Always on, always available? Time for a digital detox.
The digital revolution has transformed just about every aspect of our lives – and for the most part, that’s great. But what happens when too much tech becomes detrimental to our physical and mental health?
As with most things in life, the experts advocate for moderation. The same is true for the devices which can often consume us completely, putting us into ‘always on, always available’ mode.
There’s an app for that
PCs, tablets, smartphones and wearable devices connect us with people virtually anywhere on the planet, provide entertainment, give us directions, and help organise our lives. Whether it’s online shopping, learning a new language or keeping fit – there’s bound to be an app for it. In fact, as of March 2017[i], Android and Apple had a combined five million of them available for download.
According to the statistics portal, Statista, mobile internet user penetration[ii] has exceeded half the world’s population, while the average daily time spent on accessing online content from a mobile device has reached 185 minutes daily among Millennials, 110 minutes for Generation X and 43 daily minutes for Boomers.
An article published in the Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy describes smartphone overuse as a growing public health issue[iii] with profound implications on mental, physical, and social well-being.
Studies shown that excessive smartphone use is associated with depression and anxiety, ocular diseases, neck pain and other musculoskeletal problems. Moreover, it leads to dysfunction in daily life as it distracts people, distorts perception of time and negatively affects productivity and interpersonal relationships.
Fall asleep with a book – a real one!
The new research has been published that supports conclusions from older studies which found that screen time before sleep can be detrimental. The lights from screens, as well as blue lights from other devices such as alarm keypads or wifi routers, can alter sleepiness and alertness, and suppress melatonin levels.
Back to old school
In the same way that we need to watch what we eat and drink, it’s important that we limit our digital diets. “The Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) is an advocate for paper in various parts of our lives – from writing and printing, to packaging and tissue and beyond into innovative stuff made from wood fibre,” explains Jane Molony who heads up the association.
While it may seem odd that the paper industry is talking tech, there is still a place for paper in our lives.
PAMSA offers 12 tips for a digital detox – and yes, paper is involved:
- Make a conscious decision to ‘unplug’ – take a break from social media, put your phone on silent or switch off email notifications.
- During your lunch hour, reply to urgent messages or calls then put the phone away and read a magazine or go for a walk.
- Have a no-tech Tuesday (or any day of the week) – keep the TV off, put tablets and phones away and dust off the Monopoly, Scrabble or Snakes and Ladders.
- Tackle a jigsaw puzzle together as a family, or get arty and colour-in with your kids.
- Encourage dinnertime conversation games in the form of quizzes or eye-spy.
- Explore an encyclopedia or atlas with your little ones.
- When you’re with friends, keep just one phone on hand. You only need one selfie!
- No phones or tablets before bedtime. Put your phone to bed one or two hours before you turn in.
- Try to go phone-free – or at the very least email-free – over weekends.
- Get out and about. When in nature, it’s amazing how the need to distract oneself with tech fades away. This can also be a great way to teach kids to use a paper map.
- Go run or walk. Physical fitness releases toxins, charging up your mental, emotional and physical energy levels. Find a hill and smash it. Find an urban trail and explore it.
- Grab a blanket and watch the clouds. Find pleasure in doing nothing at all. Fight for the gift of stillness.
“Paper can be the perfect panacea to balance our device-driven lives. It will destress your mind, clear it from the myriad of mental impulses created by digital media and make some head space for the important stuff,” concludes Molony.
“When you’re not bogged down in the trivialities of what
someone else ate for lunch, you’re able to distinguish with
greater clarity between what is urgent and what is important.
Too often, our phones allow us to mix these things up.”
‘Why you need a digital detox’ – www.Forbes.com
[I] Statista.com. (2018). The Statistics Portal. Retrieved 13 March, 2018, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/276623/number-of-apps-available-in-leading-app-stores/
[II] Statista.com. (2018). The Statistics Portal. Retrieved 13 March, 2018, from https://www.statista.com/topics/779/mobile-internet/
[III] Do you have the reference?
[IV] Annabel Acton. (2017). Forbes. Retrieved 13 March, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/annabelacton/2017/10/19/why-you-need-a-digital-detox/