The average person looks at their phone 150 times a day.
It is increasingly hard to believe but there once was a time where we didn’t look at our phones every five seconds. Or a time when we didn’t take a picture of what our morning coffee looks like and share it with the entire world. Don’t get me wrong. I am as addicted to technology as the next person, but I do realize the benefits of taking a break once in a while from 24/7 totally wired in. A digital detox is not for the light of heart but it is so important to do every few months (if you have a lifestyle that can support you doing it more than that then go for it).
How do you know you’re in serious need of a digital detox? The first warning signs include:
- You have sore, bruised, or raw thumbs from texting so much
- You get very anxious if you are away from your phone for more than two minutes
- You want to put hashtag before every word
- You check your phone before you even get out of bed
- You Instagram all your food
Research has shown that too much time with technology can disrupt sleep patterns, hinder the ability to think deeply and increase stress so this is really for your own good.
So, you admit it. You’re a technology addict and you need to go to rehab. A digital detox sounds amazing. But how do you start?
1. Decide on a goal
A detox from technology doesn’t mean you have to live like an Amish person. If you can only start small, something as little as turning off your phone at night or only checking your email once on the weekend makes a huge difference. Figure out what is going to be most logical for you (meaning it won’t jeopardize your job and your kids are still able to get a hold of you). If you are able to set a bigger or longer detox goal, maybe coordinating with a vacation, absolutely go for it!
2. Prepare for withdrawal symptoms
It is not going to be easy. You are going to want to reach for your phone….A LOT. You may get a little bored and worry about what you’re missing or not responding to. Just because your phone is out of sight, doesn’t mean it’s out of mind. But eventually, your “cravings” will become less intense and less frequent. It will pass!
3. Set a time limit
One of the best ways to start a detox is just to cut back on your time on technology (it’s tough to go totally cold turkey). You could just ask a friend to come rip the phone out of your hand or you could use apps that prevent your use. Try using Freedom which blocks the internet entirely for up to eight hours! Or try Anti-Social. This app blocks social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube so you have to communicate with the people around you the old fashioned way: talking face to face! Also, turn off notifications. You don’t need to know when someone likes your photo on Instagram.
4. Get some help from your friends
Tell your friends and family about what you are doing so they can hold you accountable and support you. Trying a digital detox with a friend or partner will give you someone to talk about the withdrawal symptoms, and to make sure you don’t cheat. Plus, with no internet, humans doing stuff is your next most viable form of entertainment.
5. Keep a journal
Every time you want to check your email or your Twitter, write about it in a journal. Or, every time you want to text someone, write your message down on paper. You can take a picture of the handwritten note later and send it to them (if you’ve allowed yourself a few hours a day with technology). Observe why you feel the need to do things and share things so instantaneously. You could learn a lot about your technology addiction from taking the time to reflect.
6. Make it count
The whole purpose of this detox is to be in the moment and see what you have been missing. Schedule a dinner with friends or family and really pay attention. Take a day trip. Heck, just go down a street you have never been down before or just look around your street (you’ve probably missed some things because you’ve been on your phone while walking!). Choose something special that you want to savor and truly appreciate, and do it without taking any pictures. No photo evidence. Aren’t those the best memories, anyways?