happiness workshop and for letting me co-present this important talk to students in the Edmonton area. I truly believe it’s a topic that everyone should be talking about and I’m grateful to be getting the chance to share about it.

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TELUS Wise Happiness Workshop - Edmonton Linda Hoang - Digital Wellbeing
Share my small steps to creating a bigger balance when it comes to your digital well-being!

Linda

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Disclaimer: As a year-round #TELUS_Partner (ambassador), I’m often sharing about the things I love about TELUS, including its efforts to educate Canadians on how they can maintain a healthier, happier, digital life. This does not impact opinions stated in this post. I’m so proud to be a TELUS ambassador!

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