We’re officially a “connected” society. Between our smartphones, laptops, tablets, and streaming services, it seems like we’re online more than we’re off. The result is the increasingly prevalent problem known as “techno-stress“, a condition which manifests in different ways under different circumstances, such as
- becoming socially isolated
- suffering from information overload
- anxiety disorders (caused by techno-failures like slow internet times, discovering a computer virus, losing your smart phone or you wi-fi connection, etc.)
And those are just the psychological effects. Too much screen time can cause a multitude of physical problems, as well, including
- Eye problems (including eye strain, blurred vision, dry or burning eyes, increased light sensitivity)
- Postural problems from too much sitting causing physical problems like neck strain and lower back pain
- Brain atrophy (Gray matter actually shrinks!)
- Weight gain due to too much sitting in front of a computer screen and not enough time spent moving your body
- Repetitive motion injuries (e.g.,”Blackberry Thumb” or Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome)
- Loss of sleep (from staying up late playing video games or “chatting” with online acquaintances, or just keeping your smartphone by your bed for example)
- Decreased life span (really!)
Is a Digital Detox the Answer?
For some of us, the idea of going “cold turkey” by taking a whole day away from our “devices” is unthinkable! For those among us who are glued to our phones, working on our laptops or tablets into the wee hours, and sacrificing face-to-face time with friends and family, a digital detox, painful as the thought may seem, may be just what we need to save our sanity and our overall health!
Here are some ideas for how to make your digital detox work for you …
Eliminate FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
It’s often the fear of missing something important that keeps people glued to their phones and their social media accounts. Before starting your “digital detox”, let people know that you’re going to be “disconnected” for a few hours, a day, or even a week. (You can supply an emergency phone number in case somebody really needs to contact you about something important.)
Banish Your Phone From the Bedroom
If you use a special app for waking up, substitute a good old-fashioned alarm clock during your detox period. Having your phone on your nightstand creates too much of a temptation to check your texts and emails. The light from digital devices have also been shown to disrupt sleep, something that’s important to your health!
Make Mealtimes a Time to Disconnect
If detoxing for more than 2 hours seems like an impossible task, start slow and try unplugging during mealtime. This will give you an opportunity to focus on your food and your table mates instead. Making mealtimes techno-free also means that you don’t have to remember a specific time to disconnect. Time for lunch will be your automatic cue to step away from the screen and put down the phone.
Disable Beeps, Buzzes and Online “Notifications”
When push comes to shove, most of us are fully cognizant of the fact that we really don’t need to be “on call” because one of our Facebook “friends” has just posted a new picture. Similarly, that annoying “ding” from your smartphone alerting you to a new text message can — and does — distract you from whatever you’re doing at the moment, scattering your attention and adding to a sense of feeling overwhelmed by being pulled in too many directions at once.
Why not make incorporating regular digital detoxes one of your 2018 New Year’s resolutions? You’ve got nothing to lose by trying, and oh so much to gain!