Detoxifying Yourself Digitally
I guess some of you probably have heard of digital detox before and have disregarded the idea. Maybe some of you haven't heard of it. Digital detox is a period of time which a person refrains from using an electronic device such as smartphones or computers, giving the person the opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world. Some say in order to reconnect with the real world, one must disconnect with the virtual world. Are we capable of digital detox? Is it possible to resist the urge of using or even looking at our gadgets? Or do we need a global blackout to completely unplug us from technology?
In an era where the smartphone has replaced the dog as man's best friend, it seems it is difficult to separate a person from his gadgets. As I walk along the streets, I see people busy tinkering with their smartphones as if the world exists only in the palm of their hands. Makes me wonder what is so important that someone has to walk/drive and "text" at the same time? I've heard stories and seen videos of " accidents" that happen because of this "habit". For drivers, laws have to be passed (anti-distraction law) to prohibit the use of gadgets to ensure the safety of the public. Ads portraying the tragedies that may occur when a person texts while driving are released to educate the public of the possible repercussions of their actions. It's sad when you realize that certain things have to go as far as that to stop the casual use of our devices.
Image credit: Pixabay
Through technology, man has gone into a "data deluge" absorbing so much information on a daily basis. And because information is basically at our fingertips and because of the amount of satisfaction that it gives, it's been increasingly difficult to switch off from the devices in our hands. The negative impact of social media and its ability to distract and consume us has suggested that our addiction is real. Scientists have associated that from every "like", comment, or engagement that we receive from social media triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that drives us to seek rewards, so everyone keeps coming back for more. Usually, because of social media, when something extraordinary happens to us, our first instinct is to grab our smartphone or tablet to document it to show it off to the world. As a result, this vicious cycle of seeking validation/happiness from the number of likes or views may cause depression and even low self-esteem. In other words, in the eyes of the virtual world, life is pointless unless it's constantly being documented/blogged or vlogged to the entire virtual world.
Results from a few studies show that social media appears to promote narcissism, smartphones could be causing insomnia, and screens seem to be making our kids less empathetic. Yes, it's taking a toll on our health, mental well-being, and our relationships. FOMO (recently introduced word in the Oxford dictionary that literally means fear of missing out) aside, it's high time that we break free from our digital devices and go on a digital detox to live happier lives. Our overall health depends on it and digital detox can resolve this.
Before I share certain ways to go on a digital detox, let's discuss the apparent benefits that stem from digital detox.
1.) More efficient sleep.
Blue light from the screens of our devices suppresses melatonin which causes us to be more alert as we go to sleep. If a person constantly checks his phone while trying to sleep, he will not be able to get high-quality rest. Without technology, even if the duration of sleep is the same, the person will be well-rested and rejuvenated when he wakes up.
2.) Posture is corrected and meaningful friendships (real connections) are established.
Without a gadget in hand, people look for something else to do and usually, that's to connect with other people personally. When you talk to a person, you look into the other person's eyes thus straightening yourself as opposed to looking down into a screen. The front portion of the bodies are pushed outward, shoulders back, and the head is realigned with the spine. Of course, with better eye contact, you encourage others to connect with you at deeper level thus, establishing a more meaningful relationship through conversations.
3.) Information that is readily available on our devices is a conversation killer. Thus, without tech our conversations bear fruit.
Since we are provided easy access to data when a question pops up, it usually ends with the answer, "just google it". Without our devices, there is no stopping the endless possibilities that a topic of conversation can turn to. These are the types of conversations that form bonds between people.
4.) Improved memory.
Apart from being well-rested which helps with memory, people who are more " present" in a conversation are able to retain more details of the conversation. This is because he can concentrate without the distraction of his devices. Usually, it's the minor details that are important and it is a telltale sign that you were listening.
5.) People are able to form new perspectives and think outside the box.
This is the most powerful benefit of digital detox. People took hold of their lives, evaluating important issues regarding their careers, relationships, and lifestyle, and creating plans and decisions in the process. They were able to see the clearer picture to move forward in their goals and lives.
Digital detox is easier than you think. If parting with your smartphones causes you to panic, it's understandably a reasonable fear but this can be overcome. Just think of the positive outcomes that come with it.
Some people suggest going cold turkey like in any other addiction. Take a complete break from digital life. You can plan a trip to a place you've never been to, have been planning to go to, or a place your family or significant other wants to go to. There are also retreat centers that specialize in digital detox if you feel that you won't be able to break the habit on your own. As for me, there are a lot of places here in the Philippines that don't have cell reception and internet services. I've been to some so, going cold turkey is nothing new to me. When you plan your trip, make sure that there are a lot of activities that you can do or activities that you like to do so you won't feel the urge to check your phone. If you are in a group who will all be doing the detox, better. At least you all will be each other's wingman. 3-5 days should be good enough for you to kill the habit.
You can also try these simple ways of detoxification at home or in daily life.
1.) Disable push notifications on all social media apps or accounts.
I've done this because I got really irritated that my phone would go off every minute to notify me when a friend liked or commented. It also ate my battery. In this simple way, you cut back on digital dependency because you can choose when to access your social media accounts.
2.) Quit using your phone as an alarm clock and buy a real alarm clock instead.
When you sleep with your phone, the whole digital world sleeps with you. Store your phone outside of your room and use a real alarm clock to wake you. Resist the inclination of checking your phone the moment you wake up. Instead, check your phone 10-20 minutes as you prepare for the day. Starting the day on your terms will help you get your groove on.
3.) Put your phone in airplane mode while working out or exercising.
Yes, you need to play music while you work out but, it won't be as productive a work-out if someone keeps calling or messaging you while you do. Even putting it on vibrate won't cut it.
4.) Make a commitment to gradually power off for a day.
Ease yourself into taking breaks from your devices. Start by storing your phone away and not looking/checking it for 20 minutes then day by day lengthen the time you take a break. Or you can choose a day to stay away from social media. Use this time to bond with family and friends in real life.
5.) If you have a fear of not being reached when an emergency happens, establish a back-up.
Announce to everyone that you will be going offline and give them a way to contact you if an emergency arises. If you plan to go out while doing this, make sure you tell the family where and how to get hold of you.
6.) Find your social media fix in real life.
What draws you to a certain social media sites? Is it art, food, music, photography or travel perhaps? So go out there and live it. Visit museums, go to a concert, watch a musical, go take a picture of the sunset. And this time without documentation. Use your fingers as a frame and take a picture using your mind. Or you can make a scrapbook. Fill it with the bits and pieces of your experiences. It's more memorable that way.
7.) Always be prepared for temptation.
Just like in any addiction, there will be strong cravings and urges to take a peek at your phone. Make sure you have activities and people around you to get your mind off your phone.
I believe everyone has the willpower to sustain a transformation. It's like pushing the reset button. Just switch off all your devices and you'll notice what really matters in life. So, let's unplug, relax, and soak up memorable moments and start living life to the finest.
**Credit to Sources:
Segren, Elizabeth "What Really Happens to Your Brain and Body During a Digital Detox', www.fastcompany.com
Bell, Lee "Escape Tech: What is a Digital Detox, How and Why to Do One and Where to Do It", www.forbes.com
Hughes, Locke "Social Media Addiction and How to Do a Digital Detox Without FOMO", www.shape.com