Weekends and holidays are a great break … a break from work, a break from school, maybe a break from lessons. What about taking a break from digital connections? People are rarely away from their phones, tablets, laptops or TVs. In the US, the number of electronic devices outnumbers the population of the country. Though these all serve to entertain, assist and connect us, is there value in stepping away? Some researchers says we, as a society, are becoming addicted to the internet. Given the stats below, I can see why.
I know I appreciate the value in all of this technology, but here is some food for thought on why you may want to put the devices down for a few days or even a week.
Louis CK, an American comedian, did a funny piece on how people are so worried about being consumed by loneliness that they need to be connected at all times. He says they even text at stop lights because they cannot stand to be alone. I disagree. I don’t think it is loneliness. I think people have forgotten how to entertain themselves. At first it was relieving boredom in waiting rooms and airplanes. Then it was the 5 minutes at a restaurant while waiting for your friend. Now it is a 2 minute stop light. We no longer have the ability to just ‘be’. We always have to be ‘doing’.
When I was young I went to Disney World with my cousins. I remember standing in 90 minute line-ups for the rides. I also remember talking, playing games and joking around. If you go to a theme park now, what do you see? Throngs of people reading their devices. They are not lonely. They are bored. They are so accustomed to scrolling through Facebook and Twitter or playing a game on their phone that they have forgotten how to engage the person beside them. How many times have you been to an event and you notice that the teenager in the group is in the corner texting rather than talking to others?
In addition to the social aspects, employers are also demanding more of their employees because they are always connected. This causes more stress and less ability to detach from work when away from the office. This has become such a problem that you can now sign up for a Digital Detox retreat specifically designed to teach you to unplug. There is even an annual Digital Detox week in the spring.
Kids suffer from over connection too. My friend Sheena Bounsanga runs a successful program called Mindful Kids, which teaches kids how to slow down. According to Sheena “It’s my busiest students that gain the most when they ‘unplug’; unplugging from not only the hectic schedules but also from technologies. Allow your child and your family to get back to the basics of just ‘be-ing’, unplug from the outside, and reconnect to the inside. You’ll be amazed at the difference.”
So how do you know if you are too connected or just enjoying the conveniences of modern times? I believe the first step is acknowledging your routine. What are your digital habits? Do you have too many? I will go first.
Hello. My name is Cat, and I am addicted to digital. I sleep with my device beside my bed. It is my alarm in the morning. When I wake up, I usually lie in bed and check my email and my Calendar before I get up. I justify this because I may not look at my device again for 2 hours and do not want to miss an ’emergency’. After breakfast I will check my electronic todo list to make sure I know what my day holds.
When I get in my car I call my mom from my cell. It is usually the only free time I have for phone calls. After I drop off the kids I use my GPS to get to any new appointments. Once I arrive I check my email again. God forbid I have missed something. I do not take my phone in to the weight room at the gym! But I do take my MP3 player. They just happen to be different devices. Once home I check all my social networks, read through my google alerts, comb my favourite websites and answer both my personal and work email.
Then I set to work… on my computer. While writing this, I have 10 tabs open on two separate browsers. I am using them all. Several hours later, I pick up my kids. Once home, they set off playing. I take a picture of them and send it to someone via email. After dinner I check the computer again. The world can change in 3 hours you know. I go to put my eldest to sleep, we watch a few science videos off YouTube. It’s educational. That makes it ok. Then I read on my iPad while she goes to sleep. I may watch some TV before bed. If not TV, I am likely on the computer working again. My husband is busy doing the same. Then off to sleep to start my next digital day.
Putting it all in writing makes me wonder how much I need it and how much I have just grown to like it.
I am going to try to curb my addiction. Want to join me? My challenge: change just one digital habit you have. Here are some ideas:
- Try not to engage with a digital device within an hour of the time you go to sleep
- Do not sleep with your device beside your bed ( buy an alarm clock if needed)
- Go for a walk, without your device
- Ignore your email for 1 day… or even 6 hours
- Take a picture for the memory – don’t send it to anyone
- Make a room in your house device free, closets don’t count
- Make an hour or two of family time device-free
- Check your social networks only once a day
- If you use social networks for business, set up a tool to help deliver your information without you always having to be on the computer
- Next time you are waiting for someone at a restaurant/bar, do not spend the time on your device
- When you are eating a meal by yourself, just enjoy the food. Do not also watch TV, do work on the computer or text on your phone
You may find that you get used to putting your device down more often and will have time for some other things.
Have other great suggestions on how to detox? Share them below!