Discover more from Techno Sapiens
New year, new sapiens
25 tips for healthier tech habits in 2023
Welcome to Techno Sapiens! Subscribe to join 10,000+ other readers and get research-backed tips for living and parenting in the digital age.
5 min read
When I was in college, I waitressed at a restaurant.1 It was the type of Cambridge establishment that aimed to appear as if it had been around since the turn of the century—dim lighting, dark wood paneling, a bar serving classic cocktails in copper mugs—when really it had just opened a few years prior. I’d describe the menu as upscale(ish) bar food. There was a $25 burger, for example, and, in the winter, cups of spiked apple cider that cost nearly as much.
There was also an extensive wine list.
Having just come of legal drinking age, and thus more familiar with wine dispensed from bags than overpriced bottles, I knew nothing about wine. And yet, at least once per night, a group of high-heeled MBA students or dark-suited law professors would come in and ask for my advice. Would you recommend the Rose River or the Grand Luc chardonnay?2 Which of your pinots is more fruity?
The first time this happened, I panicked. But over time, I developed a complex system of deflection and vagueness that allowed me to navigate such situations unscathed. Well, what do you like? I’d ask. What are you in the mood for? Going off the information on the menu, I’d say something like They’re both medium-bodied. The Grand Luc is a 2003 from Chile. Would you like to taste it?
Miraculously, I did not get fired.3
New year, new us
It’s the start of the new year, and advice on setting resolutions abounds across all our favorite news, content, and social media channels. A popular varietal of resolution, of course, is tech-related: how to reset your relationship to technology in the new year.
Yet so often the advice we see feels like my wine selection strategy: vague and deflected back at us. Set tech goals that align with your values and identity, we read. Find balance between screen time and other activities.
Self-reflection and personal goal setting are important, of course. But sometimes we just want someone to tell us what to do. Sometimes we need advice that is more direct. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us to order the Grand Luc.
In that spirit, here’s a list of simple, specific ideas for changes you might make to your tech use this year. You do not need to—nor should you try to—do them all. Instead, pick a couple and try them on for size this week. We’ll be back next week with a step-by-step plan for making our tech resolutions stick.
Ideas for healthier tech habits
Tech-free times and locations
No phone during dinner, in the evenings, and/or first thing in the morning
Pick one day a week and go tech-free
Charge your phone in a different room when you sleep. (Here’s a cheap alarm clock, instead).
Phone-free date nights or gatherings with friends
No phone use while sitting on couch (or other specific place in your home)
Reduce distraction and overuse
Delete “addictive” apps for a specified period of time
Check social media and/or email only from computer (no phone)
Put phone in different room when spending time with family
Block distracting websites using apps like Freedom
Check email in batches (rather than ongoing throughout the day), or use batch delivery programs like InboxWhenReady
If you find yourself in frequent YouTube black holes, try Distraction Free YouTube
Increase awareness of tech use
Periodically rearrange the location of apps on your phone to reduce mindless clicking
Find alternative activities (reading, crossword puzzles, writing newsletters) to replace mindless scrolling
Curate your social media feed by unfollowing accounts that aren’t making you feel good
Use tech for good
Reach out to friends by text a few times per week
FaceTime a friend once per week
Create a digital gratitude journal using an app like HappyFeed or, simply, Notes or Google Docs
Practice savoring photos that bring you joy
Use tech to explore a new hobby. There are YouTube tutorials and Reddit communities for everything from gardening to triathlons.
What new tech habits are you planning to try this year? Let us know in the comments!
A quick survey
What did you think of this week’s Techno Sapiens? Your feedback helps me make this better. Thanks!
This was actually one of the better-paying jobs I’d had at that time (the wine drinkers were often also good tippers). The prior summer I’d been given a small stipend from Harvard’s Institute of Politics to intern at MTV. I now recognize that sentence makes no sense, but that is, in fact, what happened. I’d shared a one-bedroom Murray Hill apartment with a friend, where we alternated weeks sleeping on the pull-out couch and bed. The internship was in MTV’s “Department of Public Affairs,” the team responsible for things like their “Choose or Lose” youth voting campaign. It was also steps away from the team responsible for the show 16 and Pregnant. It was a weird summer.
I still know nothing about wine. Thus, in a continuation of my somewhat deceptive college ways, these names are made up. Not bad though, right? I’d order a glass of Grand Luc any day.
The restaurant had two floors, so one of the jobs of the servers was to carry a giant tub of dirty dishes from the second floor down to the kitchen on the first floor. During my first week, I was carrying said tub across the second floor bar area and dropped it in the middle of the dinner rush. The sound of plates shattering was unlike anything I’ve heard before or since. The entire restaurant grew silent, and hundreds of pairs of eyes were suddenly on me. I stood, frozen, staring at the plates, my ill-fitting, all-black work ensemble growing hot and itchy. After a full minute, I started slowly gathering the plates and making the long, shameful journey down the stairs again. Truly the stuff of nightmares. (Again, miraculously I did not get fired).