Confessions of a Digital-holic & Why You Should Consider a Digital Detox
Stop reading this post. No seriously, stop. For 5 minutes, don't look at your computer, your TV, or your phone. Don't talk to anyone or do anything. Go ahead, I'll wait...
How long did you last? The first time I did this I lasted less than 30 seconds. Dumbfounded and disappointed, I tried again and again. I'm up to 2 1/2 minutes. Why is it so darn hard to not be on our electronics? These silly little devices can't control us? We control them? Right? ...right? The more I try to disconnect though, the more I feel like the iron clad grip of my electronics is tightening, locking me into an existence that no longer exists on a 3 dimensional plane but somewhere out in the digital realm between pixels and bytes.
I've been working in digital for over three years now. It's exciting, fast-paced, and there's always something new as the digital world expands so rapidly we can barely keep up. But, none of that was what got me interested in working in the field. For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated with the way technology and social media effects our behavior, our interactions, and our identities. I knew I wanted to stay close to the ever changing landscape, conscious of its effects on me and society, and careful of the unwanted side effects of living in an increasingly technological world. Don't believe me? Keep reading.
Did you know:
- "91% of people sleep within arms reach of their cell phone and 63% sleep with their phones IN their beds. Chronic sleep deprivation is highly correlated with cell phones in the bedroom." - Huffington Post
- For children and teens there is a trend of a "lack of "transversal competencies" including self discipline, ethical understanding, interpersonal communication, as well as social ability and critical thinking, and this can be impaired through virtual distance." -UNESCO
- The National Science and Technology Council, appointed by President Obama, published a lengthy report about preparing for the future of artificial intelligence including its role in helping the economy, use in war, and applications in government. - White House Archives
- "A recent study from University of Pittsburgh showed increased rates of depression from those spending the most time on social media." - University of Pittsburgh
- "Every minute: 4,600,000 Facebook posts are liked, 6,944,444 snaps are watched, 2,430,555 Instagrams are engaged with, 400 hours of video are shared, 3,567,850 text messages are sent, and 69,500,000 words are translated by Google Translate" - The Word Pro
IN ONE MINUTE.
These stats are insane to me, and just the tip of the mountain of data piling up on the effects of technology and social media on our lives (both positive and negative!). So it benefits us all to be a little more concious of the effects so we can use technology in positive ways. Take it from me, the use of technology has disrupted my sleep, caused anxiety, headaches, misalignment of my neck, cramping, and a desire for acknowledgement and acceptance on social media, seeking quantitative rather than qualitative love, that is antithetical to who I am and what I say I believe in IRL. It has also connected me to amazing organizations, provided encouragement, connection to friends and family across the world, and let me explore the world through a simple hashtag. It's certainly a double edged sword.
Technological advancements and the connectivity of social media has immense benefits; from igniting change through connecting likeminded individuals for protests and movements, to providing more rapid assistance for natural disasters and terror attacks, to helping us live longer and healthier lives. My concern stems from not being conscious of the negative side effects. I started to care more about getting to 150 likes on a superficial photo than those closest to me actually liking the real me. Sometimes I find myself half participating in reality whether at dinner, watching a sunset, or spending time with family. And my friends do the same. We so often miss the moment while trying to capture it from a screen that will never do justice to the experience the way our eyes, ears, nose, and heart can. We self select the news and conversations we wish to see to such a degree that we become angered and unhinged when we see something that challenges our world view without taking the time to connect, see the other side, and find the middle ground.
"Don't go throw away your phone and live on a hippie commune"
I am trying to commit to being more conscious of these effects and think our society needs to use social media to come together, not tear apart (hippie, I know!). Not just on a personal level do the negative effects of social media threaten our well being, but on a national and global scale they threaten to hurt us as a society. Don't go throw away your phone and live on a hippie commune. No need to buy a ticket to an expensive weekend on a digital detox retreat. It's simple to be more conscious of these effects and to set new rules for how you engage online and off. There's no better time to start than now.
So, if you are like me, addicted to your electronics and wanting to feel a little bit of freedom from them, there's a few simple steps you can take for a digital detox.
Institute a Morning + Night Detox Routine
Get an alarm clock and leave all electronics out of the room in the morning and at night. Electronics not only disrupt your melatonin, which helps you to fall and stay asleep, but reaching for your phone first thing in the morning throws your mind right into the stress of the day.
