23/01/2017 04:55 SAST | Updated 23/01/2017 04:55 SAST

'Infobesity' Is Real, And This Is The Digital Diet You Need To Go On In 2017

Millions have succumbed to digital slavery. If you're one of these poor souls, here's a handy guide to break those chains free!

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On an ordinary morning Jane would wake up to 52 notifications, of which 24 are Facebook activities (seven from people she has not seen in years), five likes from yesterday's Instagram lunch post - #sorrynotsorry.

Eight emails that came in overnight – four of those are newsletters, seven Twitter notifications, five Snapchat updates, two periscope events she missed, and finally one LinkedIn request from an ex-colleague who is now selling soap.

Still lying in bed, Jane would snap out of her online trance and realise there's seven minutes left to look like she spent at least 30 minutes getting ready.

For some people it's a pleasure to be entranced by our second life online, for others, like Jane, there is a line that needs to be drawn. And she is not alone; millions of South Africans have succumbed to the digital slavery, or rather overconsumption of bad content and useless information, filling up our online and offline time-lines.

The latest annual survey by We are Social showed just over 10 million South Africans are social media users, spending on average three hours a day on social media. That is over 100,000 a year or 42 days straight, online. Personally, take a minute to think about how much of the 'content' you consumed only today was actually useful or really entertaining? And if you would be honest with yourself, would a singular uninterrupted tone on your phone just be better?

Jared Carneson, head of a South African digital and creative studio for a global public relations company, noted in his article, Channel fatigue and the fight against Infobesity: "The only thing that could address true channel fatigue is platform abstinence. FOMO blasphemy I know. But what do we retain when presented with everything? You don't need to be on everything, you just need to be on what works for you."

At the end of the day – put your phone down.

The internet will still be there later today, tomorrow and the next day. And may 2017 be the year we embrace a digital diet that can strike the much-needed balance for social media consumption.

Facebook: Let the F in Facebook stands for Friends and Family

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicineconducted a study in 2016 about the effects of social media habits, in particular Facebook usage, on the moods of users. The research determined that the more time people use social media, the more likely they were to be depressed.

If you have not seen a person in years, and have no intention to call them up to go share sushi on the corner café and hear about the birthday you were not invited to, just unfriend them. They won't be offended and neither should you if you see your list shrinking. Keep your updates from friends and family who you actually like.

Twitter and Instagram: Staying in the know now

Twitter has become a platform for breaking news. Whether it's local or international events, or your favourite celebrities having a Twar. Twitter content is short lived and constant. So use it for that. Follow accounts that are useful for you in the now. If you're not a fan of someone or something anymore, simply unfollow. For example choose your favourite news platform and just follow them, don't follow the other 20 similar news sites.

Just like a real diet, control, pace and portion are key.

The same with Instagram, if you were a 'belieber' back in the day but not anymore and currently undergoing a craze for cool modern country vibes, unfollow Justin and become a monster for Gaga. If that ex-colleague posted his seventh #selflove selfie today, maybe it's time to move one, for both of you.

The mantra here is to unfollow haters before you become a hater.

Another culprit of time waste and inbox space: newsletters. Learn to unsubscribe from newsletters that mean nothing to you. Every business or company that sends you a newsletter should by law have the unsubscribe link at the bottom of their newsletters. It takes less than a minute and your mail capacity will thank you.

Where to start?

Schedule 30 minutes once a month and make it part of an online and offline cleansing routine. Simply open up your platforms one by one, scroll through (and keep your focus steady, it is very easy to get distracted online) and click-clean your way to a simpler online lifestyle. For example, if you liked a page or subscribed to a newsletter in order to enter a competition but have no interest in car tires, take that tire-Tuesday trivia off your timeline and out of your inbox.

Just like a real diet, control, pace and portion are key. Keep your hours spent on emails strict, and owe it to yourself to leave work at work. Post only one photo of your new bonsai, not four. It's the same tree no matter what angle you shoot it from. At the end of the day – put your phone down. Live the actual life you like to follow online, and make your own stories offline.

We are constantly changing in taste and trends. Don't let your online lifestyle hold you back or waste your time and mental energy on useless and old information. Fuel it with good and intentional content. And most important: do not feel guilty for unfollowing or un-liking a page. Be selfish and be digitally lean.