digital detox, noun
“a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.” -www.dictionary.com
In a world where people look at their phone an average of 30 times a day, and a staggering 56 times a day in the age group 18-24, adding up to 3-4 hours a day spent looking at our screens (that is 56 days per year) it might be time to admit we have a problem. Over 40% of adults admit to looking at their phone in the first 15 minutes of waking up, with another 10% admitting to looking at their phones during sex (I still haven’t quite figured this one out…).*
I often catch myself scrolling through news or Facebook when I actually just quickly wanted to check something or read a message. Or checking my email and WhatsApp because somebody might have written something since the last time I checked, even when there is no small flashing light. Then there is the panic that ensues when I can’t find my phone or the biggest disaster of all time- forgetting my phone at home! Plans could have spontaneously changed again, or there could be an email that needs answering right away…
Scientists have shown that receiving messages or even likes leads to a dopamine release. Dopamine is produced by our brains and rewards behaviour that is considered beneficial and so gets us to repeat them, such as eating delicious food, sex, exercise and successful or positive social interactions. When it comes to positive social interactions, through technology, we can almost have instant gratification- want someone to talk to? Send them a WhatsApp and within a few minutes you generally get a response and dopamine release, thus reinforcing this behaviour.
In an attempt at a digital detox, and reclaim my life I will be trying a “digital daytox” once a week, 24 hours without social media, Netflix and co. Those looking for the hardcore version can attempt a day without laptop and phone etc. completely, I find that very daunting because a lot of my books are on my iPad and I meditate using an App etc, so I will just be going offline for now rather than going fully abstinent.
* Numbers from the Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2018