Why you should consider a period of digital detox

The degree of technology addiction is dangerously approaching levels of diffusion and intensity never reached before. The consequences of such phenomenon are many and very serious: someone even talked about "digital dementia". If this sounds undoubtedly excessive, it should not take us away from the seriousness of the problem. What can be done to reverse this dangerous route?

 

According to a research conducted by Dscout, an average smartphone user touches their device about 2617 times a day. This data, together with the peak of 5400 touches per day for "extreme users", is sufficient to give the measure of the level of pervasiveness in our lives of the instrument of access to the digital world par excellence.

How have we got to such a situation?

Without going full luddite and smash our devices, we must first consider that smartphones and their applications are designed to generate dependency. In case it ever was, today this notion is certainly not a secret. Yet, despite the growing awareness on these issues, the effects are not diminishing.

 

Just like the slot machines, the smartphone's rapid feedback mechanism should be placed at the base of everything: every time we click on the screen, we immediately receive a stimulus in response. This is the simplest most effective of all the gratification systems, which have been enriched over time by the notification functions. Hearing the notification sound coming from a smartphone makes the brain release dopamine, in response to the fact our brain has associated that sound to some kind of reward. In the long run, notification sounds can become even more rewarding than the actual feedback, a clear symptom of addiction development.

In addition to the rapid response systems, one cannot fail to mention the role of social networks. The opportunity to quantify, through likes and other impressions, dimensions that were previously difficult to quantify, such as their popularity and the degree of appreciation on the part of other people, has contributed significantly to the transformation of smartphones into a possible source of dependence. And we all know the rest: social networks have allowed everyone to enjoy content in a free and unlimited - potentially endless - way, providing us with a valid justification to never take our eyes off the screen.

Warning signs

From loss of short-term memory and reduction of attention skills to depression, especially within teenagers, the consequences of digital addiction are becoming increasingly numerous and worrisome. Therefore, being able to recognize all the various warning signs is now more than ever essential.

 

In general, scholars point to two major warning signs: not being able to quantify the time spent in the digital world and the realization that technology is affecting your daily routine, making it worse. More specifically, it is advisable to start worrying when you realize that your relationship with technology is interfering with the regularity of sleep, undermining your ability to complete work, reducing the time you spend with your family and friends and it is proving a cause of unpleasant attitudes and behavior towards other people. Have you ever taken the phone out of your pocket for no particular reason, but to run the Instagram feed in the middle of a conversation? As you may guess, that is not exactly elegance at its finest.

Detox from digital

Not surprisingly, in recent years we’ve begun to hear more and more about digital detox, or detoxification from digital devices. This means evenings and holidays are organized especially to leave devices and the digital world behind, at least for some time. These types of experiences have ceased to be a nostalgic extravaganza and are now enjoying a growing popularity.

 

In any case, it is often sufficient to even slightly change your daily habits to ward off the worst effects of technology. First of all, it is very useful to set some rules: avoiding checking the phone as a first activity after waking up is a great start, but you can for example also prevent yourself from using your smartphone while spending time with your family or friends, or periodically schedule tech-free days. Planning daily activities in detail is another excellent habit that allows you to have a clear vision of what you are sacrificing when you turn to technology without really needing it.

 

Sometimes, the digital world can be a real escape from unpleasant thoughts or situations that generate anxiety. In these cases, it is essential to go back to the origin of the problem in order to deal with it, rather than dodge it online in an attempt to avoid it.

For those who feel they are not determined enough or do not possess the necessary strength to be able to change things by themselves, there are workshops and programs that help to complete digital detox. These are activities that, through self-help, reflection and relaxation exercises, lead people to reconsider their relationship with the digital world, allowing them to reach a healthier lifestyle.

 

Far from pointing the finger at the use of technology per se, those who promote these initiatives are driven by the desire to let people rediscover the value of self-reflection and its ability to reduce stress while improving the quality of relationships – the real and more authentic ones, coming from the "real world".

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