Offline October: Balance virtual, real worlds
Monday, October 29, 2018
It’s vital for people to realize the importance of interpersonal relationships and the satisfaction derived from direct human interaction. That’s why the mission behind Offline October is a valued initiative, year-round.
Offline October challenges people – especially children – to turn off all social media platforms for the month of October. It has three key goals: Decrease teen suicides, encourage more face-to-face conversations, and create community events designed to foster interpersonal interactions.
The initiative was created by Colorado students following a rash of teen suicides where social media was thought to be a factor in the deaths.
Dr. Lynn Wagner, an integrative lifestyle medicine physician with BayCare Clinic in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has long promoted moderate use of electronic devices and limiting time spent on social media.
“By removing social media for a while, you're able to stay more closely connected to a core group of supportive friends and family, enhancing real offline relationships and getting the feel-good benefits of authentic connection,” she says. “Besides, studies show offline socialization can help decrease disease and suffering. That’s because healthy relationships have been shown to boost our immune system, decrease inflammation and help people recover from illness and injury.”
While she believes in the ability of social media to create positives in people’s lives – her family often communicates via text, email, social media apps and video chat – the key is to find balance. It’s an issue she helps patients grapple with as well as her own family members.
Here’s how she handles the matter at home:
- We talk about it a lot. I have a weekly conversation with my kids about their use of their cell phones and the need to be mindful of the time they spend on them. I talk about FOMO (fear of missing out), I talk about addiction and the good feeling you get with “likes.” They are aware this is a false sense of happiness and I regularly give them examples of what real happiness is – time with friends, experiences in nature, a good night’s sleep, the feeling you get when you help someone, etc.
- I show them how it’s difficult for me too. I tell them how I sometimes feel myself getting too attached to my phone. I share the steps I am taking to address that – no phone after 8 p.m., leave the phone in the back of the car when I’m driving, silence the phone when I am working so I don’t get distracted.
- I encourage boredom. When we are on road trips or even just driving around town, my kids could spend the entire time on their phones. I limit this time and encourage them to welcome boredom and to daydream. I explain to them how this is good for their brains and will make them smarter and happier in the long term. I set limits. Even amazing kids need rules. My youngest is limited to one hour a day of any type of screen time. My girls know if they are on their phones after 8 p.m. they will lose phone privileges. I monitor without being a helicopter mom.
Participating in Offline October provides an opportunity to strengthen relationships with family and friends, meet new people and reconnect with others. While the initiative is highlighted in October, Wagner says reassessing one’s screen time and social media use can take place anytime.
"If you catch yourself heading down that slippery slope of logging in to social media right when you wake up in the morning or checking your email or scrolling through the news feed, all before you even get dressed for the day, it’s time to monitor your online habits and begin setting parameters,” she says.
Dr. Lynn Wagner sees patients at Integrative Lifestyle Medicine BayCare Clinic in De Pere. Call 920-327-7056 or request an appointment online.