2018 has come and gone, and all the merriment with it. Parties are done, gifts have been opened, all the food eaten. It’s time once again to take stock, reflect and make resolutions on how to be better this year. The question is, are you doing a new set of resolutions or rehashing the old ones for yet another year? What’s new in your resolutions? I’m adding one on mine. Digital Detox.
Too much digital use and dependency has been the bane for most people in recent years. In 2018, a digital minute (see graph) meant 4.3M videos watched on YouTube, 1.1M swipes on Tinder, 973K log-ins on Facebook to highlight a few. As a society, we have become so engrossed with technology that it is sometimes consuming vs merely enabling us. There are even terms to describe it – like FOMO (fear of missing out), nomophobia (fear of being without your mobile phone), zombie check (unthinking time you browse thru your phone to avoid boredom), and the like. In fact, studies have come out trying to correlate use of technology, especially social media, with the rise of psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety in recent years. Some studies have also pointed out how akin the overuse of these may likely be to other addictions and obsessions, as its use leads to dopamine increases (and thus, feelings of instant gratification, pleasure, relief). While the verdict is not completely out yet, with exhaustive research and direct correlations, there is a growing concern and the initial data seems to be supporting it. I also think we can all stand to gain from a little less use of our devices.
I am guilty as the next guy on this, likely even more so, as I am well-entrenched in this industry and I do need to create, check and test all the new fancy stuff coming out on a regular basis. How then do we do a Digital Detox?
1. Select and limit app use.
How many apps have you downloaded and currently use? Are there apps that you don’t need anymore? Do you have apps with questionable use of your time? Delete those. Do you have apps with the same functions (like photo/video editors)? Just retain the best one. Categorize your apps. Hide from your home screen or better yet, delete the rest that are unimportant.
2. Control notifications and check less.
Practically all apps have notification controls, so make use of these settings and mute accordingly. You can mute it on a general basis (the app itself) or on specific ones (certain persons or groups). Categorize your emails and unsubscribe to useless lists and feeds. The harder part is to develop the discipline of not constantly checking on emails, messages, and feeds. I think the best way to do that is to set specific times for keeping up several times in the day, and reduce those over time.
3. Set time limits.
Both Apple (Screen Time) and Android/Samsung (Digital Wellbeing) devices now have functions to limit time spent on specific or categories of apps and will show your usage trends and habits. It’s best to check the version of your device first to make sure that it is supported. It’s also best to first let it track your usage without the limits, before setting up the limits. That way, you can baseline the time you spend on your devices and on each app, and set an improvement target from there. The limits can be flexible enough to allow for holidays or weekends. Don’t worry, there is likewise an override function if you truly must extend beyond the limit you’ve set.
4. Go offline. Unplug.
This is probably the simplest way but the hardest to do. Just simply switch off, put in your bag, or go without it. It’s time to (re)discover hobbies and habits that don’t require devices. Read a book, bake, run, clean the house, or do some yardwork. Make meal times sacrosanct. Do whatever relaxes and puts a smile on your face. Don’t multi-task, just savor being in the moment. If you must, and can afford to do so, there are even digital detox holidays available.
At the end of the day, it’s really up to us to control how we use technology. I am all for its use as it is a great enabler and equalizer. Whether you do a Digital Detox or not, the idea is to manage our time better and live fuller lives. If you have other ideas on how to do it, let me know. If you’ve tried doing it and have succeeded or failed, let me know. We’re all in this journey together. Here’s wishing you a great year ahead. Happy 2019!
About this post: This column is more meant as a note to self than for the Pacific Island Times readers. I have been constantly on my devices for so long that I am trying desperately to use it more intelligently. These devices are, after all, meant to help make our lives better and not rule us. I wrote this post last Dec 11, 2018 as I was thinking of what can be an important 2019 resolution for most to have and actually do.