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  • Nicole Sherwin

Feeling Digitally Drained? You're Not Alone.

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

In a world we can’t currently access physically, phones are the new escape vehicles – and we’re driving like maniacs.

Source: Search Engine Journal

Sometimes I feel like I spend more time looking at my phone than my child, boyfriend, or whatever low brand TV show I’m watching. And it’s exhausting- what I am even looking at? I couldn’t tell you what I’ve been doing, but my friendly Apple screentime reminder will tell me that I’ve been doing something on my phone for 3-4 hours a day. The answer is, I’ve been doing everything because we use our phones for everything. Digital media penetrates every aspect of our lives, which makes it that much harder to take a digital break when in reality, we really need one.

"...every time I looked at my phone I got anxious, I felt inadequate, my total mood dipped."

Rewind back to last summer, which feels like it was about five years ago. I was approximately 234 months pregnant. Social media was my personal hell and I was my own torturer. Watching my friends through the augmented, magic lens of social media, I felt like they had become blue-tick certified D-graders. They were living my dream, while I had been left behind. They would all bump into each other at the Melbourne Cup Carnival or catch up for Aperols at a bar on a Sunday. Meanwhile, I felt like Free Willy with a bowling ball about to drop out of my pelvis.

In reality, they were literally just going outside their homes and having a semblance of a social life like regular people, and I was probably mourning the childless life and abs I would never have again. But, every time I looked at my phone I got anxious, I felt inadequate and my total mood dipped. I had what is known as mad ‘Instagram Anxiety’. There’s a body of research growing faster than my iso kilos that highlights the negative impact of excessive social media use on our health, from inadequacies about appearance to FOMO, cyberbullying, loneliness and depression and anxiety.


It becomes a cycle. You feel lonely, anxious or stressed so you get on the socials to feel connected or relax, but it makes you feel mad fomo. Later, you see your friends, but don't get the interactions you want, which only amplifies your initial feelings and creates a downturn in your mood. To combat your negative mood, you get on the socials to connect. And the cycle repeats.

I was ticking all the boxes and needed to get away from social media, stat, and get back to reality, where I had plenty of distractions. Like figuring out wtf to do when this mini human dropped out of me, furnishing her room and going to the pool so I could float and not feel like 300kgs.

But 2020 is a whole new digital mood and one that’s so much harder to escape, because -where are we going to go?!

"We're checking our phones once every 12 minutes!"

While the 'gram definitely isn’t full of artistically edited pics of our friends vacaying on the Amalfi coast this year, our feeds are far from bare. In fact, we’re using social media more than ever. Instagram, What’s App and Facebook have reported tidy increases in usage in 2020. We're checking our phones once every 12 minutes! While there are of course brides still dropping their carefully curated release of wedding photos from five years ago, our socials have become more than an exercise in mild stimulation that occasionally stops our thumb. They’ve become our vehicle to access a world that we can’t currently physically access- and we are driving like maniacs.

Most obviously, we’re using social media for the OG purpose- to be social. Facebook group calls have gone up 1000% this year and messaging has gone up 50%. We use it to shop, even if you don’t know it. On Instagram, every fourth post is an ad, and 87% of online shoppers attribute social media as an influence. But the most overt shift in social media this year is that it has become a news source. Unsurprisingly, global news consumption has increased 36% this year, and we’re not waiting for the 6pm news, we’re going to our phones to get it. We’re millennials, we’re impatient. Bite-sized, immediate information is exactly what we like to eat. In Australia, there was a 52% increase year on year in people getting their news and current affairs from social media. This year, we’ve seen social platforms become a pivotal information source for the Black Lives Matter movement, Femicide in Turkey and COVID-19. These days, 36% of social media users getting their news from Facebook. which explains why there are a groundbreaking number of graduates in epidemiology and wokeness from the University of Facebook. But with social media as our one-stop-shop to the world, it also explains why we cannot put our phones down.

Both Facebook and Instagram have everything we could ever need. You’d think we wouldn't have the time for more, but we’re greedy and get bored quickly, so it doesn’t stop there. You’ll have a quick peak on Tik-Tok when you wake up, next thing you know it’s 3pm, you’ve got Cheezel crumbs in your bed and you still haven’t showered. We’ve clocked Netflix, audiobook listening is up, we all wished we would have invested in Zoom 12 months ago and we’re doing so much online shopping we could be isolating with the Aus Postman as intimate partners. We’re using our phones for everything. Digital media now permeates all aspects of our professional and personal lives. It's a part of us, more pivotal to our lives than our gall bladder. This is great news for Mark Zuckerberg and his advertisers, but not great news for our mental health. More purposes and more platforms mean more risk. The stakes are higher, so the threat is exacerbated. It’s not just ‘Instagram Anxiety’ we’re facing, it’s a full-blown ‘digital drain.’

