More Than a Digital Detox
“Digital Detox” seems to be thrown around a lot these days. I see articles weekly about why a digital detox is necessary or how to take part in said digital detox. If you’re new to all this chatter, basically a digital detox is choosing to cut out screens, social media, all that good stuff, for an x amount of time. You can get as serious about your digital detox as you’d like, some go all the way and remove their phones from their lives completely, others allow themselves a phone but no social media, and I’m sure there’s some other variation in-between all that. I’ve tried this “digital detox” madness for probably two years. I’ve left social media I don’t know how many times and I’ve vowed to limit myself repeatedly, but somehow I always find myself staring at my screen endlessly. I’ve had one hell of a productive week thanks to really digging in and cutting my social media use down to 15 minutes a day from well, this is embarrassing, 2-3 hours a day. I’m writing this post because so many people have asked “how”, especially when running a business, and I’m always happy to blab about how to be a healthier person. There’s so much more to this then just quitting though, you really have to understand WHY you’re so addicted to technology. There’s a science to that addiction and every social media platform knows the formula. If you want to stop being staring at your phone all day, basically, you need to hack your brain and figure out what works for you!
Addiction is Real.
I can’t be the only one here that’s googled “phone addiction” simply because you’re wondering if you’re alone in this need to stare at your phone. Search results pull up countless articles and research showing that our phones are addictive, especially because social media exists there. Gone are the days of using a phone just to call someone. Now we have instant connection at our finger tips. I hear all too often from older generations that us young folk are just idiots that can’t get our faces out of our phones, but that’s simply not true. This technology has been BUILT for us to be addicted to it. It sucks us in over and over and now generations are being born with a phone/tablet in their face. Every little detail was put there just so we keep coming back for more. To debunk the “young folk” talk, my grandaddy got a tablet a few years ago and my grandma is absolutely addicted. Every time I go home she’s sitting on Facebook and why does she do that? Because she loves to be connected. She grew up in a generation where the entire neighborhood was involved in each other’s lives. They talked over the fences to each other (it was a real 50’s sitcom), they all sat on their porches at the same time, everyone went to the same church, etc. She grew up with true connection and now her only form of that is through Facebook.
Humans love connection and community despite losing any sense of what that really is. Somewhere along the line we lost true connection in real life and instead we now use social media to get that. Think WAY back to hunter-gatherer days, we were in groups, we survived because we were connected to other homo sapiens like ourselves, and because we’ve created a society that’s disconnected in the real world, we cling to the digital world.
The ego absolutely loves the instant gratification social media gives us. We obsess over “likes”, “follows”, and comments. We love showing off specific parts of our lives, building a life that isn’t even truly ours (fully). I’m not saying you’re a narcissistic person that needs constant attention, but this is how our brains are built. Businesses like facebook, instagram, twitter, they all know this so they built that lovely “like” button so you would endlessly come back to see just how many you’ve gathered in the last 2 minutes since you’ve posted. Dopamine is the real cause of all this. Every notification we get, vibrate from a text, or message that hits our inbox gives us a dose of dopamine (and stress..more on that later). Every time we get rewarded with that dose of dopamine we go back for more..and more..until you’ve been stuck staring at your phone for hours (we’ve all done it, don’t lie!). You can’t beat your brain if you aren’t aware of what you’re doing, it’s how you’re wired.
Procrastination and Avoidance.
If you’re a procrastinator your phone is your best out, isn’t it? Don’t REAAAALLY want to do that work you need to do? Your hand will quickly gravitate to your phone and now you’ve found a way to avoid that work. Anyone else ever get themselves into an awkward situation and they just want to “disappear”? What do you do? You grab your phone and suck yourself into social media so you can avoid those feelings you don’t want to feel. I do this ALL. THE. TIME. It’s especially helpful when you want to avoid an altercation with someone, an unwanted conversation from a stranger, etc. Research shows we are losing our communication skills rapidly and while I know it’s because we no longer HAVE to communicate with friends/family through phone calls or face to face, I think it’s also because we don’t communicate in public. Most of us aren’t even making eye contact with other humans when we’re in the store because we’re looking at our phones..or because we feel so anxious (we aren’t used to the interaction) we choose to look down and avoid eye contact. No one really talks to each other, we just run through as fast as we can to get out of the “herd”. The other day it was insanely busy at Fred Meyer’s and a woman rammed her cart right into me because she was staring at her phone. I laughed and tried to say something funny about it and she didn’t even hear me..or notice that she’d RAN INTO A HUMAN BEING. I just stopped and stared at her back as she walked away thinking, “wtf?”.
