After a 3-month hiatus from writing, you’d be justified in asking where I’ve been!
To answer, I’ve been sitting in front of a computer screen (or two) for at least 9 hours a day, some weeks edging up towards 12 or more hours per day. So come the end of the day, the last thing I’ve been wanting to do is pull out the screen once again to sit down and type this out.
You might have felt somewhat similarly. What with work, study and social life all transitioning to the digital world this year, I’m sure I can’t be the only person who’s felt the effects of tech fatigue.
Computers and other screens feed us constantly with a huge volume of fast-pace information. This does a couple things: firstly it takes a lot of our mental energy to concentrate on all of this information and secondly, that means we have a lot less mental energy to use on anything else. Then, if we use our screens socially, or to interact with other people, we’re having to use additional mental energy again, because we can’t just read their body language and cues that we normally pick up subconsciously. So guess what? Our brains work extra hard to try and generate the same interaction and experience with a fraction of the input. So you work super hard, and you still get less.
So it’s quite justified to be exhausted after you’ve spent a day in front of a screen. Not to mention the fact that your screen feels an awful lot like “work” even if it’s not supposed to. And voila! You’re exhausted.
And throw into the mix a difficulty with sleeping, because of the over-exposure to light, particularly in the evenings that effectively tricks your brain into staying awake.
It’s certainly not easy to combat, given that all work, study and social life has been extended to the virtual space, but there are a few things you can do to avoid excessive levels of tech fatigue.
- Don’t look at a screen first thing in the morning. Most of us will wake up and check either phone or email before anything else. Try avoiding it. Get outside and go for a short walk, or have a shower and make breakfast before sitting down with your screens. If you’re intentional about it, then it gives you that little bit of tech-free space in your day right from the get-go.
- Then end your day screen-less. Don’t check your phone before bed … the light from the screen will increase your difficulty in sleeping and make you even more tired the next day. Although things like “night shift” do help reduce the extra blue light that is particularly troublesome, any light at all does still trigger the chemical suppression of melatonin – which is supposed to help you sleep. Even if you do still fall asleep rapidly, it is likely that your sleep is less restful than it could be.
- Take intentional tech-free breaks in your day. If you’ve got a lunch break from work or study, don’t immediately pull out your phone. Try going for a walk, reading a book, or simply looking at the real world, rather than the virtual one. All these little things mean that your eyes and brain are getting a much needed rest from the stimulation, allowing them to rest and refresh before you continue.
- Try a voice call instead of video. It may sound like a step backward, but your brain really struggles to register all the facial and body language and visual cues through a screen, particularly one full of separate little boxes that you can’t possibly focus on all at once. It’s actually a lot easier for your brain to concentrate on just voice, or perhaps only a video for the main person talking.
- Make sure you’re getting exercise. Another unfortunate side effect of “going digital” means that we’re doing less of getting out and about and exercising. So do yourself a favour, and make sure you’re still exercising a couple times a week.
Also, remember that this does not necessarily characterise anyone. People who are normally very socially drained are finding some aspects of this digital period less difficult because they’re used to be stressed and tired by face-to-face interactions. The ready availability of these video technologies has also meant that our economies have been less hit than they could have been over the past few months. And we can also learn to set better “technology boundaries” on our lives … a practice that will probably continue to be beneficial in the years and decades to come as technology plays an ever greater role in our lives.