Digital Detox – Disconnect to Connect

(TW: suicide) Danny Bowman was a teenager who attempted suicide because he wasn’t satisfied with the quality of his selfies. He spent up to 10 hours a day taking up to 200 photos of himself on his iPhone. When he nearly overdosed on pills, his mother intervened and kept him alive.

A 17-year-old girl in India committed suicide after an argument with her parents over her obsession with Facebook. “Is Facebook so bad? I cannot stay in a home with such restrictions. I can’t live without Facebook,” she wrote in her suicide note.

As per CNN reports, “50% of teens and 27% of parents feel they’re addicted to their mobile devices. Nearly 80% of teens check their phones hourly; 72% feel the need to respond immediately.” The Nielsen Company Report shows that Americans spend around 11 hours each day on digital media.

What is Digital Addiction?

Statistics indicate that digital addiction is increasing at a very serious rate. Due to the obsessive use of digital devices, people are losing their connection with themselves and with other human beings. We are so busy showing off our curated life on social media that we are failing to create deep and meaningful relationships with others.

Digital addiction is the obsessive use of digital devices such as computers, tablets, and cell phones. The most common types of digital addiction are internet addiction and social media addiction.

Internet addiction (excessive use of the internet) and social media addiction (impulsive problematic use of social media including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat) can result in psychological, social, physical and neurological problems.

Are You Addicted?

Dr. Kimberly S. Young, a licensed psychologist and an internationally renowned expert on internet addiction, developed a brief eight-item questionnaire to provide a screening instrument for addictive Internet use.

The Young Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire:

  1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about a previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
  2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
  3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
  4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
  5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
  6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
  7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
  8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?

(Patients were considered “addicted” when answering “yes” to five or more of the questions)

Effects of Addiction:

Physical health effects:

The prolonged use of digital devices can cause numerous different physical health issues. These include joint pain, obesity, fatigue, arthritis, insomnia, change in diet patterns, and back pain.  As per the American Optometric Association, 58 percent of adults have experienced digital eye strain or vision problems due to the prolonged use of digital devices.

Social effects:

Human beings are social animals and social interactions with other people give us joy and happiness. Sometimes to connect with the virtual world, we completely overlook the importance of face-to-face interactions. Excessive usage of the internet not only makes people socially isolated and less socially responsible, but it also makes them suffer from social anxiety, depression, loneliness and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

“I heard internet addiction is now an official mental disorder
and you can go to rehab for it.
I’m only going if there’s Wi-Fi.”
-Unknown

We are so busy in capturing memories in our cameras and sharing them on social media that we forget to enjoy and live in the moment. In the last 5 years, internet surfing has increased by almost 120%. Cybersex, online affairs, and pornography have significantly affected marital life; the number of divorces has noticeably increased in recent years.

You are internet-addicted when your spouse says communication is important in a marriage…
so you buy another computer and install a second phone line so the two of you can chat.
-Unknown

Psychological Health Effects:

Studies show that digital addiction can create feelings of anxiety, anger, isolation, low self-esteem, stress, loneliness, depression, and suicidal ideation.  Studies show that social media addiction reduces your overall happiness and life satisfaction. Social media users compare their lives with another individual’s consciously curated profile and feel ashamed of themselves for having a less perfect life. They think that other people are happier and more successful than them and then lead to discontentment, depression and many mental health-related issues.

“Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow Internet to see who they really are.”
—Will Ferrell

What is the Solution? A Digital Detox

During a talk with Stanford Graduate School of Business, former Vice President of User Growth at Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya, said, “I feel tremendous guilt. I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” He said, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.”

You know you are addicted to the internet when you spend half of the plane trip with your laptop on your lap…and your child in the overhead compartment.”
-Unknown

Digital addiction creates a significant negative impact on your concentration and ability to focus. Continuous distractions from social media divide your attention and that adversely affects one’s academic and professional life.

A digital detox is a period during which a person voluntarily stays away from devices like cell phones, computers, tablets, TV and social media.

When we disconnect ourselves from the virtual world, we get more time to connect with ourselves and with our loved ones.  It helps us have strong and meaningful relationships with our family and friends. The time away from social media helps you to be a calmer, happier, and more confident person. Staying away from the screen-based technologies for some time will also help you to be more creative, productive and to be physically/mentally healthy.

You know you’re texting too much when you say LOL in real life, instead of just laughing.

How to Do a Digital Detox:

A digital detox is a continuous process. You need to do it by taking one small step at a time. You can start with a short digital detox for a few days and eventually graduate to longer periods of time.

First, decide on a time limit for digital devices and social media app usage. Track the amount of time spent on these devices each day and make sure you do not exceed the decided limits. There are many apps available that can help you to track and manage your time on your digital devices. For example, Flipd locks your phone and makes your social media apps disappear for a specific amount of time to reduce social media distractions.

