For a lot of people, the last few months have found us chained to the computer screen like never before. We all know it’s not particularly healthy, but there’s been little alternative. It’s hard to average down the stress when working on a computer by doing something else; other activities lend themselves to that more easily. I was quite pleased when I came up with the idea of forcing myself to go for a walk every time I had a long phone call. But that’s not really possible with most computer work.
It’s important in some important respects to distinguish between different types of screen time. Interactive (computer) screen time is quite different from watching TV (or going to the cinema: remember that?). I’m no research psychologist, but I’d imagine they’d tell me that the concentration and stress levels associated with TV are a lot lower than computer work.
So when people advise us to cut down on screen time before bed – which is a great idea – what they’re primarily advising is to avoid interactive time. Many people associate relaxation with fun, but that can be a red herring. Watching a recording of a business seminar may turn out to be a better late-night activity than playing a computer game, because it’s not as stimulating.
Some great advice is surely to go cold turkey and hide your phone away well before going to sleep, not to even be thought about before the next day. Harder for some people than others, but always a good thing. Being a lot more ruthless with notifications is also key. I ditched on-screen pop-ups for emails and messages long ago, when I realised that I was checking for them quite frequently enough without additional urging being necessary. I also got rid of the little counters on apps; there’s been something in my inbox continuously since about 1995, so I don’t need a little red number to remind me. And I really, really don’t need to know that there are 125 posts on Facebook that I’ve not seen.