Suffering from technology addiction? Time for a digital detox
Learn to spot early signs of technology addiction and how you can reverse its harmful effects
I’m running to catch the next train, and as I sit down to catch my breath, I can’t help but notice everyone is buried behind their smartphone. This isn’t an unusual sight—in fact, it’s the new normal. This impulse to have a device on us at all times is consuming so much of our lives that many of us think we can’t function without it. How many times have you left your phone at home, only to turn right back around and retrieve it? If this sounds like you, you may be suffering from technology addiction and might want to consider how a digital cleanse can help you in other aspects of your life.
Recent research has presented some disturbing facts about excessive use of technology. According to a new study, the average person will check their phone every six and a half minutes (200 times per day in total). 73 per cent admit they would have a tough time if they went through an entire day without their phone or computer, while one in four of us will spend more time online than we do sleeping.
Reversing the harmful effects of technology addiction
Frances Booth, author of The Distraction Trap, runs individual and family coaching sessions for those looking for a digital detox. She is increasingly worried about the effects of technology addiction and multi-tasking with our digital devices, especially the effects it has on our brain. Multi-tasking refers to the process of using several devices at once (i.e. watching your favourite TV show, while chatting with friends on WhatsApp and checking the weather on your tablet).
Research indicates that performing just two or three tasks at the same time puts much more stress on our brains than completing them individually. In an interview with The Telegraph, Booth says “We are doing so many things, all we are doing is processing on a surface level. If there’s split focus, then memories aren’t encoded – nothing goes in to your long-term memory. This has serious consequences for learning.”
Symptoms of technology addiction can mimic a drug addict’s cravings says another study. Nearly four in five students showed signs of mental and physical distress, panic, confusion and extreme isolation when forced to spend a full day without technology. Almost 1,000 university students across 12 campuses in 10 countries, which included Britain, the United States and China, could not voluntarily unplug from technology for an entire day.
Facts backed by research
Research at the University of Maryland described the students’ thoughts where they admit to having cravings, anxiety attacks and depression when they are unable to use technology. In short, technology addiction could have withdrawal symptoms as severe as those of substance addiction.
Completely disconnecting from technology is not the answer. If you can learn to incorporate a healthy balance, you can have the best of both worlds. The benefits of weaning yourself off of technology include increased energy levels, higher attention span, rise in productivity, promoting better sleeping and eating habits, reducing stress and anxiety and encouraging you to be more active, to name a few.
It’s a wonderful world, away from the smartphone
When US author, Susan Maushart and her three teenagers embarked on a six-month tech ban she noticed a dramatic difference in her children’s attitude and behaviour. “Their attention spans sputtered and took off, allowing them to read for hours – not minutes – at a stretch; to practise their instruments intensively; to hold longer and more complex conversations; to improve their capacity to think beyond the present moment, even if that only translated into remembering to wash tights for tomorrow,” says Maushart.
The next time you are itching to check your phone, try something different instead. Go for a walk around the block. Strike up a conversation with a co-worker. Take up that new hobby you keep mentioning. Just remember that technology is here to enhance our lives, not take full control of it. If you keep that in mind and learn to limit the amount of screen time you have per day, you can still have a well-balanced life.
Aileen Ormoc | The Edge Blog