Technology. We reach for it as soon as we wake, and we scroll before bedtime—and pretty much all the time in between. But overuse is increasingly linked to conditions like depression, insomnia and anxiety. A digital detox, or fasting from tech in order to decrease burnout, is beneficial for many reasons.
In an increasingly digital world, it’s easier than ever to manage more areas of our lives with technology. From virtual assistants to smart homes, technological advances have myriad benefits for our productivity and lifestyle. But research is also showing how overuse is impacting our health and wellness in unprecedented ways.
In 2017, the American Psychological Association surveyed how technology and social media use are linked to stress, relationships and overall well-being. Its findings showed that 99 percent of adults own at least one electronic device, including a television. Almost nine in 10 own a computer, and 74 percent own a smartphone. The study also found that 43 percent of Americans continually check their social media or email accounts, which is associated with higher stress levels in these individuals. With so many people noting concerns about the negative effects of technology, it is easy to see why two-thirds of Americans believe that taking a digital detox is important.
Technology and social media use are especially problematic in teens and young adults, with researchers noting a correlation between social media use and perceived social isolation and depression. According to the 2018 Pew Research, 95 percent of teens (ages 13-17) have access to a smartphone, and a robust 45 percent report that they are online near-constantly.
Take Back Control with a Digital Detox
Suspending the use of devices can help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as insomnia. Things like being in nature, exercising and socializing face-to-face are positive for mental health. Finding pockets of time to swap out screens for other uplifting activities can help maintain good mental and physical health.
It is important to control technology rather than allowing it to dictate your schedule.
A self-imposed break, whether sporadically or on a schedule, can have positive effects on body and minds. Try starting the day by not looking at your phone for the first 15 minutes you are awake. Turn off most or all push notifications and switch to “do not disturb” or airplane mode during certain times. These are great strategies to cut back on digital dependency.
If having your devices near you is still too tempting, lock them in a drawer or the leave them with a trusted friend or family member. Start with an hour and build from there. Take that time to do some self-care, read a book or engage interpersonally with friends and family. When you are comfortable taking short breaks each day, taking an entire day or weekend off could be a great goal to set yearly, monthly or even weekly.
Tech is disrupting every market and every industry. As people integrate more tech into their lives, it is important to be mindful of the power it has as well as how it affects mental and physical wellbeing. In short, be the master of your technology use; don’t let technology master you. As you do, you’ll find you are healthier and happier for it.