You probably belong, just like me, to the 86% who can be found on the internet every day. On average, we spend 6 hours a day online. But we do not always spend that time as effectively. When you go online, you get to endure lots of stimuli that distract you but yield nothing. You can blame yourself for that distraction, but there’s more to it than a lack of discipline.
In the last couple of years, we have been made more aware that many companies are taking advantage of our natural weaknesses to grab and hold our attention. Of course, we want to avoid that. In my work as a UX strategist, I, therefore, advise our customers to approach and activate their target group in a different way. I focus on insights from neuropsychology and behavioural science.
Throwing out the baby with the bathwater
By examining the target group’s needs and motivations, you can initiate an interaction with the organization based on shared interests. This way you, can help your customers build a relationship with their target audience instead of pushing for a one-off transaction by fooling them with devious incentives. Unfortunately, not everyone applies these principles. So it is important that you protect yourself against them.
There is a good chance that you’ve already heard lots of stories about dopamine kicks, notifications on silent, and a telephone ban in the bedroom, to avoid stimuli. They will probably work, but you will soon miss the possibilities of digital resources that do enrich your life. What can you do to overload yourself less with (useless) information and stimuli? In this blog, I give some tips on how to ensure that you are not digitally over-stimulated.
Which part of your social media is interesting for you?
Checking new messages such as news, e-mails and, social media takes a lot of time. If only to filter all useful things between the noise. Sometimes you find something nice in between, but most of the time it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. So critically ask yourself: which part of your social media does something for you? Neuroscientist David Perlmutter writes about this in his book “Brain wash”:
“As we know, craving-related behavior is not always beneficial. When we find ourselves pleasure-seeking 24-7, chasing instant gratification and pushing those chemical buttons, we reinforce neural pathways that keep us constantly craving and silence the prefrontal cortex by weakening its ability to exert control over the lower, limbic brain. And this manifests itself, among other ways, as internet surfing, smartphone scrolling, one-click shopping, gobbling up high-calorie foods, and checking posts on social media.”
Here is where the term “digiminderen” shows up. The Van Dale does not yet know the word, but the fact that the word is on the rise says enough about our need for fewer stimuli. Still, living an offline life appears to be easier said than done. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram satisfy our need for information and keep us in touch with the people we value.
Being more productive ánd more calm in your daily life
The problem is in the way we are presented with information. Platforms such as Facebook are based on the (naive) idea that our connections share whatever we find interesting. Where in the past we consciously chose our reading material, this is now calculated algorithmically. Once our attention is drawn, every effort is made to retain it. This way, advertisements can be shown to us for a longer period, and that saves money. Fortunately, there are solutions to regain control. The tech tips below will help you with that.
Fortunately, there are solutions to regain control. The tech tips below will help you with that.
Insight 1: Kill the newsletter
Our inboxes often fill up with newsletters. That can be quite annoying because you have the feeling that you cannot keep up. The feeling of a full inbox gives you the feeling that you are lagging. Ever heard of Email Apnea? To unsubscribe yourself from all the news items is quite rigorous because there is often something nice in between.
Kill the newsletter offers a solution for this by separating newsletters from other incoming messages. This way you create one mailbox for really important communications that require a response. And a place where you can watch newsletters at your chosen moments for inspiration and entertainment. This way you won’t get distracted by all those stimuli when you want to answer your important emails.
Insight 2: Ad-Free News with RSS Feeds
The old school lover probably still knows it: RSS (Really Simple Syndication). With RSS you decide which sources you want to follow without noise and advertising. RSS is making a comeback among privacy and time-conscious internet users.
For those who only use Facebook to read the news or to follow organizations, this is a good alternative. The big advantage of RSS is that you no longer have to visit your regular website every day to see if there are updates. These come to you automatically and are tailor-made.
All you need is an RSS reader, of which free versions are available. However, better readers are available for a small price.
Insight 3: Focus with the Forest app
All notifications that we receive every day appeal to our awareness of our environment. Stimuli in your periphery simply draw your attention, because in the past this could be the difference between life and death.
The Forest app can help you become more aware of the moments when you get distracted. In the app, you set several minutes during which you do not want to be disturbed, and in the meantime, a tree will grow. If you do use your phone within that time, the tree will slowly die. It prevents you from doing distracting things.
Insight 4: Expand your horizons with Refind
If you still feel the need to be inspired or surprised, there is Refind. This is a platform where you indicate which sources, people, and organizations you find interesting. They then add a transparent algorithm, which you can send yourself, after which 10 to 35 messages are selected for you every day. A limited number, but enough to inspire and not to over-stimulate.
Reduce our use
Even if you are quite consciously critical of digital use, it will be hard to get rid of.
Continuously checking digital platforms is deeply rooted in our daily routines. You don’t have to get mad at yourself for that, but a critical attitude towards your own behaviour helps a lot.
At the end of the day, we will still have more stimuli in this digital world than a few years ago, when we still used fax and rattling modems. It will take some time to get used to it, but you can do something about it with these four tips. Quickly and practically.
Dave de Bakker