Digital Detox: The Detox We All Need
The use of technological devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones has become so commonplace and even necessary in our lives, while simultaneously causing us stress, that Oxford Dictionary online has added the term “digital detox” to its other English language entries. This definition reads:
digital detox (n): a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world:
break free of your devices and go on a digital detox
That this has become more than just a buzz word that health bloggers write about and hipsters command says something about how our society has changed over the past 30 years.
We know that we use our phones too much, that we are too dependent on them, and that at times they detract from our face-to-face interactions with others. We may feel guilty that we are checking our email while out to dinner, realize that we are composing a tweet in our heads during a fun night out with friends, or be horrified that we let 30 minutes of our lunch breaks slip away while looking at Instagram.
But what is a digital detox, you might be asking yourself. Why just last weekend you may have left your phone in your locker for your 1 hour workout and felt like that was a little too much time for comfort. Yes, in all honestly, a digital detox for most of us would be pretty uncomfortable. At first.
According to a recent study discussed in a recent article by Fast Company, a number of noticeable things happen when people give up their phones for a few days. In this study, a group of CEOs gathered for a retreat while under cover neuroscientists also attended the retreat to identify visible changes among the group as subtle as facial expressions and postures. The first thing they found was that after a few days, peoples’ posture was significantly different; they had adapted to looking up, into other people’s eyes, rather than looking down at their device. Eye contact and even empathy was visibly increased as well. Other things they noticed included that when the group didn’t know something, instead of immediately asking Google, they had to discuss it to find an answer. This helped them to form bonds and friendships. The participants also seemed to have better memory; the scientists posited that this was because they were more engaged and more present than they would have been otherwise. One other huge benefit of putting their devices away was that the participants reported that they got less sleep, but more refreshing sleep, during the retreat.
I’m sure you could think of many ways putting your phone away during dinner, out with friends, or even while you’re working, would benefit your life, relationships, and work greatly. However, it may be difficult to decide how to go about this. After all, our phones carry all of our information, our phone numbers, our lists, our friends, our social connections, our email, one could say they carry our lives. How can we just give that up for a few days or a week? Well, it doesn’t happen all at once. Here are some ideas for steps to take to help you distance yourself from your device.
- Think about when you want to stop using your phone. If you make a plan, and share that plan with others, you will be more likely to stick to it. Also, then it’s not just random.
- Start small. Maybe you know that it would mean a lot to your significant other or your family if you put your phone away during specified family times. Start there. Put your phone away during these times and enjoy the real time you have with people. After you get comfortable with this small technology detox, you can bring this practice into other events or situations.
- Replace your technology time with something else. It will be doubly hard to remove your device if you’re just twiddling your thumbs waiting for an hour to be over. When you decide to have some phone-free time, do something else instead. You could try reading, exercising, cooking, trying a new hobby, taking a walk, or just talking to someone in your house.
- Notice how these small changes affect your life. Does your no-phones-allowed rule during dates boost the romance factor? Do you feel more engaged with your tasks at work and notice your productivity rising? Do you notice things now that others do, like pick up their phone the first chance they get, and realize that used to be you?
Technology has added an immeasurable convenience to our lives. We are now connected to everyone on earth at all times, we have information at our fingertips in a matter of seconds, and there are less and less reasons to even leave our houses. But we are social animals. We have the actual beauty of the world to explore, billions of people to learn about and from, and only about 75 years (give or take) to do that. It may be easy to use Google for an answer, but it is probably a lot more fun to see what happens when we don’t.