The New New Year’s Resolution: Improving Your Digital Health

Happy New Year! “New year, new me,” right? This is the popular theme around this time of year. As we all sweep another year under the rug most of us envision ways of improving ourselves, ridding away of bad habits, and setting forth new goals. Of all the New Year’s Resolutions the most typical tends to be losing weight and becoming healthier. I’m not big on making New Year’s Resolutions, but I am big on people striving to better themselves. I certainly encourage people to pursue a healthier lifestyle whether that be dietary or through exercise, but most people fail to recognize their unhealthy consumption within the digital world.

Although many people are aiming to use their phones less or to check social media less frequently this year, they’re approaching it from the wrong angle. Similar to people’s diets, the issue isn’t consuming too much it’s more about what they’re consuming and how much they’re exercising. The same applies digitally. You don’t need to consume less, you need to consume better. (And yes, you need to exercise.)

The first step to consuming better information is identifying your sources. When I reference information I’m not solely speaking of news or anything formal, but rather anything you’re looking at or reading is what I’m considering information. Some common sources are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and a countless amount of other forms of social media. Additionally, videos, podcasts, blogs, newsletters, and the like are also forms of information. We’ve gotten to a point in which we are almost always consuming something.

The good thing is though, after you determine your sources of information you can then begin crafting a healthier diet for yourself. Here are a few signs that you need to fix up your digital diet:

The number of unread emails you have in your inbox is over 9

If the number of unread emails are in the triple or more digits then we’ve got a serious problem. But no worries because honestly it’s extremely easy to watch that number grow, and it takes some serious work to keep it under 10. Take the time to go through and mass delete or mark those emails as read. As that number steadily increases over time your inbox will become more and more intimidating and can even reach the point in which you no longer use it. Email is a powerful and useful tool, don’t let an insane amount of unread emails linger over your head; actually use it.

If every time you open an email you then immediately return back to your inbox just so it’s marked unread even though you didn’t read it

I may or may not be speaking directly to myself with this one. This is almost like a cheat code to the example above, but what’s the point of receiving these emails if I’m not even going to read them? If you catch yourself doing the same thing then ask yourself the same question. Take the time and figure out which kinds of these emails you aren’t actually looking at, and then unsubscribe from them. This is all about decluttering and ensuring we can use our email for subscribing to actual useful content.

When scrolling through a social media feed you seem to endlessly scroll without liking or reading any posts

This indicates that you are following boring people. Your ideal feed would have you constantly engaged and inspired. Following a lot of people equals diversity, right? Not exactly. Following an overabundance of people turns checking social media into a mindless act. Follow the people that are constantly keeping you inspired, and unfollow those who aren’t.

You follow someone, but haven’t liked or engaged in any of their recent posts

Take the time to figure out why you’re following them. Will it affect you if you unfollow them? Will you even notice that they aren’t in your feed anymore if you did unfollow them? Never feel obligated to follow someone simply because you know them. I kind of feel that way which is why I’ve made a personal Instagram that I check every so often to see how old friends are doing.

You aren’t reading anything

This isn’t reference to physical books, but rather the content on posts or even newsletters. I’ve definitely noticed this about myself recently. I haven’t been checking up on blogs lately, I haven’t been listening to podcasts, and instead I’ve found myself distracted by things like Tumblr where I’m not actually engaged or learning. Typically when you eat better you feel better, and the same works here. When you’re consuming better information you will be more apt to create.

Most of your information comes from a small number of individuals or sources

Just like your actual food diet, it’s good to have variety. Receiving advice or only being inspired by a few people may lead to being influenced in ways you don’t intend. This isn’t to say that you should follow a bunch of people, but rather be engaged with a variety of people with different backgrounds and stories.

My general advice for becoming digitally healthier is to intentionally consume information.

If you can recognize your bad habit of mindlessly consuming nonsense you can then consciously curate the information you are taking in. By no means should you cut off technological consumption entirely, instead you should mindfully determine the right diet for you.

For me, becoming healthier looks like: unsubscribing from email newsletters that I don’t even bother reading, unfollowing accounts on social media that don’t actively inspire me and instead add clutter, following more people that I engage with in conversation rather than just liking their posts, sharing more of my own positive and useful information, and spending more time exercising.

That’s right, I said exercising. In this context; however, exercise is meant to refer to practicing and creating. I’m going to relate back to physical health one more time: you can’t expect a change in diet to solely reflect a change in your health, you also need to exercise. Just by consuming higher quality information doesn’t mean it’s going to benefit you, in order for that to truly be effective you must also exercise your creative abilities.