Why It’s All So Bad.
As if we aren’t stressed enough thanks to the never ending cycle of keeping up in this society, we have now added our phones into the mix. While we may talk about how “stressed” we are 24/7, our bodies are in the background running automatically and surprise, surprise, they’re are also stressed. Every notification we get sends a surge of stress hormones and pushes us into fight or flight mode. Despite thinking we’re above the animal kingdom, we are still animals, and every time our phones go off our bodies want us to RUN FOR THEIR LIVES. I mean, what does that say about how our phones make us feel? And yet, we keep going back for more.
Introverts are Introverting Hard.
I’m a huge introvert, sometimes I won’t see another human being (besides my husband) for 3+ days and I feel perfectly OKAY with that. Why is that though? Well, it’s because I do still have some sort of connection to the outside world thanks to Instagram and texting. Is it healthy though? Most definitely not and it’s made my need to introvert even more serious. Every time I go out in public now I get instantly anxious and want to run back home (fight or flight has been ignited) and I’m so awkward because I’ve forgotten how to hold conversations with people I don’t really know, it’s a bit embarrassing. Our phones have made us go into ourselves even more despite being so “connected”. We’re rapidly losing communication skills and our animal bodies are missing out on the “herd” which is adding stress to ourselves. We feel pretty damn alone despite swearing we love it so much (I DO!) and well, it’s just sad. Mothers that used to have a community to help them raise their children are now completely alone, possibly meeting a group once a week, but it’s not the same. Kids aren’t getting the social interaction they used to at a young age which then leads to other issues developmentally . The fact of the matter is, humans were never built to be alone.
And so that leads me to hurting relationships. Look around when you go to a restaurant, no one is communicating. Partners are staring at their phones, maybe occasionally showing the other what’s on their phone. Kids are given tablets and they’re missing out on key communication with their parents. The same is happening at home. In the evenings sometimes my husband is staring at his phone and I’m staring at mine, all while the TV is playing in the background. Not a word is said to one another and my god, how depressing. Before phones we would’ve been forced to interact and find things to do to pass time, now we have the option of just turning “off”. While I’m happy in my marriage I know it could/would be better if we didn’t have technology completely cutting us off sometimes. The irony of couples slacking in marriage because of technology is so ironic. We’re searching in our phones for connection when it’s literally in our face. Really I think the biggest hurt in this whole situation is that children think this is normal. They’re given a tablet/phone to interact with because parents are just burnt out. They see their parents on their phones all day ignoring each other, possibly ignoring them too. I’m not judging anyone, so no need to send me hate mail, parenting is hard (especially now). There is no herd or “village” to help each other, we are alone, but something has to change or we’re going to have a future of children who don’t even know how to say, “hi”.
I don’t think detoxing is enough or works well enough to “wean” you from bad habits. I don’t think we can just opt out for a few days and then go back to being “normal”. We don’t. We really enjoy that detox for the days we’re off (after having withdrawals) and then we fall right back into the same patterns pretty much immediately. It’s like a drug addict saying they’re really done this time, they’re clean, they can do this. You can’t though because the phone is literally set up to prevent that. Like it or not you’re about to fall back into a hole staring at your phone for hours a day. I think permanent changes have to happen in order to break these habits and some are pretty extreme while others with self control can actually make subtle changes that make a huge difference.
There are apps for limiting time on your phone. If you’re only somewhat addicted, you might be able to get away with this. I’m not though and will find a way to cheat because I’m absolutely crazy (I admit it). iPhone’s now have the option of limiting certain apps and screen time all together, have someone make a “pin” that you don’t know (and they won’t forget) so you can cut yourself off after so many minutes/hours.
