I’d like to kick this article off with an exercise. They say you’re the subject of the five people you spend the most time with, so take a moment to think about who those five people are. It’ll likely be a partner or spouse, perhaps a family member, and then a few best friends. Of course, there are those that come in and out of your life, so that group of five will change as life goes on. You may notice that sometimes when a new person comes into your inner circle, you start to pick up on some of their traits. Perhaps they have a good sense of humor and suddenly you find yourself cracking more jokes. Maybe they’re super dedicated and driven and that begins to rub off, and you might even find yourself repeating a certain phrase they use.

I don’t think you can argue against the fact that the people you surround yourself with have an enormous impact on who you are as a person. It drives your motivations, affects your emotions, and steers your ambitions. Jim Rohn, American author and entrepreneur, was onto something when he made this claim. Author Moosa Rahat also said, “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

We didn’t even realise who snuck into our inner-circle of five…

Nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century, we now reside in a tech-driven world where answers are only ever a Google search away. Long gone are the days of reaching for the encyclopedia on the top shelf — we now consume our news on a digital device instead of on paper. I believe we’ve been growing and developing as a society so quickly that we’ve allowed a new member into our inner circles of five, without even realizing it.

Combining research from Nielsen, Pew Research Center, comScore, SmartInsights, and other organizations, we now estimate that the average person spends four hours per day on their mobile device. Now let me ask you this — do you spend more than four hours per day with five different people? I’d argue that most of you don’t. It’s likely that one person may have the privilege of seeing you for more than this, but it’s uncommon to have all five at more than four hours each.

Here’s the reality hit…

That brings me to my core argument: Your phone is now one of the five members in your inner-circle, and it sits in either first or second place. For years now, this digital device has been dramatically impacting your interests, motivation, emotions, and desires. You browse social media 16 hours and 33 minutes on average each week and the main form of communication is now text based. The world has changed.

This begs the question — what are you doing on your phone? Who are you following on social media? What apps do you subscribe to? Are you tracking eating and sleeping habits on it? People complain that social media can be toxic, and I totally agree… it can be.

The change you need to make

You already know that you’re spending hours staring at your screen, so why not put in an effort to clean up and make that time spent more valuable and meaningful. Now is your chance to unfollow anything that isn’t helping you achieve your goals. Love staying up to date on the latest celebrity gossip? Too bad, ditch it. Enjoy following funny meme pages? Great, now hit the unfollow button. Once you’ve gone ahead and rid yourself of the things that you know aren’t healthy, it’s time to follow influential people and thought leaders that you know will inject positivity into your life.

Let’s suppose you’re a personal trainer. Unfollow all the things that distract you from your ambitions and follow only the people you aspire to be like. Follow motivational speakers, celebrity trainers, doctors, nutritionists, and respected fitness influencers. Suddenly, social media becomes a place to learn from and engage with mentors. You’ll begin to flood your timeline, and ultimately your life, with healthier pieces of information.

Why traditional social media detoxes are useless

This is the digital detox 2.0. Disabling or deleting your social media channels is like no longer shopping at the grocery store because there’s unhealthy food there. The thing is, grocery stores also have organic sections, nutritious fruits and vegetables, aisles of natural supplements, and magazines on proper eating habits and recipes. Plus, if you do the more common social media detox, you’re back on it days later and nothing has changed. Sure, this new digital detox will take discipline (which is a learned skill that’s rooted in self-love), but realise it’s what you choose to do with what’s in your (digital) environment that really matters.

So rather than deleting social media all together, focus on filling your digital environment with more positivity. Once you’ve tackled this, search the app store for things like productivity tools, meditation programs, health and fitness trackers, and heartbeat monitors. Use your phone as a vehicle for achieving your aspirations, not as a distraction from them.

What happened when I did the digital detox 2.0

Do I practice what I preach? Certainly do. A year ago, I unfollowed all the unhealthy trash on my news feeds, made a folder of health and productivity apps, and then stuck it on my bottom toolbar so that it’s constantly staring me in the face as I unlock my iPhone. I don’t consciously try to limit my time on-screen anymore, because what I do spend on it is productive and helps me to learn and develop as a marketing professional. I find that I spend less time scrolling through social media and more time doing activities away from the screen. I won’t lie, sometimes I do crave entertaining and humorous content. I’ll either watch a YouTube video, or just deal with the nano-second-long desire for entertainment and then move on.

Social media has a bad reputation — but it’s our own fault

Society largely gives social media and mobile devices a bad rap. I mean, it’s for good reason, as most people don’t realize how much of an effect it actually has on who they are as a person. They spend too much time with heads kinked downwards, slouching in chairs, seemingly unaware and unphased about the environment around them. But these are powerful devices that have the ability to bring our lives a lot of positivity… we just need to leverage them properly.