Technology is a fantastic thing. But are we consuming too much of it?
Meetings with friends where there are eternal silences because everyone keeps staring at their smartphone. A Christmas dinner where everyone is in the same room, but nobody talks to each other. And the every day image of yourself at your office desk whilst everyone else seems to be a) on a tropical beach b) at a cool party c) at their gorgeous country house. And while we know that social media shows but a fraction of real life, we still find ourselves feeling irritated and sad. Research shows that social media can make us stressed and anxious and contribute to depression. Not to mention it’s addictive.
Dopamine is a chemical produced by our brains when we have delicious food, exercise or chat with friends. In an evolutionary context, it rewards us for beneficial behaviors and motivates us to repeat them. And our smartphones are a constant source of dopamine release, studies show.
Americans now check their smartphones at least 52 times a day. Average daily use is 4 hours and 30 minutes.
Smartphones are essentially tiny slot machines in our pockets. The more we scroll the more we have to. Both Tim Cook and Bill Gates limit the amount of time they spend on social media. And in 2011 Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told The New York Times that he did not allow his kids to use the then newly-released iPad. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” May be it’s your turn.
How can we achieve a digital detox?
Although, there are different techniques and routines to detach yourself from your smartphone or social media, all of them require discipline and most importantly, willpower. For many people, switching off two hours before going to sleep is already a lot, others spend entire weekends off. Yet others go on long “detoxes” lasting months. Luckily, there are many simple things you can do to get strarted:
- Eliminate social media from your smartphone. You can still check your accounts on a desktop. This will already limit your use.
- Disable notifications. If something urgent happens, people WILL call. If they send an email they don’t expect an immediate reply. Not hearing the “ping” every time someone writes will make you pick up your phone less.
- Use airplane mode at night or when you need to focus. There are also plenty of apps that “reward” focus, such as Forest, Freedom or Cold Turkey Blocker.
- Set time limits on your apps.
- Check emails on your computer during work hours.
- Pick a day (weekends are best) and DO NOT use your phone at all. Have a coffee with a friend, go for a hike or read a book.
Among the benefits of a digital detox, specialists highlight
- Reducing stress, fatigue and technological addiction
- End the FOMO (fear of missing out)
- Improved personal and professional relationships
- Improved efficiency
- Better sleep
- Higher self-esteem
Sounds like it’s worth a try. Social media and smartphones are great tools. They bring us closer to friends and family who live abroad, help us find a new job or meet new people. It is our over-use of these tools that make them detrimental to our mental health. May be a detox is all we need to help us become more mindful consumers.