2020 was not an easy year for anyone. After months of COVID-19 upending our personal and professional lives, we all could use a clean slate.
Lockdowns, remote work, and stay-at-home orders made 2020 the year of the screen. In 2021, that trend seems likely to continue.
With the new year right around the corner, it’s time to reevaluate our relationship with technology. Think of 2021 as a reset: an opportunity to make tech a healthier component of our lives.
Here’s how you can do it:
1. Reevaluate your phone plan.
Not every cell phone has to break the bank and include dozens of new features. While phones are an indispensable part of modern existence, they can become a financial burden or a technological crutch — particularly for children.
Build with safety in mind, many kids phones are affordable, pared-down versions of traditional smartphones. They allow your child to stay connected without exposing them to mature apps or other online content.
The reevaluation doesn’t have to stop with your kids’ phones, however. There are a number of adult-focused phones as well that can help limit screen time or browser access, two time drains for smartphone users. High-end cell phones are so ubiquitous that they’re often thought of as necessary; 2021 is an opportunity to change that.
2. Cut the cable.
While you’re going over your phone bills, consider your cable and internet plan, too. As television shifts to streaming platforms, dedicated cable plans grow less popular and more expensive. Some streaming platforms now even offer live TV options, allowing you to enjoy traditional TV without the traditional cost.
American families pay $90 per month on average for their cable. Typical high-speed internet packages run for about $60 per month; Netflix and Hulu with ads is another $19 per month. Combined, that’s cheaper than the standard cable package.
Again, the exercise here is to evaluate your family’s media usage and cut out what’s no longer necessary. Americans waste an average of $348 a year on subscriptions they’re no longer using but haven’t canceled. If ever there was a time to take a good, hard look at what you’re not using, it is now. Go into 2021 knowing that you’re getting the value you want out of every dollar you spend on subscriptions.
3. Rein in your screen time.
Just about everyone made it through 2020 with the help of their screens: laptops, TVs, game consoles, and more. Whether you’re working on a project or bingeing your Netflix queue, the endless stream of lights can get overwhelming. While screens are next to impossible to avoid completely, spend some time on old-fashioned non-electronic hobbies this coming year to compensate.
Look into apps to track your screen time, if they don’t come automatically loaded to your device. You can use this time you’ve saved to start a new workout regimen or take up a creative pursuit like writing, painting, baking, or building models. Learn a new skill or catch up on books you’ve meant to read but have gathered dust. Even if COVID-19 becomes past tense in 2021, screen time will not — it helps to have some analog activities to compensate.
4. Detox your social media.
Social media was made to keep us connected and share our lives, but any regular user knows that it has a dark side as well. Excessive social media usage can take the fun out of the experience and even lead to unwanted side effects. A new year is a great excuse to detox yourself from social media.
Consider getting rid of old accounts you don’t use or signing off of platforms you’re burnt out on. Even a month or two away from social media can make a world of difference for how you interact with it. If it’s a few bad actors filling up your feed with negativity, now’s the time to unfollow, unfriend, or block people who are harming your wellbeing.
Social media platforms can be addictive by nature, and COVID-19 has meant that many have become replacements for real-life interactions. The consequence of this is that pulling yourself away from them can feel like you’re cutting off your social life entirely, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Keep in contact with close friends via text, phone calls, emails, letters, or whatever works best for you.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of knowing how to use technology responsibly. Whether it’s setting time limits or shutting down accounts entirely, do what you need to do in order to have a healthy relationship with your social media. 2020 was tough, but 2021 won’t be better if you can’t leave behind the bad habits you might have developed.
5. Become more energy efficient.
Going green is no longer just an environmental boon; it can help your household finances as well. With in-home device usage at all-time highs, powering them efficiently can save you more money than you might think.
Swapping out your light bulbs for energy-efficient LED ones can save $6 per bulb each year. With the average home having about 40 sockets, that’s $240 a year in energy savings from light bulbs alone. You can save similarly with better electronics, appliances, and smart fixtures.
Moreover, most electric thermostats have features that let you program different temperatures at different times of day. The same can be said about automatic light switches that turn lights off when no one’s in the room. Carefully tuning these cycles to your regular patterns of usage can ensure that no electricity is wasted. The more efficient your power usage, the lower your monthly bill.
With all this talk of a “new normal,” it’s important to remember that “new” doesn’t have to mean “worse.” Let all the bad habits of the pre-pandemic world be a thing of the past; now’s the time for finding balance as remote work and streaming become the norm. A new year doesn’t guarantee things will be better, but we can still do our best to make that happen.