Health Q&A

Digital Detox: Time To Unplug So You Can Recharge

May 2, 2018

Too much digital?

The Internet has revolutionised the workplace and our personal environment. Gone are the days of faxes and posted mail. We can now rely on real time information provided by email and project management software. Social media platforms keep us connected to our friends and manage our social calendars. Chatbots answer our customer service queries and instant messaging saves so much time. But is there such a thing as digital overload?

Are we connected to the world but disconnected from ourselves?

It’s official: nomophobia is a psychological condition characterised by the irrational fear of being unable to use your mobile or a digital device.

Picture the scene: you sit down for dinner with the family and decide to send a quick text, but are alerted to your friend’s posting about her recent trip to Mauritius. The next time you look up it’s been an hour and you’ve scrolled through her entire holiday album. The problem is that no one noticed because your partner was responding to work emails and the kids were fighting over YouTube clips on the tablet.

The Internet is now 25 years old and the smartphone is a decade young. According to Google, it’s estimated that users uploaded 24 million selfies in 2017 and it’s estimated that the average millennial will upload 25,000 during their lifetime.  Are we overdoing the digital? It’s definitely time-consuming. The majority of users access multiple screens every day, processing information from different sources and it’s estimated that South Africans spend an average of eight hours online per day.

Digital downfall – when we fail technology

The Internet and all the devices we rely upon are not to blame. It’s when we fail to manage our time and usage properly that it becomes a problem. This shows in our inability to process or filter information properly, communicate effectively or notice when it affects our health.

Are you hooked on technology?
  • Overstimulation Think of the constant, always-on nature of our devices. We have phones, laptops, tablets and watches constantly beeping notifications at us. We expect to process information from a dozen different sources instantly without applying any dedicated concentration to one particular task at a time. We work ourselves like machines.

    Overstimulation can result in a poor or shallow level of concentration where we tend to switch between tasks or lose our momentum due to constant interruptions. Have you ever been guilty of diverting a colleague’s attention with an ‘urgent’ email or texting while watching a movie and then losing track of the plot?

  • Erosion of boundaries

    If you’re constantly responding to emails and texts it begins to blur the boundaries of good manners and realistic expectations. So it stands to reason that if you’re answering the boss’s work messages after hours then he or she will assume that it’s perfectly acceptable to keeping sending them. This can create increased stress and anxiety in your life. Everyone deserves a downtime break.

  • Dangerous practises Technology has also given rise to taking phone calls or texting while driving (or operating heavy equipment) and we’ve all heard the urban horror stories about fatal selfies! In addition to which, our need to constantly fuel our digital appetites has some people compromising on sleep by staying up late to stay online for longer.
  • Diversion from real activities On occasion, our obsession with technology can divert our attention from other pressing activities like investing in quality family time, running errands, doing housework or spending real time with friends.
Digital detox tips: how to stay connected without the burnout

The good news is that you don’t have to completely disconnect from the Internet to get your life back on track. You just need to be more disciplined in your approach to managing your digital time.

Here are some easy tips to follow:

  • Start by doing an audit of all the time you spend online in one day. Experts agree that if it’s in excess of 18 hours per day, then you should try to cut back.
  • Set boundaries with an “unreachable” time slot. For instance, you could tell friends that you’re not available during work hours and you could tell colleagues that you’re not available after 5pm. This is not an unreasonable request and will serve to reduce the stress that you’re under to constantly get back to people in real time.
  • Commit to a no-go area for digital devices like while you’re driving or a specific spot like your bedroom or the dinner table. This will allow you time to relax and you might actually find yourself looking forward to your non-digital locations.
  • Don’t take your digital devices to bed with you. Leave them in a designated space or alternatively switch them off so that you’re not tempted to stay online later than you should. Similarly, don’t reach for your devices first thing in the morning. Rather concentrate on getting ready and having a healthy breakfast without any distractions.
  • Don’t use digital devices as an always-on entertainment option for your children. Just like there were set rules for the TV back in the old days, so should there be some ground rules for kids’ digital devices and times. Portion out approved access to particular devices and restrict usage when and where necessary.
  • Try the old fashioned approach and stretch your legs by going to speak with a colleague instead of just sending them a text or an email. This will give you a bit of exercise and time away from your desk.
  • Set times for certain duties like attending to emails. Resolve to check and respond to emails first thing in the morning or in the afternoon, but not constantly throughout the day as this diverts your attention and can become unproductive.
  • Practise a mini-detox during your lunch break and dedicate this time to engaging with colleagues, relaxing while eating your lunch or by running errands.
  • Commit to spending quality time with the family or your social circles. Play a board game, have a real conversation with your children during dinner or take a walk with friends to catch up on their lives.
  • If possible, have the odd day where you do not engage in any digital activity at all. This can be one day per week or month. Try going for a hike or to the beach or on a camping trip. A natural environment will help with the digital detox.

The Internet is an invaluable tool that connects us to news, information and entertainment. The rule of thumb is that it should make our lives easier not harder so be mindful of your digital engagement. At Topmed we encourage a healthy lifestyle so get in touch with us today to sign up for cover for you and your family.

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