Do you tune in to the present moment undistracted, or are you checking, replying, scrolling and living life at 50 per cent of your day?
We have many devices demanding our attention, but what is the impact on our health and wellbeing?
I had three days off recently; no computer, no phone, no emails or social media. Bliss. I returned to technology feeling rested, yet faced 169 emails. One really concerned me; it was from Facebook and said "Joanna, here’s some activity you may have missed on Facebook: you have 48 notifications."
Later in the day I duly logged in to find nothing of note; a restaurant had changed its menu, a few blogs had written new posts and some ‘friends’ had changed their profile pictures. Nothing earth-shattering.
Have you received this email or do you check often enough not to warrant the ‘we miss you’ from Facebook - it was only three days!
Do you thrive on the dopamine-hit from 14 people ‘liking’ the photo you put up on your page? Some call it online compulsive disorder.
I think we need to detox technology and our minds. We need a break from the constant stimulation that is 24-hour communication. I am not alone in this view either. Scientists in South Korea found that students who are spending hours and hours on smart phones and computers are hampering the balanced development of their brain.
“Digital dementia” is a term coined in South Korea where more than 67 per cent of the population use a smart phone.
Dr. Aric Sigman is a biologist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He has likened our dependency on screens to alcoholism. Not least as the stimulation creates a release of dopamine. If you hear an email come in, can you resist checking it? Do you check your phone and find no message but have a check again in five minutes anyway?
So what are we to do in order to protect our brains and our relationships? I think the answer is to detox technology, and our brain.
I simply mean we should seek balance and make sure that we are disciplined in our use of these ‘handy’ technologies. It does, after all, work for us and not the other way around. We do not have to log on, log in, update, or scroll, thank goodness.
A program called Facebook Limiter has over 940,000 users, it blocks access to the social network at certain times of the day; it is used by offices but also those who know that their productivity is suffering from their quick checks!
Would you feel anxious if you lost your phone or left the house without it? Yes? Then perhaps your reliance on a smart phone is more of an addiction than you think.
Dr. James Roberts, professor of marketing at Baylor University said of cell phones: "They are not just a consumer tool, but are used as a status symbol. They're also eroding our personal relationships."
The Baylor University study showed that young adults, on average, check their cell phones 60 times in a typical day. More disturbing to me was that “college students spend approximately seven hours daily interacting with information and communication technology.”
I check my phone about twice a day, and, yes, I am a dinosaur. My university days were without mobile phones, when I met friends we’d arrange face to face what time to meet. A meeting at 7 p.m. meant I was there at 7 p.m. or 7:05 p.m. at the latest. There were no last-minute (‘sorry, running late but be there soon’) useless texts. As I said, I am a dinosaur!
Why are we so addicted at checking and updating when real life is here to be enjoyed? Isn’t it time that we detoxed?
Five ways to detox your mind:
Leave your phone at home one day. Have a day out of communication. It is possible, trust me!
Go quiet on social media for a day, a week, a month. You will have more time in your day.
Go for a walk, go to work, go for a bike ride, or go to a party and do not take any pictures. Just experience it without recording it.
For the next three meetings with friends, or colleagues, arrange a time to meet and be there on time without sending any ‘sorry-running-late’ texts. Just be there when you say you will. See how easy it is!
When you get in the house turn your phone off and have an evening doing something other than using technology, it is possible.