There’s no doubt that the technological revolution has numerous advantages. Digitization has connected the world in unimaginable ways with information available at the touch of a button. So much so that today most people replace the phrase “God knows” with “Google knows!” This increased connectivity has made life easier in so many ways but it begs the question—are we simply creating a world of tech junkies. Statistics support this fact and show that the digital revolution is affecting us in various ways. Consider that adults spend an average of 8 hours 41 minutes a day on screens – that’s more time than they are asleep! An average user logs 1.72 hours a day on social media alone, and checks their smart phone 150 times a day—and the numbers just keep increasing! In fact, in 2005 adults spent nine hours online a week. Today that number has increased to 25 hours!
Feeding the Need
What are the implications of this constant need to be online? For one, a race of social media addicts is well underway. It’s hard for most people to imagine simply sitting alone, without robotically scrolling through Instagram to a point of numbness. It’s become second nature to turn towards smart phones as a way to “escape boredom” or simply be with one’s own thoughts. There is a fine line between addiction and dependence, however developing a compulsive need to use digital devices, to the extent where it interferes with daily life is the hallmark of an addiction. The digital detox company—Time to Log Off –claims that there are three types of addictions prevalent in today’s connected world. These include phone addiction, Social Media addiction, and Internet addiction.
According to Sherry Turkle, professor of the Social Studies of Science at MIT, in her recent book Reclaiming Conversation, we have “turn[ed] time alone into a problem that needs to be solved with technology.” She cites an unsettling study in which people were asked to sit in a chair without a device or reading material, and were asked to think for six to 15 minutes. Many of these subjects chose to give themselves mild electric shocks rather than sit alone with their thoughts!
Another consequence of the addictive lure of connectivity is the society we are becoming. Members of today’s society are scrambling for Instagram hearts and feel low with less than average Facebook likes. Science backs up these claims, with research showing a link between heavy Facebook use and depressive symptoms—including low self-esteem. A dual personality is created on social media, for the sole purpose of validating oneself through other people’s opinions on pictures, statuses and more, which rarely represent the reality of one’s lives. A world in which happiness is determined by more thumbs ups or hearts is definitely not healthy in terms of emotional well-being. In fact, a study by the National Institute of Mental Health has found a strong and significant association between social media use and depression.
The Digital Detox – Breaking the Cycle of Addiction
So how can we combat this over dependence on digital devices, safeguarding our mental and emotional health? The answer, and a very Zen one, is a digital detox. In recent years, digital detox retreats have gained immense popularity, especially with corporate individuals who are burnt out and need a break. Digital Detox, an internationally renowned retreat service defines their detox retreats as “a space and experience that gives individuals the freedom and permission they need to truly unplug and decompress. Participants put aside their digital arm to recharge, gain perspective, and reevaluate their relationship with digital technology.” Rules include no technology, no work-talk, no bosses and also no networking. Detox retreats are meant purely to rekindle the spirit, and disconnect from the world, not networking events to further one’s career. Most detox retreats have the same foundations, and also provide a variety of activities like yoga and meditation, healthy and locally sourced food, improv talks, writing, art, cooking, and others and are usually set in a tranquil location far away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Joshua Hebert, CEO of Magellan Jets, dropped off the grid for a weekend as a participant in one of these retreats on a remote Panamanian Island. The results surprised him. He stated “It was so tranquil — just me and the sound of the waves crashing. For once, I stopped thinking about work and thought hard about the importance of a work/life balance.” Herbert also found that he was so rejuvenated that he returned to the mainland full of new ideas, his creativity having been boosted by the down time. In a study by Kovert, a group of neuroscientists observed how 35 people responded to digital detox retreats. An interesting find was that after three days without technology, people’s posture noticeably changed. They began to adapt to primarily looking forward into people’s eyes, rather than downward into their screens. In turn, this increased eye contact allowed participants to connect more deeply, and have more meaningful conversations. Other results included more restful sleep, as well as a better memory, as participants were more likely to recall obscure details of their day that wouldn’t have been registered into their minds were they constantly distracted by technology. Increased focus and fewer distractions allowed for new perspectives and fresh ideas, similar to Herbert’s experience above.
Since technology is so ingrained into our lives, we often don’t realize the need to unplug. On the other hand, studies show that detox from the digital world can do wonders for our body and mind. So consider the benefits, and take some time to either go on a detox retreat, or simply dedicatedly disconnect out of your own volition. If you have any specific tips to unplug, do share them in the comments below!
This article was first published on LinkedIn.
Vincent Brissot is the Head of Channel Marketing & Operations at HP. With some 14 years of experience in channel enablement, business development, and marketing, he has a comprehensive understanding of and expertise in the IT industry related to hardware, services, and software. Vincent has worked in multiple countries, in regional and worldwide roles across Enterprise and SMB market segments.