Bethany Baker of A-GAP: 5 Ways To Create a Healthy Relationship With Screens and Technology
Go grayscale on your phone to make it less appealing so you spend less time on it. By going grayscale it makes your phone less appealing so that you are automatically on it less than you normally would be. Programmers and app designers mimic these apps to mirror slot machines with the notifications, colors and frequency of when they refresh their apps to keep you hooked. With grayscale you are attempting to hack their system of getting into your brain and put a barrier in place to remind you to get off your phone.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Bethany Baker.
Bethany is a digital wellness coach and the Executive Director of A-GAP, a non-profit foundation that encourages people to implement healthy technology habits to thrive both professionally and personally. Since launching A-GAP, Bethany has led tech-free reprieves that have helped hundreds of participants implement healthy tech habits to thrive.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
Growing up we were always a little different than the other kids in the fact that we didn’t have Cable. I didn’t realize how much it would affect me in the future, but am grateful looking back that my parents took the initiative to encourage us to get outside, explore nature, try different crafts, play with friends in person and not waste our time looking at a screen.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I took a long time to think about this and I think it would have to be during our first A-GAP Experience over two years ago. Being that I had just been hired on and had a month to prepare for a whole weekend reprieve with all the logistics, food, housing, guest speakers and sessions on my own I was pretty stressed and exhausted by the time the weekend came. However, calming myself as everyone got settled in I realized that this is the “escape” from modern distractions that we are all longing for but few will take the time to do. I found that weekend more life-giving than I could have imagined, not only for myself but for others.
We had a couple people throughout the weekend who finally had time and space away from all the noise and chaos of life to determine what really mattered to them and if the path that they were on could help them accomplish that. We had a couple break a partnership with a toxic working partner and venture out to start their own business. We had several people decide that they wanted to change their line of work and move across the country pursing their dreams.
Lastly, my favorite story from that weekend was when one of our participants decided she wanted to quit her job and move to Peru full time to help work with orphans, providing them a place for shelter, food, clothing, food and education. She had been on a mission trip a year ago that had planted the seed, but it took a weekend unplugged to realize that is what she wanted to do with her life. Now she is starting her own non-profit in Peru that helps families so that they don’t have to put their kids on the street. That is the best thing to come from my career thus far for me personally.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
When we were planning our 2020 strategy before COVID hit we were excited about having more private A-GAP Experience where we partner with existing groups, universities or companies in facilitating an A-GAP Experience for their group in particular.
This allows us to reach people all over the USA. In February we did an A-GAP Experience in Kansas City and had other ones planned in Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida that we had to reschedule due to COVID.
Another exciting campaign we are planning on launching around the Holidays due to COVID is our “30 Hour Phone Fast” encouraging people to unplug on their own and challenge others to do the same. We will talk more about this later on when it launches.
For now, we are focusing on going back to in person experiences while being careful to maintain CDC guidelines and state regulations.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Between work and personal life, the average adult spends nearly 11 hours looking at a screen per day. How does our increasing screen time affect our mental, physical, and emotional health?
All of us are affected differently by the same thing. However, I can share some quick statistics with you to verify that people are negatively affected by an overuse of technology.
Our increased use of screen time is negatively affecting us in multiple ways, but it is usually seen most through social media, entertainment and gaming. Everything has been programmed to keep us on it for longer because the more time we spend consuming their apps, content, media and entertainment than the more money that they make.
Our time is their money. Something important to remember is whenever anything is free, the product being sold is our attention.
I could go into all the ways that they try to make technology more addicting and literally mimic slot machines to do so. Adam Alter is a great resource on that topic specifically in his book “Irresistible” because he came from the programming world.
Just think about the endless scroll on almost all social media platforms: facebook, instagram, snapchat and tik tok just to name a few. As well as the automatic replay after most episodes on Netflix and other tv programs.
- Physically — We are spending less time outside and moving around than ever before and child obesity has continued to rise, confirming that fact. Kids spend on average 1/10 the time outside that their parents did which is not healthy.
- Another impactful way that technology is negatively affecting us physically is with our sleep. The blue light emitted from our devices tricks our brain into thinking it is daylight and turns off the melatonin in our brains, keeping us from falling asleep. However, most of the time when we cannot sleep the first thing we go to are our screens.
- Mentally — We are more stressed than ever before. I read an article yesterday and they talked about how this generation will struggle with depression and anxiety three times more than their parents.
- A huge reason for the anxiety is because we are constantly connecting, meaning for work we always have to be on call and can never fully unplug.
- In regard to social media, the more social media accounts you have the more stress and anxiety you will feel because of the constant need to “keep up.”
- The University of Metal Health = students who spent >2h/day on SM (average amount) reported higher depression, anxiety & suicidal thoughts.
- Emotionally — It has been proven that the longer we are on social media platforms the lonelier we feel because interacting online does not do the same thing psychologically as interacting in person.
- Social media can also easily lead to depression because is presents us with unrealistic ideas of how others are living their lives (it’s their highlight reel). When we feel like we’re falling behind, it aggravates more feelings of depression
Can you share your top five ways people can improve mental wellness and create a healthy relationship with technology?