Instead of smartphones, use non-digital devices for some of your leisure activities. Google has launched an app called Paper Phone which prints a personal booklet of the key information (like daily agendas, maps, contacts, meetings) required for that day so that you don’t have to rely on your smartphone.

Being a software consultant, I have to manage my time on digital devices very wisely to avoid any negative influence on my physical and mental health. Other than the tips I have already mentioned, below is a list of some other steps you can take to gradually reduce your dependency on digital devices. These worked for me and I hope they work for you.

Tips for a Digital Detox

  • Remove unnecessary apps from your phone to reduce distractions
  • Put your phone on gray-scale mode to reduce the level of stimulation that your phone provides
  • Disable unnecessary notifications
  • Do not allow phones and TV in the bedroom or keep at least one room free from phones & TV
  • Use an alarm clock instead of using your cell phone to wake you up
  • Make sure your family have tech-free meals; do not allow digital devices in the dining room
  • Try to be physically active during screen time like stretching, doing yoga, etc.
  • Keep one day in a week as a tech-free day – do other activities you love
  • Enjoy the present moment instead of sharing it on social media
  • Enjoy your holidays with limited use of digital devices

Digital Detox and Kids:

According to the UK College of Psychiatrists,96% of kids between age 2-4 spend 15 hours/week watching TV and 40% spend time on the internet >4 hours/day. They have also noted that overuse of the internet especially affects the mental health and well being of children. Digital technology can affect weight, mood, thoughts of suicide and self-harm, and body image. Internet addiction can also result in other serious issues including cyberbullying, child sexual exploitation, eating, and sleep disorders and academic failures.

Screen time for your very young kids should be very limited. The American Academy of Pediatrics has established recommendations for children’s media use. “For children under 18 months, avoid screen-based media except video chatting. For children 18 months to 24 months, parents should choose high-quality programming and watch with their children. For children 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming. For children 6 and up, establish consistent limits on the time spent using media.” In short, less is always better.

21st Century mom threat: “Eat those veggies or I’ll change the wi-fi password.”

Instead of imposing rules on kids regarding internet usage, encourage them to have a healthy routine. Instead of wasting time on screen-based technologies, inspire them to use the time in creative activities like reading, painting, music, gardening, martial arts, swimming or other outdoor activities. Sometimes it can be hard to convince your child to follow the rules – for tips on how to parent a teen, visit our blog on this topic.

If you think your child has an internet or game addiction and it is affecting his/her daily functioning seek professional help. Many countries have addiction treatment centers and rehabilitation centers to treat internet and game addiction.  There are also many resorts and retreats available to help you to do your digital detox. Have your holidays at such a resort/retreat to get freedom from your or your child’s addiction.

Lastly, parents should also remember to limit their own screen time to set a good example for their kids. It is equally important to set the privacy settings on smart devices and monitor kid’s activities on these devices.

Summary:

According to Psychologist Dr. Kimberly Young, digital addiction is similar to food addiction; one must follow the digital diet and digital nutrition to recover from it. In her TEDx talk she says, “With a digital diet, you are talking about a restriction on the number of hours a day like a number of calories one consumes. So instead of checking Facebook 50 times a day, you check once a day. Whereas, with digital nutrition, it’s actually about what you click on. So, to get the complete benefits from your digital detox, you are not only required to limit your screen time, but you must also be mindful of how you spend your time on digital devices. Make sure you don’t waste your time on unnecessary stuff and instead spend this time wisely.”

During the initial period of your digital detox, you will experience withdrawal symptoms like boredom, uneasiness, anxiety, and annoyance. But you have to overcome these feelings. I assure you that after your digital detox, you will feel more energetic and will soon realize that life is more peaceful without digital media distractions. It is a very rewarding experience! 

Technology is an integral part of today’s modern world, but we must learn to use our digital devices in an effective balanced manner so that technology can make us more productive without affecting our health. or

Let’s disconnect to reconnect.

I want you to take a digital detox challenge for at least 24 hours.No cell phones, no computers, no tablets, and no social media for 24 hours.

Are you up for the challenge?

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6 Responses

  1. palak pandya says:

    A much needed insight into one of the most serious issues we are facing today..the fact is we don’t even realise that there’s a problem..the best part of this post is that it not only talks about the problems but also gives very practical solutions.. I have started practicing a tech free day already.. thank you for this eye opening post

    • Suroopi.com says:

      So happy to see that you’ve made changes based on the article – I’m glad to hear that it was so impactful 🙂

  2. Britt K says:

    This is SO important! I’ve told friends and clients (I’m a social media marketing coach) that they need to walk away from their devices for a day and see how it feels. Do this regularly and you’ll have a good idea of where you’re at with it. It can be difficult when you’re on it for work to recognize whether it’s just work or whether you NEED to be on there – but if you can’t step away from it for the day, that’s a really good indicator! I personally do this about once a week or so just to make sure that I’m keeping myself in check.

  3. hailey says:

    Great post. tech free meals is a good idea

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