How 2020 changed my online behaviour

By Carl Wåhlander

How 2020 changed my online behaviour

2020 has been an interesting year, to say the least. With the US election, conspiracy theories, and the corona pandemic is highlighting how big of a part our digital lives make up of our daily lives.

I've immensely enjoyed working from home the majority of 2020, but it has also made me question my relationship to my computer and phone. If I'm working on a personal project, say music production, or simply digitally seeing my friends I've barely met this year - I simply slide my chair to the left after I'm done with work where I have my personal computer.

These strange times allow for a lot of reflection, especially with how crazy this year has been with disinformation on social media. With the release of the documentary-drama 'The Social Dilemma on Netflix' (see it if you haven't), I've thought a lot about my relationship to my phone and social media. Since I don't really go out to restaurants or bars nowadays my smartphone is in quite a weird place - it's excellent as a tool to reach friends and family, but I can kind of do that with my computer.

Personally, I've always fought a hard battle with always staying online. It's so easy to follow the news or any other hobby when it's right there in the palm of your hand. A couple of years ago, I deleted my Facebook feed, even though I felt I might grow out of touch with people who are not in my immediate circle of friends. A couple of weeks later, I realised I didn't need to see what they were doing day to day to maintain a healthy relationship with them.

When I watched 'The Social Dilemma,' I felt that all of these things I've thought about was being reinforced by experts as well. So as an experiment I wanted to see how far I could go - so I deleted all social media apps and my browser on my phone, and I've been without them for over two months now.

The first few days, I could definitely observe how used my brain was to pick up my phone. Even though I knew that there would be zero notifications for me to check, my hand still reached into my pocket whenever I had to wait for something, say the microwave warming my lunch. This behaviour subsided entirely after about a week.

Dopamine fasting has been a thing that's been popping up a lot lately, where people simply disconnect everything and have a 'boring' day to let the brain rest from all the constant impressions. I felt like I was doing a light version of this daily.

Then I started to forget my phone entirely; it could be laying in the kitchen where I last left it for a full day unless I got a call. And speaking of calling, with no messaging possible I've called people a whole lot more. And things like 'Can you pick this up at the store?' that would usually be sent through messaging often becomes a 2-3 minute talk instead. There was actually a study made on how phone calls create stronger bonds than text-based communications that just came out a few months ago.

Another thing that's been so great about this is sleep quality. It's quite honestly a magical feeling to turn off your computer and then not having the option to check up on the latest stressful news or chat with someone if you can't fall asleep after an hour in bed.

And this was the point I started to notice something huge. We all need time for reflection, but it's rare that we sit down, stare into a wall, and just think - but now these reflective thoughts came naturally, and in addition to that - things are merely less boring. This is anecdotal, of course, but I used to dread having to wait 12 minutes for the bus to arrive. I used to simply try to find something to entertain me via Youtube, Facebook messenger, or Reddit. Nowadays, I simply think. What's funny is that I experience time to go faster - something I definitely thought would be quite the opposite. 

So how does this relate to my work as a designer at Zooma? Well, throughout the years, I've tried making my feeds more inspiring and 'productive.' I've installed Behance, I've followed great creatives on Instagram, I've wanted to read more interesting articles about UX and whatnot. But the part that was missing was to let my mind inspire itself. Great ideas can sometimes come by sleeping on it, but it's not just sleeping that inspires, it's also the times where you're merely waiting for the tram, or when your friend is late to your restaurant reservation.

I say it's essential not to forget what your own mind is capable of; people have always been creative without being influenced by inspiring people.

That being said, next year I recommend you to let your brain rest from constant and irrelevant impressions. You might be surprised about the outcome. 

Carl Wåhlander
Art director at Zooma, 2019-2022.
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