Get an alarm clock and keep your phone out of your bed room.
- With the phone right by your bed it will automatically be the first thing you look at in the morning and the last thing you look at before you go to bed. Keeping it out of the room helps set up physical boundaries that will help you follow through on your healthy tech goals. As well as when you are gearing down to go to sleep, it is much easier to fall asleep with the blue light out of your face and out of your room.
Go for a phone-free walk or retreat.
- It is essential that you get out in nature, especially now with COVID-19. Doctors and nurses are highly recommending at least 15–20 minutes of sunlight a day. Take this time to quiet the technological noise while taking in the sights and sounds that nature has to offer! Try to completely unplug even mentally, while embracing wherever you are.
Go grayscale on your phone to make it less appealing so you spend less time on it.
- By going grayscale it makes your phone less appealing so that you are automatically on it less than you normally would be. Programmers and app designers mimic these apps to mirror slot machines with the notifications, colors and frequency of when they refresh their apps to keep you hooked. With grayscale you are attempting to hack their system of getting into your brain and put a barrier in place to remind you to get off your phone.
Limit how many social media apps you have.
- The more Social Media Apps you have the more anxiety it causes as you feel the constant urge to keep up with them all. It also ends up taking more time away from you as you check multiple accounts, often for similar content. By limiting your social media apps you are automatically limiting your stress, anxiety, depression and FOMO. Along with limiting how many social media apps you have TIMERS are a LIFE-SAVER! We encourage you to put timers on all your “slot-machine” apps aka the apps that are games, social media or anything you do not use for work that keep you distracted and steal your time. Timers allow you to still connect with others, but keeps you from getting lost down a rabbit hole by reminding you of how long you have been on your screen.
Craft a feed that is life giving over life-draining.
- If you are choosing to be on Social Media it is important that you follow account that in a way are encouraging. We think it is important to be objective and seek perspective from all sides of an issue. However, if there are past “friends” or “influencers” who make you feel less than or inferior to them than it would be healthy to unfollow those accounts and replace them with accounts that are encouraging, uplifting and speaking the truth!
- We can all set lofty goals and have ambitious dreams but many times without accountability in our lives we will not follow through on what we were so determined to achieve in the first place. No matter which of the 10 tips you picked listed above, we encourage you to tell them to someone who you can regularly check in with for accountability in implementing your healthy tech habits to THRIVE!
Without accountability it does not matter what habits you try to implement to improve your mental wellness and create a healthy relationship with technology
Between social media distractions, messaging apps, and the fact that Americans receive 45.9 push notifications each day, Americans check their phones 80 times per day. How can people, especially younger generations, create a healthier relationship with social media?
When it comes to creating a healthier relationship with technology we need to remember that we have to be on the offensive. Since these apps and programs are designed to distract us. The easiest way we can do this is to TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS.
We are 3 times more likely to use apps that we have notifications for. The little red dot in the top right corner sends off dopamine to our brain letting us know that there is something NEW and UNPREDICTABLE, two things that the human brain is wired to crave.
Another helpful way to limit the distractions is by putting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” automatically while driving with an automated response that lets people know that you are driving and will get back to them when it is safe.
You can also put your phone on “Do not disturb” in the evenings when you get home from work and away from your desk while you are at work, only checking it when you choose to check it. NOT when the notifications make you check it.
80% of smartphone users check their phones before they brush their teeth in the morning. What effect does starting the day this way have on people? Is there a better morning routine you suggest?
As you can tell from my tips mentioned earlier checking our phones first thing in the morning does us a huge disservice.
When you first wake up it is so important to focus on independent, creative and original thoughts. Don’t allow yourself to be bombarded with the concerns of the world on your shoulders before you have even brushed your teeth!! This will also allow you to have organic content that you can contribute to society and our culture instead of simply, mindlessly consuming all the content previously created.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” By Anne Dillard
“If you want to change the world, invest in helping another person to reach his or her potential.” John Maxwell
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
We honestly already have!! Our movement is to Create “A-GAP” from technology in order to objectively look at your relationship with screens and take the time to implement healthy technology habits to thrive both professionally and personally. I genuinely think that healthy technology habits are at the root of wellness mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually for everyone!
Think about it:
- If you want to read and take classes to further your education to increase your mental wellbeing, than you need to discipline yourself to get off social media and take the time to do it.
- If you want to work out more and take the time to meal prep in order to feel better physically, than you have to get up off the couch from watching Netflix and get moving!
- If you want to externally process and learn more about how you respond to the things that happen around you through counseling or journaling, than you need to get off the zoom calls and webinars in order to intentionally focus on talking with people in person and seeking out guidance wherever you need it.
- If you want to spend more time in meditation, prayer or reading spiritually grounded texts you have to purposefully silence the noise and distractions that technology bring and go away in solitude for reflection.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
- You can find A-GAP on Instagram at @agaplife and on Facebook at @agap.life.2018
- You can find my personal Instagram account at @bethany_baker_