At night, remove your electronics from the bedroom and don't watch any TV, go on your phone, iPad, or computer at least 30 minutes (or if you're better than me, an hour!) before bed. Believe it or not, this allows you time to do other awesome activities. Take an Instagram-worthy bath (and don't take a picture of it!) Talk to your partner or roommate. Play a game. Meditate. Journal. Read. Have sex. It's a whole digital free world of fun.
In the morning, try not to touch your phone or at least try not to look at any emails until you've walked out the door. This will give you time to prepare for the day in a relaxing way whether that's playing music, drinking tea, meditating, or dancing around in your underwear. You do you...just without your phone.
"Without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible." - Former President Barack Obama
Find and Engage With Viewpoints Different From Your Own
Our nation is unbelievably divided and before this past election, very few were aware just how big this divide was. Curated news feeds, right and left wing news outlets, and friend selection allowed us to only see one side of the story.
Barack Obama, in his farewell speech said, "For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles... surrounded by people who look like us ...and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there. This trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible."
I debated only doing excerpts in this post, but I think what Barack Obama said was so true and profound that it's worth posting the whole part of the speech. So how do we not talk past each other? In the real world, we must listen to views that differ from ours with acceptance, understanding, and respectful debate. On social media, our self-selection process makes this much more difficult. Luckily, there are a few great sources to help expand our world view:
- Kind Pop Your Bubble: analyzes your social profile and allows you to follow at least 10 people whose views drastically differ from your own. The idea is that you will begin to regularly see this difference of opinion if your feed and better understand the wide range of viewpoints in our country and beyond.
- Red Feed/Blue Feed: Shows side by side on political issues left vs. right opinions happening on social media. This stark comparison can help us see the wide ranging opinions of our fellow Americans.
- Your Own Power: When you see something you disagree with, stop yourself from clicking off the page, getting angry, or pressing "unfriend". Fully read the point of view and try to understand it from their perspective. You don't have to agree, but do everything in your power to be understanding and try to find the middle ground.
Post Something Real That You're Passionate About
Post something unfiltered, unposed for, unaltered in any way. Make sure you're passionate about it. Don't wait for the likes, there won't be as many as you want. Resist the urge to delete it. You just put yourself out there, totally unfiltered, for something you really care about. Be proud of that and wait for someone to talk to you about it in person. It's likely they will and it will mean more to you than hitting your most likes to date ever will.
Mealtimes are Tech Free Zones
I attribute this one to my mother who has had this rule for as long as I can remember. I have implemented it with my friends, my coworkers, and my boyfriend. It's amazing what a difference it makes in how you connect with other people and remember an experience. Just put your phone down! And if you want to up the rewards, do something good for the world while you're doing it and use UNICEF's Tap Project app, which donates water to someone in need for every minute you don't touch your phone.
You don't need to be working in a digital based industry to be conscious of the effects of social media. You can read books that extrapolate what a world will be like when technology totally takes over (not too far off) like The Circle, but I think that's more of a scare tactic than anything else. Alternatively, stay educated on how tech is effecting our world whether that's reading the newspaper, sites like TechCrunch, Mashable, and Digiday (yes, going on digital to stay on top of the effects of digital is counterintuitive), and talk to friends and family about digital and technological updates.
Get Off The Digital Clock
When you receive a work email at 9PM, do you respond to it because you have a notification? When your friend texts you asking if you can hang out next weekend and you're in the middle of a conversation with your boyfriend, do you look down and respond? The digital world has a way of pushing this need for immediacy into every second of our lives. We must respond right. now. But what happens if you, well, don't? From a work perspective it's about setting boundaries and in your personal life it is too. People will adapt to the boundaries that you set and by resisting the urge to immediately respond to something that does not require an urgent answer, you'll actually get more time to just be in whatever moment you're in.
Connect With People (IRL)
Save your like or comment for the real world. Go out and experience something without your phones. Don't post that you did it. Just enjoy it.
It's weird. Embrace it.
Start or Join a Movement
Like I said, social media and technology can be a wonderful tool if used correctly. Start or join a movement that connects people in an area you're passionate about. By using social media and technology for good, you're changing the story and by default changing your small corner of the world.