Many people now implement a “no phone” rule for specific times of the day like when you’re eating, out with friends, when you’re interacting with your kids, spending time with your partner, or after x time. If you’re annoyed by your friend/partner constantly reaching for their phone when you’re with them you really just have to communicate that. People DO get pretty offended at first but really, you are worth having their time one on one, their phone can wait.
Do we really need all of these social media platforms? I don’t think so. I decided to eliminate one platform that stressed me out the most and I chose Facebook. I HATE Facebook. My stress levels go through the roof every time I’m in that space staring at ridiculous posts about things that don’t matter. I can say without a doubt I do not miss it one bit. If you’re about to say, “but that’s how I keep up with family”, stop. You could just call someone if you really want to know what’s going on with them? Or write (with your hand!)? Or email? There are so many other ways to communicate outside of social media, it’s crazzzzzy, I know. So anyway, choose one platform you really don’t enjoy or makes you feel “less than”. You’ll cut your time on your phone tremendously.
Get Rid of Your Phone.
Did that one make your eye twitch? Ha! I actually toy with this idea constantly. Could I survive with just a basic flip phone? I could but then I think about ridiculous things like GPS because I’m a millennial and I don’t know how to get around without a computer keeping me company. My iPhone is about be on the outs and I’m really considering just going with a flip phone once it’s dead. My introvert self cringes at the thought of having to actually call people though, but maybe that’s what I need? Sorry, blabbering, but maybe this option could work for you..and if you try it, let me know how it goes! I’ve actually read a few articles about younger generations choosing to ditch their phones for basic flip phones. ALSO, many people that invented this social media platform refuse to have a smart phone because of the addiction it’s built to create..if that doesn’t tell you something.
Business Owners + Work Folk
I think the #1 excuse I get when talking about cutting phone use out is, “but I need it for work..I run a business”. Then you need to stop making excuses and find a way to make your work work with your goal of cutting time on your phone.
Set specific times for checking your email and don’t cheat! Better yet, take email off your phone (that’s what I’ve done!) and only check it when you’re at a computer. Before I took email off my phone I would only let myself check it 9 am and 4 pm. If it’s an emergency someone can call me, phones work for that too. Social media is the exact same way, set specific times you check it and/or post. I PROMISE you do not need to give your work your entire life..in fact, I admire a business that has boundaries. We are HUMAN, humans should not be replying like a robot 24/7 or posting their entire lives every second of everyday. You can also eliminate social media from your phone completely. Flume is what I have on my Mac. I can still post, hashtag, respond to messages, the only thing I can’t do is stories. So, I delete instagram on my phone EVERY DAY. Insane, right? Of course but it’s necessary..I let myself redownload 1-2 times a day to post in stories to keep interaction up..otherwise I’m not available.
You can also hire someone (if you have the funds) to do all of the emailing and social media for you, you know? You don’t have to control every aspect of your business despite what your brain says. At the end of the day it’s really what works for your business but also, quit with the excuses, figure it out, or you’re going to continue being burnt out and stressed.
I Really Don’t Have The Answers.
I don’t. I’m just like you trying to figure out how to break this nasty habit that cannot be avoided. Currently I use my apple watch to keep a distance from my phone all day. It sits upstairs mostly while I work downstairs and I know I’m not missing any important texts/calls while I’m on call. I delete instagram every night and redownload it everyday for about 5 minutes (it’s ridiculous, I know) and I only check email when I’m at the computer. It’s really been a game changer for me!
We live in a technological world and if we want to be a part of it we really have to find a way to control ourselves and our addictions. There’s no doubt that there will be (and are) repercussions for staring at our phones endlessly but that doesn’t seem to be enough of an incentive to quit or cut back. Whether you choose to just cut a little, a lot, or all of it, it’s totally up to you, but do me a favor and TRY? Be present for your kids, relationship, yourself. You’re worth it.
Some links you’ll find interesting:
Smartphone addiction could be changing your brain | CNN < There’s a quiz from State University of New York