Digital Detox: My own meandering experience
If you look at my profile you will see I’m pretty immersed into technology. As a developer it’s hard not to be.
You’re almost required to follow certain blogs on the web, people on social media and so forth.
And it does not get much better when it comes to learning new things. A lot of learning happens on the web nowadays.
Not only am I a developer, I’m also trying to build up a new company.
Building a business, especially in the online sector, requires you to connect to all the different social media.
The pressure to be everywhere is enormous.
Since it had been a while that I took a decent vacation it was time for a break. A break involving a plane, a beach, the sea, lot’s of sun and no technology whatsoever.
So my girlfriend and I booked a flight to FuerteVentura.
Now, I have to admit that it was a scary thought to leave behind my smartphone. This was not an issue with the laptop or my tablet. To “substitute” these I could easily bring a book.
But the smartphone? All I could think of was how to contact people if we were in trouble. How could we keep a minimum of contact? Like letting family know we arrived safely.
My girlfriend had the perfect solution. Out of nowhere she pulled out an old Nokia and a prepaid card. Problem solved.
Funny side note: My smartphone needs to charge every day, the Nokia survived 7 days on one charge and was still at 50%.
I knew that the digital detox would have an effect on me. I was not aware though that I would be both emotional/mental and physical.
Let’s go over the changes that I noticed. We will start with the physical changes and then move on the to emotional/mental ones.
The first improvement I noticed on a physical level was the pain in my neck and back. The longer I was away from my smartphone the less pain I experienced.
Even though at first I did not realise why, it made a lot of sense really fast.
When we stare at our smartphones we tend to put our neck in an unnatural angle. This will cause the neck to be strained. It is called the Anterior Head Syndrome, also known as Texting Neck.
Which is a very appropriate synonym come to think about it.
The same syndrome is caused when we are wrongly seated while working on a computer.
The following infographic will show you the strain you put on your neck depending on how you look at your smartphone. As you can see, the weight shift on the neck increases dramatically as we slouch deeper and deeper.
But pain relief was not the only physical benefit. Another huge benefit was that my entry levels rose through the roof.
Now, it goes without saying that technology can make us lazy. There are literally hundreds of apps designed to make out lives easier. The side effect is that is can also make us unhealthy and lazy.
Without a way to use these apps I had to go out and buy my groceries by walking to the shop. I had to move to talk to people and so forth. I was much more active.
Contrary to belief moving more does not make us more tired. It actually gives us much more energy.
The world is also a very pretty place outside, so get out more and enjoy the scenery.
Mental and emotional effects
There are numerous other posts about the mental advantages of doing a digital detox. But it would still like to go a little deeper into the ones that I noticed.
It took some days for the mental benefits to take effect. I believe this is closely related to the effects of habits.
The first thing I noticed was the relaxation. Everything felt slower and more in control.
My phone or tablet was not buzzing, beeping or vibrating every few minutes. This made me feel less like I was on the edge. The anxiety died down.
Like they say, too much of anything is bad for you and the same goes for technology.
Research shows a positive correlation between immoderate technology use and anxiety. Anxiety is tied to the dopamine release we get when we receive stimulants like social media notifications or text messages. This in turn encourages pleasure-seeking or validation-seeking behavior, which creates an environment for mental distress. Research has also shown that utilising digital devices for avoidance purposes is another important factor of technology-related anxiety and depression.
Then there was off course the FOMO. Which is also known as Fear Of Missing Out.
Personally I think that a lot of people in this day and age have trouble with this. We tend to check out social media as often as possible. Afraid we are going to miss that one post, article or video we really needed to see.
Resulting in us bringing our smartphones everywhere, from meetings to bathrooms to even our beds.
Now as time passed on I felt less and less concerned about what I was missing. Instead I became more focused on what was happening now, in the moment, in the present.
This time, meaning the moment, is much more important than we think. Everything happens there.
When I got back and checked my socials I noticed that most of the items you missed weren’t that important as you would think.
Because of FOMO, like I wrote above, we also bring our smartphones anywhere with us. Resulting in a group of people with each just looking at out phones instead of connecting with each other.
This is something that we miss out on in our daily lives. When we get on a metro, we are busy listening to music or looking at our phones that we fail to notice everything around us. We don’t even talk to anyone around us.
When you don’t have a smartphone however you are forced to talk more to the people around you. Resulting in better connections and deep meaning full talks.
Now the last benefit is a pretty important one, sleep. When I go to sleep it usually takes a while to actually fall asleep.
This is because my mind keeps racing. One thought after the other.
A year ago I learned a little trick however to distract my mind into a much more calm state. When I breathe in I count the seconds as I breath in, the same when I breath out. This occupies my mind with something simple to keep it from racing.
However, a few days into my digital detox I did not even had to start counting. I immediately fell asleep without even thinking about a single thing.
Not only that but I also noticed that the quality of my sleep improved immensely. When I woke up I was no longer groggy and my notorious morning moods were gone.
So how did the digital detox help with sleep? Well it turns out the artificial light causes you to feel more awake than your really are, which can potentially interfere with your sleep quality. It is recommended that you give yourself at least two hours to technology free time before bedtime. This is to avoid the light from interfering with your sleep pattern.
It is clear that a digital detox gave me a lot of benefits. Now that I’m back home the smartphone is also back. However I’m trying to use it less than before.
I hope you will give the digital detox a try as well! If you do, feel free to let me know how it went.