How plugged in am I?
In the last post, I explained how headline stress disorder can make it very difficult to find the energy or will to take positive action. This week, I wanted to circle back to that topic, and examine one possible technique for disrupting it: a digital detox.
Let’s start by offering you a fair warning. I have been using computers since the very beginning. I was an early internet adopter. I love my devices. I am sitting right now in front of a Smart TV, playing movies on Netflix, typing on a laptop, with (I kid you not) an iPad and an iPhone sitting in the end table next to me. There’s a Fitbit on my wrist giving me a reminder that I am behind on my step count and a posture corrector on my back, zapping me every time I slouch. I am not currently a model of good behaviour. I am plugged in far too often.
These devices do not combine well with my passion: I love access to information. I can’t be left alone with the written word… I research things for fun. Having constant access to the Internet means I can chase any topic I am interested in, as far as I want. Worse still, the Internet is structured in such a way as to send me updates about all those things I have researched. A reef I once visited is dissolving due to ocean acidification. A colony of albatross I once took photos of are dying due to plastic in their bellies. The updates, reminders, e-mails, alerts, notifications, and more are not helping me. I am getting enough of them that it makes it hard to stay focussed on positive action.
I need to reduce the influx of negative headlines to clear out some mental space and energy to actually create change.
What is a digital detox?
We’ve lost control over how we let tech into our lives. I’m not the only one. Today, I’m going to help you explore ways that you can try a “digital detox”, which means that you voluntarily refrain from using digital devices such as smartphones, computers, and social media platforms in whole or in part. “Detoxing” from digital devices can help you focus on real-life social interactions without distractions. By forgoing digital devices, at least temporarily, people can let go of the stress that stems from constant connectivity.
Before we look into how we could tackle a digital detox, let’s examine why you might want to give it a try.
Health Effects of Technology Addiction and Overuse
There are some downsides to the technology we have let into our lives. There are negative health effects to our minds, our bodies, and the relationships we have with those around us.
So how can I make some changes?
Let’s start with some ground rules. I am not advising that you give up the Internet. It’s not practical. It has its uses. That being said, there are some real advantages to finding ways to control when you use it it, what you use it for, and how long you use it each day. Once we clear out some space free from those devices, we can work on applying that time to more constructive purposes.
I’m going to give you a long list of things to try. Let me be clear: even using SOME of these tricks has benefits. By no means do you need to quit cold turkey. Detaching from your devices can benefit your mental well-being, but doing a digital detox does not have to involve a complete separation from your phone and other tech connections. The process is often more about setting boundaries and making sure that you are using your devices in a way that benefit, rather than harm, your emotional and physical health.
So, let’s be reasonable about this:
- Don’t set unachievable targets. Changing behaviours isn’t easy, so this isn’t the time to go big and bold. Don’t say you’ll give up Instagram all at once… start by limiting it to only a set number of minutes per day. If you can do that, then you can add more limits (only certain days of the week, or a shorter time per day);
- Commit to changing one habit at a time, and wait a week before trying the next one. It takes time and repetition to build new habits;
- Consider finding a detox buddy. It’s helpful to have someone to discuss this with, sharing stories about what is working and what is not. If you try one of these ideas and it doesn’t work, it is helpful to have a buddy to help you stay motivated; and
- Accept that not all of these ideas are good for everyone in all circumstances. You know your life and your needs. Approach this exercise with an open mind, but accept that the goal isn’t to cut the number down to zero: it is to limit Internet consumption to where it still benefits you, and limit mindless exposure that leaves you drained and discouraged.
I’m ready for the list of things to try. Give it to me.
There are many ways to use the Internet in a more thoughtful, measured way. Try a few of the techniques listed on this page. It should clear out some time and mental space. Once you have that time and space, USE IT. Create positive change in your lives, and in the lives around you. Apply that time to creating memories you will treasure.