As the digital world and our daily lives become more intertwined, some technology users are discovering the benefits of a “digital detox” — a designated period of time to stay offline and away from screens.
Tchiki Davis, PhD, an expert on well-being technology and the founder of the Berkeley Well-Being Institute in California, shared several tips from Blake Snow, author of the book Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting for how to effectively conduct a “digital detox.”1
One suggestion is to remove any distractions that don’t involve work, family, friends, or health, which means muting any extra notifications or alerts. This will cut down on time spent checking your smartphone or responding to notifications as they appear. Another tactic is to ask “why” when checking your smartphone. In his book, Mr Snow writes: “I truly believe that keeping our phones in our pockets is one of the bravest things that any of us can do.” Not obsessively checking a phone allows for a better in-the-moment mindset. Finally, Mr Snow suggests periodically fasting from all electronics. Whether for a day or a week, staying off electronics can facilitate stronger connections with other people and the world outside of a computer or phone.
In 2015, Kovert Designs (now Vinaya) founder Kate Unsworth took the idea of an electronic fast to the extreme: Ms Unsworth sent a group of 35 entrepreneurs, CEOs, and social media influencers on a trip to Morocco to study the effects of electronic use, according to an article published online by Fast Company.2
Among the group were 5 undercover neuroscientists charged with observing the participants’ behavior. After an introductory day of unbridled electronics usage, the group gave up their phones to spend 4 days in the Moroccan desert getting to know each other offline.
The effects were quickly noticeable: conversations that would normally have ended with the use of a search engine brought about speculation, storytelling, and genuine connection. At night, participants reportedly experienced more restful sleep, which could be due to the lack of blue light from electronic screens. They were also more likely to remember details better, citing personal tidbits others had told them earlier in the experiment. The posture of the participants also improved as they spoke with each other rather than looked down at screens, and the scientists observed increased eye contact among members of the group. Perhaps most surprising, some of the participants decided to make significant changes to their lives during their electronics fast. Whether with regard to relationships, health, or career, the lack of distractions seemed to provide an avenue for increased self-reflection. Although electronic devices are crucial to many aspects of daily life, taking occasional breaks from screens can improve both physical and mental well-being.
- Davis T. 5 ways to do a digital detox. Psychology Today. www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201801/5-ways-do-digital-detox. Published January 9, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2018.
- Segran, E. What Really Happens to Your Brain and Body During a Digital Detox. Fast Company. www.fastcompany.com/3049138/what-really-happens-to-your-brain-and-body-during-a-digital-detox. Published July 30, 2015. Accessed May 17, 2018.