Technology is a wonderful thing, but there's no shortage of evidence to suggest that if you overdo it, our physical and mental wellbeing starts to suffer. That's why it's so important to recognize the signs you need a digital detox — which basically means taking a technology hiatus in some way, shape, or form — because I'm pretty sure nobody actually wants to suffer the onset of tech neck, or increased feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression, or a weakened immune system. It might sound almost unbelievable that these things are actually linked to excessive internet use, but when we consider the fact that the concept of "getting online" is still so new, (although its origins date back to the 1960s, the the internet as we know it was more or less born around 1991, FYI) it's no wonder the human race has engaged in a collective binge for the past couple of decades. We've been like kids let loose in a giant, digital candy store.
The average American spends around 7.6 hours a month on social media (and honestly, I'm willing to bet that the average Millennial probably triple that). And new research from the UK has just revealed what I've suspected for quite some time: That constantly being connected to the internet is messing with our minds. A study of 2,050 adults and 500 teenagers showed that 59 percent of people now consider themselves "hooked" to their favorite phone or computer device — and what's more, it can lead to neglected housework, lost sleep, and a decreased amount of face-to-face time spent with friends and family. Sound familiar?
I'm currently in the midsts of a semi digital detox myself. I say "semi" because, whilst I can't quite bring myself to cut the cord for all online communication tools right now, for the past week, I've deleted Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger from my phone in a bid to try and be more productive with my personal writing goals and stay better tuned in to my current surroundings. So far, it's working. And if you're feeling tempted, my advice is to just do it: Pull that plug. You'll feel calmer and more energized; furthermore, you might become more focused on getting the important stuff done in your own life.
Here are eight signs you may need to stage a digital detox for yourself right now:
1. You feel on edge when you don't know exactly where your phone or laptop is at all times.
If you feel anxious unless your phone is glued to your hand 24/7, David Brudö, co-founder and CEO at mental wellbeing and personal development app Remente, recommends reducing your intake little by little, as opposed to going cold turkey. "Try to cut back on using your phone gradually," he tells Bustle. "Try simply not checking it unless you actually need to use it. Or, leave your phone at home when you go out for dinner or grocery shopping. This way it will help you to change your habits in small dosages."
2. Friends have commented on your inability to put your phone down during real-time conversations and activities.
As well as being super rude, ignoring your friends and family in favor of your phone or laptop will eventually have a detrimental effect on your personal relationships. And who are you going to DM when you don't have any friends, hmm? Yeah, thought so.
4. You can't think straight when you haven't checked your timeline and social media feeds in a day.
Brudö tells Bustle, "Mobile phones can have a negative impact on our attention span, as well as our ability to open up and communicate with others." He recommends setting clear goals for detoxing if that sounds like you: "For example, say, 'I can only check my phone at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. today for five minutes,’ and keep it away from yourself at the other times during the day," he elaborates.
5. You get serious envy when you look at the lives other people are living.
FOMO and life-envy are Millennial curses, it's true. But it's important to remember that most of what we see on social media is what people want us to see; we're getting the highlights, not the full picture. So being jealous of someone's picture perfect life when we haven't been made aware of their full reality? That's not a productive use of your energy.
6. You check up on people you don't know or don't talk to way more than your actual friends.
Social media is supposed to be just that: Social. But so many of us use it to keep tabs on people we don't actually know or talk to, which breeds competition and can leave us feeling lonely. If you're starting to stalk your favorite Instagram stars more than your real friends, it may be time to disconnect.
7. You spend a weird amount of time worrying about your witty captions and best angles.
Getting hung up on how we perceive ourselves online is easily done, but it's important not to lose our sense of self. Brudö suggests keeping your phone on a silent mode or turning off notifications entirely so that they don't distract you.
8. You respond to messages within 0.1 of a second and get annoyed when others don't do the same
Replying to a text in super-fast time might be normal in your book as a tech addict, but many people won't be able to keep up with that. Instead of getting annoyed at your friends, why not get them on board for a detox en masse? Brudö tells Bustle, "Team up with friends who wish to join the challenge of a digital detox. It may be easier to do it with close friends than by yourself and you can keep each other on track!" Success in numbers, right?
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