Personal Development

Step away from the screen: changing digital behaviours

We spend more time than ever using screens, but what are the consequences for our grey matter?

Everything in moderation. A tenet true of everything in life, including your online time. It’s something that’s rife in modern society- we’re all online, seemingly constantly. The average UK adult spends almost 9 hours on screens every day (that’s more time than we are asleep). But, what do we know about the effects our digital habits have on our brains?

Internet addiction can fundamentally change the structure and functionality of our brains .

Excessive screen time can lead to impaired emotional processing, attention span (we now have the attention span of goldfish . Really.), decision making and control.

Don’t beat yourself up about your screen time, but don’t treat it like a zero-sum game either. It’s important to keep tethered to the real world, and equally, to be conscious of the ways you could be being used.

Big tech is very good at pushing you off-balance, using gambling-esque methods to keep you online for too long , monopolizing your time and mining your information until you are left with sore eyes and a pesky feeling you’ve wasted the day; or in the worst case, developing an increasingly common smartphone addiction .

Balance is key.

Moderation feels great. Please don’t get me wrong - the internet is a glorious utility, and it can be an incredible source for good. Education, connections, and awareness have all improved drastically.

But, we should always appraise it honestly. We should cultivate a vocabulary for describing the great things it gives us — the ways it makes us into better, faster, healthier humans — but also the way it erodes our attention, bashes our self-image and mental health , and fills our days with an insatiable search for clicks, likes, smiles and other forms of meaningless gratification that have us reaching for our phones every 12 minutes . Perhaps it’s time to seriously consider the advice of those who recommend peeling away from the screen for a digital sabbath or even celebrating silence and human connection with communal actions like Empty Day .

Are you shackled to the apps on your phone? Could you live in a more joyful way if you severed your connection to social media during the evening so you could return to it — like a kid running downstairs to check a stocking at Christmas — the next morning? Could you get the damn phone out of your bedroom? Could you say to the shrill opinions of Twitter — you’re not welcome here?

Practical tips to protect your mental health your privacy and your sanity online

  1. Change your twitter location to Berlin, Germany - hate speech has been banned there , so you’ll improve your newsfeed no end.

  2. Use a VPN - I love to bedazzle google and others and prevent targeting.

  3. Install a privacy app like Jumbo to audit your channels and make sure your online information is safe, and only being used for things you know about. It can also archive ancient social media history to keep your social media about the present day.

  4. Use a search engine like Duck Duck Go to avoid being hounded by adds and having your search history follow you around.

  5. Delete social media from your phone. Seriously. You’ll be amazed how much time you have, and it only takes a week without it to feel happier .

Who is Damian Bradfield?

Man working in an attic office on his laptop

Named 'one of the most influential voices in tech today' by Forbes magazine, Damian Bradfield is CCO of WeTransfer - a health-conscious file transfer service that puts building trust at the forefront of its business model. Dedicated to bringing the values of the offline world online, he’s also the author of “ The Trust Manifesto ”, a book that examines the wealth of data we unwittingly provide to the algorithms and intentions of tech giants - for those who wonder what an alternative internet would look like, built on trust, that works for all of us.

About the author:
store logo
Damian Bradfield

Know your own mind?

The average brain health score is 51/100. Take our 3-minute quiz to learn how yours measures up and how to boost it.

Related articles