Brain power

Digital detox: Disengage from the technological trap

Is your phone, tablet or laptop on your packing list? Being connected 24/7 all year around can mean that we are constantly on call, checking emails and catching updates from friends. A Digital Detox is a way of saying “time out” to technology and reconnecting with nature and humanity.

Based on research, here are 5 reasons why you should consider pulling the plug every once in a while:

1. Time flies when you’re using technology

Research on the effect of technology on the perception of time1 has shown that the use of technology makes time seem like it passes quickly. Combined with increased productivity, this also increases time pressure. In the press release for McLoughlin’s latest findings, she notes, “What I’m arguing is that there is a genuine quantifiable cognitive basis for this advice, rather than it simply being about taking a step back…It’s a scientific reason to stop and smell the roses.” Or in other words, it may be time to switch off to destress.

2. You will sleep better

Researchers have noted that smartphones and other screen technology emits “blue light” which suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. If you use technology at night or even into the early hours of morning, it may take you longer to fall asleep and when you wake, you may end up feeling less alert. Researchers concluded that “the use of portable light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime has biological effects that may perpetuate sleep deficiency and disrupt circadian rhythms”2. So if you can, turn your device off when you get home, or even an hour or two before bed. You might miss a few Facebook updates but you’ll feel better in the morning.

3. You will be less self-centred and feel happier

You won’t be able to be logged in on social media all the time, getting updates tailored just for you. Researchers have examined the links between the use of social networking sites and narcissism3. Users that posted to social networking sites exhibited traits of narcissism. Whilst checking social networking sites did not have the same association, there is research that links heavy use of social media to depression.

4. Your memory may improve

Modern life has meant that we use phones as an extension of our minds. Termed “Digital Amnesia”, researchers have linked a decrease in the use of memory when we are faced with a question as we are more likely to reach for our phones to look up the answer. Not only this but with the Internet, we are less likely to even try to remember the information for next time knowing we can look it up again. But if we couldn’t just look it up, we would have to remember. It’s worth thinking about!

5. You will pay better attention

Without the distraction of your device, you will be able to focus more on your surroundings and the company you keep. This recent study on disconnecting when travelling4 notes experiences that some travellers have had when forced to disconnect from technology whilst travelling. Though the disconnection can induce levels of anxiety, for some they also felt more refreshed by being able to enjoy the holiday experience more fully.

Finally, the study on travel and technology raises a significant point:

The distress, anxiety, or even ‘rehabilitation’ of these connected travelers parallels recent literature that articulates and conceptualizes excessive, disruptive, and/or risky technology usage and connectivity using terminology from the study and treatment of addiction.

We need to ask ourselves are we in control of how we use technology? Or does our dependence on it control us or harm us? Does it cause harm to our relationships?

Perhaps it is time for an intervention. There is a simple and free solution to FOMO, anxiety, insomnia and burnout caused by technology – just turn your devices off. Or better yet, the next time you go on a weekend away you can leave your gadgets behind.

Image source:  Sleeping TV Man by Evan is licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0.

References:

  1. McLoughlin, A. (2012). The Time of Our Lives: An investigation into the effects of technological advances on temporal experience
  2. Chang, A. M., Aeschbach, D., Duffy, J. F., & Czeisler, C. A. (2015). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(4), 1232-1237
  3. Panek, E. T., Nardis, Y., & Konrath, S. (2013). Mirror or Megaphone?: How relationships between narcissism and social networking site use differ on Facebook and Twitter. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(5), 2004-2012.
  4. Paris, C. M., Berger, E. A., Rubin, S., & Casson, M. (2015). Disconnected and unplugged: experiences of technology induced anxieties and tensions while traveling. In Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2015 (pp. 803-816). Springer International Publishing.

Also published on Medium.

Sally Chik

Sally Chik has a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Honours) and a Masters in Information Studies (Community Informatics). She is a versatile writer with experience in corporate and creative writing. She has worked in the libraries and information industry since 2011.

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