Wellbeing

Do You Need A Digital Detox?

We are constantly connected to our digital devices, whether it be our phones, tablets or laptops. Each device lets us stay in contact with friends and family, ensures we don’t forget important events, allows us to go shopping without getting out of our PJs, and it gives us the answers to all our burning questions. But just because digital devices can make our lives easier, we sometimes forget the impact it has on us is not entirely positive, especially if we are touching our phones oh, only about 2,617 times a day. Perhaps it’s a telltale sign that we all suffer from various degrees of “problematic use” and are in need of a digital detox.

“People need a digital detox simply because humans are not machines,” says Elizabeth Hughes, a mindfulness mentor and co-creator of the Digital Detox Project. “Quite often our devices are part of us because they’re very important to our daily lives but being able to take a break from it gives you an opportunity to get back to you and what’s important to you.”

If you’re still feeling hesitant, here’s a checklist to find out if you’re in need of a digital detox.

#1 Physical wellbeing

Between all the texting and typing, it could be causing some serious harm to your physical wellbeing. An increasingly common symptom, according to Hughes, is the “tech neck”.

“If you’re preoccupied or anticipating the next notification and you can’t switch off then that’s when you know you’re going to have start putting in some guidelines.”

“If you’re starting to feel stiffness in your neck or back, it might be because you’re on autopilot and so focused with looking down on your phone or staring at your computer you forget to adjust your posture, which is the main cause of the tech neck,” she says.

Another part of the body that is feeling the physical impact are our hands. A small study found that people who overuse electronic devices are more likely to experience joint and nerve pain in their hands.

#3 Mental wellbeing 

Humans are not built for the 24/7 environment or constant connectivity – we need downtime. Although because we have such a reliance on our emails and social media for work and social life, Hughes says, there are now higher levels of mental health issues including anxiety, nomophobia (the fear of being without your phone), depression, and burnout.

Hughes suggests a real way someone can tell if they need a digital detox is if they begin to suffer withdrawal-like symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness, moodiness, or depression when their digital device happens to be out of reach.

“If you don’t notice any problems when you cut back, chances are then you have a healthy relationship with your digital device already. If you notice a level of anxiety or restlessness that’s when you should probably continue with cutting back,” she says.

#3 Attention span

Goldfish are notorious of having short attention spans, but apparently, people are now also losing concentration after just eight seconds.

“We skip from tab to tab,” says Hughes. “We don’t finish an article – let alone a book – anymore. We’re constantly skimming the top of the information we have and not getting into the depth of the content of things. As a result, we are what we practice. If we practice from moving item to item, device to device, it makes it difficult to actually deep dive and stay focus when we need to.”

#4 Relationship status

Next time you’re out to dinner with your partner, friends or family, try play the game of how long everyone can stay off their phones. If people start reaching for their phones, then it’s another reason why you or they might need a digital detox, says Hughes, because they’re participating in what is referred to as “phubbing”.

While a digital detox does not necessarily mean completely shutting yourself off from your digital devices, Hughes advises it can be for a few minutes, an hour, or an evening.

“It’s basically when you snub someone because you’re on the phone,” she says. “They will begin to feel excluded and feel like you’re not listening because there is no active listening going on when you’re looking at your phone. In addition to that, it can impact on the intimacy of the relationship.”

While a digital detox does not necessarily mean completely shutting yourself off from your digital devices, Hughes advises it can be for a few minutes, an hour, or an evening.

“It is one of those things when you ask yourself if you need to go on a diet or not. It really just depends on how you want to look after yourself and your concerns about the impact,” she says.

“If you’re preoccupied or anticipating the next notification and you can’t switch off then that’s when you know you’re going to have start putting in some guidelines.”

Hughes assures that cutting back on technology is not hard as it seems, you just need to give it a try.


Aimee Chanthadavong is a Sydney-based journalist and content producer. When she’s not writing about politics and technology, she spends her time consumed in food, travel and lifestyle stories. Find her occasional tweets at @achanthadavong.