By Wellspring Staff
Over the last decade, technology has become more advanced and accessible to many. Almost everyone has a smartphone in their hands or can be seen working from laptops and tablets. It has increased productivity, while also providing a way to connect with others and express ourselves — primarily through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and more.
While technology has certainly increased the amount of connectivity happening in the world, sometimes it can be too much. Spending some time off of smartphones, computers and other digital devices can be a refreshing way to reconnect with yourself, return to face-to-face communication and even increase mental health.
What is a digital detox?
Though it will look different for everyone, a digital detox is intentional time spent reducing your use of technology. Some people may prefer to step away for a week, some for a few hours a day, and some may choose to disconnect from certain devices and platforms permanently.
A digital detox is a chance to set boundaries in communication, which may not be easy to do when you have 24/7 access to thousands of apps and social media platforms. In a way, there is a chance to communicate with pretty much whoever you want whenever you want. All you have to do is unlock your phone and open an app.
Reasons to do a digital detox
Enjoy present experiences
Consuming a large amount of digital media every day can take you away from experiences happening around you. According to the Nielsen Company, U.S. adults, on average, spend about 11 hours a day consuming media. This includes scrolling through thousands of photos on a social media app and wondering what others are doing. It can be hard to not want to “fit in” or have a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) when everywhere you look or scroll, there is someone who looks like they’re having a better time than you. If you find yourself spending more time online than living experiences, that can be a sign that it’s time to take a step back. Reducing your time limit or even changing your mindset of why you’re logging on can help you reduce negative impacts.
Reduce stress and improve mental health
Due to the constant connection available at your fingertips, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of checking your phone every few minutes to see if there is a notification or text message. In a way, notifications are like people tapping on your shoulder to get your attention, except this can sometimes happen at a high volume. Trying to focus on one task while there are tons of notifications coming up on your phone is difficult. Your phone is constantly vying for your attention. This need to keep up with multiple things at once can be stressful and disrupt your health. It can cause sleeping problems, increase in stress and anxiety, and additional mental health struggles.
Have more meaningful conversations
Technology has revolutionized the way we communicate, making it easier and faster to connect with others than ever before. However, there are concerns that this has come at a cost to the quality of our relationships. For example, some people feel that social media and text messaging have made it harder to have deep, meaningful conversations, while others worry that people are becoming more isolated and lonely as a result of spending more time online. There are also concerns about the impact of technology on empathy, as some people argue that it is harder to read emotions and build emotional connections when communicating digitally.
Spend time away from social media
Social media has had a profound impact on our lives, both positive and negative. On the positive side, it can help us to stay connected with friends and family, find new communities, and express ourselves creatively. However, there are also concerns that it can be damaging to our mental health and self-esteem. Social comparison is one of the biggest concerns, as it can lead people to feel inadequate or insecure if they perceive themselves as not measuring up to others. There are also concerns about the impact of cyberbullying and the addictive nature of social media. A digital detox can provide some much-needed time away from social media to regroup.
Get better sleep
One of the most well-established impacts of technology on our health is its effect on sleep. The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt our circadian rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep and reducing the quality of our sleep. This can have serious consequences for our physical and mental health, as sleep is essential for everything from immune function to memory consolidation. To mitigate these effects, experts recommend limiting screen time before bed, using “night mode” or blue light filters on devices, and establishing a regular sleep routine that allows for plenty of rest.
Control your digital fingerprint
A digital detox can help improve privacy and security by reducing the amount of personal information that is shared and stored online. When we use digital devices and platforms, we often share a lot of personal information, such as our location, search history, and social connections. This information is often collected and used by companies to provide targeted advertising and other services, but it can also be used by malicious actors to hack our accounts or steal our identity.
By doing a digital detox, we can take steps to limit the amount of personal information that is available online. For example, by turning off location services and deleting unnecessary apps, we can reduce the amount of data that is collected and stored about our movements and habits. We can also take steps to improve our password security and enable two-factor authentication, which can help protect our accounts from hacking and identity theft. By taking a step back from technology and becoming more mindful of our online habits, we can take control of our digital lives and protect our personal information from prying eyes.
Become more aware of your online habits
Finally, a digital detox can help us become more aware of our online habits and the risks that come with them. By taking a break from technology, we can reflect on our relationship with digital devices and platforms and think about ways to use them more safely and responsibly. This can include strategies such as using a VPN to encrypt our internet connection, using privacy-focused search engines and avoiding public Wi-Fi networks that may be vulnerable to hacking.
How to do a digital detox
Interested in doing a digital detox? Here are some tips for success:
- Establish boundaries. Choosing certain times during the day when you won’t use your phone can help you be more intentional with your time. You may also determine where you will keep your phone during those times in order to avoid the temptation to use it. Additionally, you may establish a physical boundary of only using your phone when you are in a certain place, such as in the living room or in the store if you’re running errands.
- Rearrange apps with purpose. Your phone’s main screen is the first thing you look at every time you use it. Rearranging the main screen and choosing different apps or widgets to display can help you become more intentional and productive. You may decide to put a mediation app and camera app on the main screen to remind yourself to stay focused on mindfulness and capturing the beauty around you.
- Turn off notifications. The more notifications that are coming in, the more time you’ll spend on your phone. A lot of people get addicted to having notifications and will constantly check it, anticipating the next “ding.” In each app, there is a setting that allows you to turn off device notifications. When apps are constantly grabbing your attention, you’ll begin to lose the need to pick up your phone every few seconds.
If you or someone you know is struggling with technology use or addiction, visit Wellspring Center for Prevention. We have additional resources and guidance to offer on healthy technology use, setting boundaries and digital detox.