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Embracing Balance: The Enhanced Benefits of a Digital Detox

Victoria MacLennan. 13 November 2023, 10:26 pm

I had a “digital detox” over the weekend. Apple sends me a lovely summary of my screen time for the week prior every Monday morning. Today after my digital detox weekend it told me my screen time for last week was down 81%, that on average I picked my phone up 14 times per day and the first apps I use when I pick it up are Outlook, Teams, Slack and Wikipedia - I guess that makes sense, Apple, Teams and Slack all send me alerts which I will then follow to read more, and Wikipedia when I am curious about something I have read or heard on the radio. What this also demonstrated to me was an awful lot of my screen time is in the weekends, perhaps I can justify that to myself by saying I watch music videos and movies at the gym and spend more time at the gym in the weekend?

I must confess I still used my phone as my camera, I just didn’t read any socials or play chess or respond to messages. 

Curious about the effects of a digital detox I decided to do some research, and learned there are terms for addiction to our smart phones - Smartphone Use Disorder / Problematic Smartphone Use, Nomophobia (the fear of being without a mobile device), Social Media Disorder, Textaphrenia (the fear of not being able to send or receive texts) and interestingly Phantom Vibration Disorder is also a thing. 

Wondering if you need a digital detox? 

If you are thinking about taking a break from your phone - for a day, a weekend or a week then here are some thoughts to help you decide. 

Addiction to technology has this list of symptoms of phone addition - which is what I detoxed from:

  • You reach for your phone the moment you’re alone or bored.
  • You wake up multiple times at night to check your phone.
  • You feel anxious, upset, or short-tempered when you can’t get to your phone.
  • Your phone use has caused you to have an accident or injury.
  • You’re spending more and more time using your phone.
  • Phone use interferes with your job performance, schoolwork, or relationships.
  • People in your life are concerned about your phone use patterns.
  • When you try to limit your use, you relapse quickly.

Whether you are addicted to your phone, gaming or social media in general some of the outcomes this can lead to are:

  • Depression
  • Increased irritability, frustration or anger
  • Feeling insecure when away from your devices
  • Loss of sleep or interrupted sleep
  • Feeling overwhelmed and consumed by the need to respond, react or checkin
  • Loss of focus and productivity
  • Rifts in your personal relationships and loneliness
  • Cognitive disorders

Can Apps help?

There are also apps that can facilitate digital detoxing. This study examining the use of digital detox applications among young adults found that those using these apps showed a reduced association between social media use and problematic smartphone use (PSU). In contrast, non-users exhibited a positive correlation between social media usage and PSU, negatively impacting their well-being. This indicates that digital detoxes, facilitated by apps, can be an effective tool in reducing the risk of compulsive smartphone usage, essentially helping to break the cycle of digital addiction

Still not convinced? 

The internet tells us there are loads of benefits. It also tells us starting small with digital detoxes can also be effective. Even taking an hour at a time without using your phone or placing your computer or tablet in another room can be a beneficial first step. Turning off notifications, for example, can be a simple yet impactful way to begin reducing digital consumption. Other research indicates real benefits won’t materialise unless you stop using your device or playing that gaming console for 5 days. My experience indicates lesser times do work. 

Anyhow here are some of the benefits:

Regain control of your time

Taking a digital break can help break addiction cycles, help combat the urge to compulsively check smartphones and social media, it’s a challenge at first and you need to train your brain to resit the urge. This regained control over digital habits can lead to a more balanced lifestyle, help you be present in the moment and with the people around you. According to this article “On average, Americans check their smartphones 96 times a day and spend more than two hours on social media.” So a social media detox might be a good first step.

Sharper Focus and Enhanced Productivity

Digital distractions significantly impede our ability to focus - those constant beeps and popups are total distractions. By reducing these interruptions, a digital detox allows for enhanced concentration, leading to improved productivity. This benefit is especially valuable in environments requiring sustained attention, improved focus naturally leads to enhanced productivity.

It’s better for your mental health and can reduce stress

Excessive consumption of digital content, such as news, can be a major source of stress. Limiting this intake can result in a calmer, less anxious state of mind, contributing positively to mental health.
If you don’t want to take a complete break this article provides some alternatives which will benefit your mental health - Unplug before bedtime, setting time limits, disabling notifications, taking regular breaks.

Improved Social interactions

A digital detox can lead to more meaningful and deeper social interactions. By removing digital barriers, we engage more fully with those around us, enhancing our relationships and social skills​​.

Improved Sleep Quality

One notable benefit of a digital detox is improved sleep. Reducing screen time, particularly before bedtime, can significantly enhance sleep quality, contributing to overall health and well-being​​. Although this wasn’t my experience. 

In Conclusion

Taking a break from our phones isn’t about shunning or vilifying technology and more about embracing mindfulness in our digital interactions. Remember, the goal isn't to eliminate technology from our lives but to prevent it from overshadowing the rich, real experiences that life offers. As you embark on your own digital detox journey, take time to appreciate the small joys – the feel of a book in your hands, the warmth of face-to-face conversations, and the tranquility of moments spent in nature. Challenge yourself to find a harmonious balance where technology is a tool, not a tether. 

Below is what I enjoyed over the weekend instead.




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