Since the pandemic wrought havoc across the world, it has changed our ways of living completely. With nowhere else to go but their living rooms, more and more people are taking to digital platforms to pass the time and to continue work. According to the Harris poll, conducted between March and May 2020, between 46% and 51% of American adults were using social media more since the onset of the pandemic.
While digital platforms are what enabled us to continue our lives even in the middle of these troubling times, where do we draw the line between them being enablers and becoming an addiction? This question is more relevant now than ever, as overusing technology has been proven to be detrimental to human health. Here’s where the concept of a ‘digital detox’ — a period where one abstains from using technology — can come to one’s aid.
Is there a real need for a digital detox?
Amongst other things, overusing technology makes you less productive, keeps you awake, and is bad for your sleep. Excessive social media usage has been connected to toxic behaviors and even low self-esteem.
While it is almost impossible to live without some sort of reliance on technology today, technology does not have to completely take over your life. A digital detox, even for a day, can help in reducing the damage done by using excessive technology. If you’re still not sure whether you need a detox, be on the lookout for signs such as checking your phone throughout the day, always being distracted, and not sleeping well. If you can relate to any of these, it might be prudent to take time off from your phone.
How to do a digital detox
While it’s fairly simple in theory, a digital detox becomes difficult to practice due to our everyday habits. Fast Company details four simple ways to ease into a digital detox. The first and most important practice is putting your phone away. We use our phones for almost everything, from staying in touch with loved ones to entertainment, and for practical needs such as online shopping. But all of this means a large part of our day is spent staring at our phone screens. To take some time off, try preparing in advance by ordering things you would order online from your phone, and letting your friends and family know you’ll be putting your phone away for some time.
Another habit that needs to be broken is jumping from one screen to the next — be it from our laptop screens to phone screens or tablet screens to television screens. Take a break from screens instead of jumping to the next one. Instead of screen-jumping, spend time with your pet, read a book or simply finish a few steps from your daily goal.
Finally, be sure to set up boundaries in terms of time and space. Put time limits on apps that you use too much and set up sleep mode on your phone post-dinner. Try to differentiate your workspace from your living space if possible and keep the technology away from the living one. These boundaries, while small, can make a huge difference in decreasing your screen time consistently.
If not technology, then what?
Most of us today are stuck in a dilemma of what to do if not stare at our screens while we are forced to stay at home. Technology has pushed us into a slump wherein we can no longer imagine our lives without it. But as you take your steps towards a digital detox, there are lots of new activities you can take up or hobbies you can go back to that are good for you both physically and mentally.
For instance, you can set up a garden at home. Tending to plants is therapeutic and watching them grow gives joy like no other. You can grow microgreens, herbs, or your favorite vegetables
so you never have to shop for them again! For those without a green thumb, physical activities such as swimming, home workouts, yoga, or hiking may be good options. All these activities boost metabolism and make you happier and more energetic. Yoga, in particular, can do wonders for those who are working from home as it helps with stress and eases out common problems such as back pain, shoulder pain, or neck pain.
The way forward
Studies show that with the onset of the pandemic, body image amongst the general population issues has gotten progressively worse. What does this mean in a world ridden by lockdowns and hope for vaccinations? Recently, a new term, ‘Zoom Dysmorphia,’ was coined indicating the high self-consciousness of people on Zoom calls. In other words, we can’t stop looking at ourselves on Zoom calls and feeling bad when we don’t look as good as the others in their boxes on the screen. As a result, our body image plummets, leading to negative perceptions of ourselves and increased self-doubt. Given that there is a strong link between body image and self-esteem, it’s no surprise that the increased use of technology in the COVID-19 era has contributed to a rise in emotional and mental disturbances due to falling self-esteem levels. Left unchecked, the excessive dependence on and use of technology could easily lead to a nationwide mental health crisis.
The whole point of a digital detox is to ensure your mental and physical well-being by removing the stressors caused by technology. Self-care is more important now than ever before due to the anxieties brought on by events across the world, and one of the best ways to start looking after yourself is to cut down on screen time. So don’t be afraid to take some time to completely disconnect, and reduce your dependence on technology in your everyday life.