If you’re reading this, then it’s safe to assume you’ve sifted through various digital portals in order to gain access to our amazing blog — or it was just a complete accident. Either way, you’re here and that would not have been possible without an easily navigated world wide web. And yet, this ease of use can just as quickly lend itself to compulsiveness, fruitless searches down the rabbit hole, and sheer addiction! Spending so much time glued to a series of screens requires a digital detox, and I’m here to lead you on my 5 step plan for reclaiming your true analog nature…Or at least setting down your phone for a bit.
Studies by Nokia really illustrate the severity of our digital addictions, reporting that the average person checks their phone every six minutes, adding up to around 150 times a day. Add that up throughout the month and you’re basically living inside your devices. This research also showed that younger Americans send nearly 110 texts per day — perhaps out doing their actual verbal communication in some cases.
Another incredible statistic comes from the University of Maryland, where the “World Unplugged” project was founded, spanning 10 countries. This research found that college students actually experienced symptoms consistent with literal addiction when denied usage of their smartphone for 24 hours. Some ways they described their abstinence included “lonely,” “depressed,” “dead,” and even “itchy.”
It’s glaringly obvious that a digital detox is something many tech users could benefit from. Luckily, you don’t have to be a doctor to recommend treatments for staring at your cellphone for too long. So, come with me now on a journey through space-time (devoid of FaceTime).
Step 1: Plan Your Digital Detox
Amazingly, living in such a digitally connected world will have people assuming they are able (almost entitled) to reach you at any given moment. Working in a heavily digital environment, this can become problematic without proper warning, so a digital detox away message might be in order. The same goes for your personal life too! We’ve all gotten the “why are you ignoring me” or “are you dead” texts after misplacing a device or losing power. Plan ahead and make sure it’s evident that you’re taking a technological break.
Step 2: Replace Your Behavior
Old habits don’t die instantly, so finding something to replace frequent phone usage is key to making sure your digital detox is effective. If you’re like many, then reaching for your phone first thing in the morning is part of your daily rhythm — most likely because it’s your alarm clock. Instead, you may just want to put your phone on airplane mode and avoid the flood of notifications first thing in the morning. Try waking up to:
- A newspaper or book.
- Making breakfast.
- Turn on the radio.
- Jump in the shower.
- Anything else besides scrolling through a feed.
While you may not fully forgo smartphone usage, you’ll at very least want to buffer it from capitalizing on some of your first moments each day.
Step 3: Evaluate Your Habits
If you can take a day to really unplug for your digital detox, this could be a good time to really assess how devices are affecting your daily actions. Are you neglecting your health because you’re rewarding your brain with newsfeeds instead of actual nutrition or exercise? Is there something you just “wish you had time for?” Think about how much time you’re spending using a device and consider converting that into a productive activity or hobby you’ve always wanted to do.
If there is no urgent task to be found, maybe this is just a good excuse to sit and do nothing. Meditate, stretch, or take a nap. We live in a culture where being idle is automatically considered lazy, but don’t let that stop you from quieting down and entering the void for a bit. Sometimes, your subconscious mind needs permission to unfurl itself rather than being blocked up by constant information and digital stimulation.
Step 4: Plan Your Return
So now that you’ve returned from your informational pilgrimage (maybe even a literal one) you’ll probably have to link back into the matrix. With your new-found sense of digital detoxification, it’s important not to fall back to old compulsive habits. Try to remember the essential things about why your phone screen is NOT the world itself and that you are in control of your notifications, rather than it being the other way around. It’s likely that you’ll need to be connected with your phone one way or another, but avoid letting it define your connection to things. Coming back to a digital life after detox is important to put everything in perspective after the fact.
Step 5: Set Your Boundaries
Since it’s unlikely you’ll have the ability to completely avoid digital technologies (as a professional or someone reliant on new information), it’s important to develop a sense of boundaries between you and your devices. People become addicted to the digital realm because the human need for connection is hardwired into us — and it’s much easier to achieve some sense of this with a 24-hour buffet of “interactions.” A digital detox can really help to identify how much influence you’re giving devices over your life, providing the chance to decide when it’s the right time to use a smartphone, tablet, or computer. My suggestion is this: During the most human of activities, eating, sleeping, socializing, exercising, etc. — set down the phone and focus on the moment at hand!
A digital detox can really help to identify how much influence you’re giving devices over your life, providing the chance to decide when it’s the right time to use a smartphone, tablet, or computer. My suggestion is this: During the most human of activities, eating, sleeping, socializing, exercising, etc. — set down the phone and focus on the moment at hand!
It may not be effortless, but continually reinforcing this will eventually make being “off-the-grid” feel like you’re on the right track.