I’ve felt the Instagram Anxiety creeping up on me recently, but it was more than Instagram. It was coming from all digital directions. A few weeks ago, I spoke about the toxic Facebook group where a group of bullies were harassing girls under the façade of 'moral wokeness'. I couldn’t stop scrolling and it made me feel so anxious. After I published the podcast, I was terrified that my reviews were going to get trolled, I was compulsively checking them, then checking the socials, obsessing over interactions. But I was never satisfied. It was never enough. It bled offline and soon enough I was just generally stressed, anxious and feeling inadequate. My entire mood was negatively affected and I couldn’t switch off and relax. I was in the cycle again, but this time my life was so enveloped in digital mediums with only an hour a day access to the real world, it was so much harder. Like, there was no way I could lock my phone in a box for a week!

How to practically deal with the drain:

Source: The Verge

I’ve compiled some unsolicited tips on how to save yourself from the digital drain. I’ve read so many articles preparing for this and the tips are like ‘be mindful,' ‘see your friends,’ ‘don’t take your phone to work,’ but so few articles actually dealt with the practicalities of 2020- so I have. These are tips you can actually put into action. And they’re on a scale, so whether you just want to ‘eat a little bit less’ or go the ‘full blow ‘lemon juice detox’, there’s something for everyone.

Before you get started, the only thing you really need to know is what you want to achieve. Do you want to reduce your usage, or just get off Instagram completely for the next month? Then pick and choose from these bad boys accordingly.

Open another app

I know you’ve got 343 apps on your phone, so why do you only ever use the same three? When you find your thumb hovering over that rainbow camera, think about opening something else. Now, of course, you could download Duolingo and learn French, but we’re on the socials or the online shop in the first place for something easy and low involvement, so I’m not going to suggest you go and do anything that will require excessive brain time. Try reading some of our low-involvement articles- it totally counts as learning!

Personally, I recently downloaded this app called ‘Day One’ It’s a journal, but you type, so it’s way quicker than getting out the old ink and quill. Plus, you can import all your photos, Instagram pics and appointments. We’ve literally just established that your whole life is one your phone, so this brings in what you want to one place. Every time I go to scroll the gram for the umpteenth time, I try to go there instead. I’m not Stephanie Meyer, I’m not writing the next Twilight, I just write a line or two about how my baby behaved that day, so one day I can show it to her. And I can confirm two lines in a journal are far more fulfilling than three hours scrolling the gram aimlessly. Or depending on your mood, open a news app, or a game. I won’t judge you if you’re still playing Candy Crush- much.

Shhh, mute

One thing that’s better about talking to people online over real life is that you can shut them up. Mute your groups, mute your What’s App, mute your message notifications. As a generally anxious person, I think the worst, like if I turn my phone off there’ll be some accident and I’ll miss it, but muting selective things puts my fear-mongering mind at ease.

Plan your time

If you don’t want to be on your phone all the time- just don’t be. The key here is to be cognisant of how much you’re using it. This is where you can use your Apple Screen time on your iPhone or Digital Wellbeing App on Android. Think about how much you need it for work during the day or night, and how much you actually need it for leisure. If you’re on it all day for work, give yourself an hour with it at night. Or whatever works for you.

Leave your phone in another room

If you have to get up and walk three metres to pick your phone up, cbf, so purposely leave your charger in another room. Or just leave your phone in another room while you’re doing something else. If you stress like me, just take it off silent so you can hear when someone will undoubtedly call with an emergency.

Unsave your passwords

Log out of all your socials. You may never be able to get back in because who even knows their passwords?! This also goes for your credit cards. If I can’t pay for my online shopping using PayPal one touch, it’s too much work.

Use apps for the strength you don’t have

If you’re really brave, download ‘Flipd’. It will be the strength you need by locking your phone for a selected period and there’s nothing you can do about it. This makes me more anxious than Instagram Anxiety itself, so this territory is not for the weak-willed (like me.)

Deactivate and Delete

For the hardcore digital detoxers, you’ve got to deactivate your social media and delete the apps. So you can’t just open them up for a scroll. You’d have to download them again, log, reactive and then scroll. Much hard work.


Honestly, I’m not on the other side. My phone and my laptop still are my access to the rest of the world. I’ve got a podcast and an online business which demand usage of digital communication. I can’t just do a digital cleanse and live in 1853 for a week. But I honestly think the key is cognisance and recognising when the pillars of your mental health start to shake.

Thirsty for more? Tune in to the Large Almond Latte Podcast every Tuesday for the ultimate in low involvement entertainment.


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