5 Reasons to Schedule a Digital Detox Day
Modern technology is not inherently bad, but it can do a lot of harm to your mental health and even to your physical health. Social media can be stressful and distracting. Too much time in front of any sort of screen can cause sleep deprivation. Email and chat apps can create a sense of distance and loneliness while keeping you connected. Spending a lot of time bent over your phone can cause neck and back problems. Also, it can be easy to lose a healthy sense of perspective when you spend all of your time in the virtual realm. Scheduling a digital detox day can bring you many benefits.
How much time do people spend glued to technology?
According to Nielsen Company, an adult spends an average of 11 hours interacting with media on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The need to feel connected is a strong one, especially during a pandemic. However, there are downsides to living a virtual life. For one, it's not good for your mental or physical health.
One way to escape the digital chaos is to schedule a digital detox day. Digital detox, simply put, is a day where you stop using your phone and computer screen and devote that time to living in the real world as opposed to a virtual one. What are the benefits? You get a break from the constant barrage of notifications from social media and your apps and a reprieve from the social media cycle of "likes" and "retweets."
Now, let's dig a little deeper and look at reasons you might want to schedule a digital detox day and take a break from social media.
1. You will be more present
It is difficult to be fully present in the real world when you are constantly checking social media, waiting for texts, and worrying about situations with people online. When you spend time unplugged, it's much easier to be fully present in the real world, and being fully present in the real world can help you get a lot more enjoyment and fulfillment out of it. When you're more present, it's easier to find joy in things like eating meals with your family, reading a book, and going out.
2. It will give you a break from multi-tasking
When you immerse yourself in the digital world, you multi-task by flipping from site to site, checking out the news and latest happenings. This pulls your mind in many directions. Research shows humans aren't as good at multi-tasking as they think. When you try to do too many things at once, you end up doing them all sloppily and in a less efficient manner. The same goes with reading online. Studies show it's harder to retain information that you read online as opposed to reading from a physical book or magazine. One study found that psychology students required more repetition to remember information when they read it on a computer. Don't forget what it feels like to hold a physical newspaper or magazine.
3. It will help you be more active
One of the problems with digital media is most people consume it sitting down, and that means less exercise. Why is this bad? According to research, spending too much time in front of a screen or sitting in a chair is bad for your waistline and health. Studies show that spending more than 8 hours per day sitting increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and early mortality. A day of digital detox gives you more time to be active. It also gives your eyes a rest.
4. It will give your brain a break
Complete immersion in the digital world causes people to feel more isolated from the reality. Research shows this is leading people to experience mental health problems. Social media is a source of uplifting news, but also news that causes distress and negative feelings. Before social media, people had few news sources to dig into, but these days, you can find stories on multiple media outlets and overdose on negative news.
Then there's the comparison trap. You see people on Instagram who live in beautiful homes and have perfectly manicured nails and feel you fall short in comparison. Yet much of what you see on social media sites is digitally altered and enhanced to make the situation seem better than it is. Still, the comparison trap can lead to feelings of inadequacy.
5. You will feel less lonely
Although technology lets you easily connect with people, it can also make you feel lonely. After all, humans have spent thousands of years developing social rituals and experiences in the real world that were designed to fulfill people's social needs. Virtual relationships cannot fully replace these time-tested experiences. A lack of physical presence can make online interactions feel unfulfilling. When you spend more time in the real world, you spend more time interacting physically with people, which can make you feel much less lonely.
When you live your life virtually, your social skills get rusty. You forget how to behave social and form strong connections with real people. Research even shows that people lose sight of who they really are because they're so busy portraying themselves positively on social media. Nothing can replace real human connection. When you take a digital detox day, you can get out and connect with human beings rather than idealized photos and emojis. What a difference that can make!
HOW TO UNPLUG? DIGITAL DETOX OR DIGITAL MINIMALISM?
There are two ways to experience the benefits of unplugging, and it is a good idea to practice both of them. One is to spend some time completely unplugged, with your phone turned off. Doing a day, a weekend, or even a few months like this can do you a world of good, and help you figure out which online experiences are really important and which are not.
The other way of unplugging is to strive for what some people call "digital minimalism." This approach involves staying online, but only minimally. Here are some ways you can go minimal:
- Figure out how you are wasting time online. Use a web browser tracking app to learn how you spend your time online. You may be surprised at how some time wasting activities add up, and knowing where the problems are lets you know which behaviors you need to stop.
- Unfollow everything that no longer interests, helps, or entertains you anymore.
- Remove social media apps from your phone. Most people spend hours a day on social media on their phones. It's easy to overdo, because these apps keep your social media connections at your fingertips throughout the day, wherever you are. By having to go home and turn on your desktop or laptop to use social media, you will do it a lot less, and can more easily develop a healthy balance with it.
- Delete every nonessential social media account. You don't really need to be on all of them. Keep only those that you really love.
- Turn off notifications. One of the reasons people spend too much time online is that they are constantly getting notifications about emails, comments, posts, apps, and more. Turn them all off so you can be in control of your time instead of your devices being in control of it.
- No going online in the morning. Spend your mornings in the real world. Spend some time accomplishing real world goals, and thinking about real world things.
- Set time limits. Before you check your email or social media accounts, look at the clock and remind yourself that you are only going to spend 15 minutes, or 1/2 an hour, or something reasonable, on that activity.
Why not use this time to get closer to nature?
A digital detox will give you the chance to get back to nature and spend more time outdoors. Studies show that spending time in green spaces, without technology, lowers heart rate and blood pressure and is mentally soothing. Trees even release chemicals called phytoncides that boost immune function. If you've spent much time in nature, you know just how powerful the benefits are. Even a short time in natural surroundings can lift your mood and give you a sense of serenity that you won't find staring at a screen all day. So, use digital detox time to step outdoors and walk on a trail, in a park, or on a tree-lined street.
The Bottom Line
Now you know why taking a digital detox day is so important. Use it to reconnect with those around you and with nature. Your body will thank you!
Unplugging can be a great way to get more out of life. Whether you spend time fully unplugged or going minimal, there are many benefits in it for you.
The Nelson Company. The Nielsen Total Audience Report: Q1 2018. July 2018.
Healthland.time.com. "Do E-Books Make It Harder to Remember What You Just Read?"
Misra S, Cheng L, Genevie J. The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices. 2016;48(2). doi: 10.1177/0013916514539755.
MayoClinic.org. "What are the risks of sitting too much?"
MarketWatch.com. "People spend most of their waking hours staring at screens"