We rely too much on technology. Don’t take my word for it, though – Debate.org studied this question, and more than 70% of people agree that we depend on our little electronic devices more than we really should. I mean, when was the last time you researched something in a library instead of using a search engine to find the right answer?
We’re not saying that all technology is bad and we need to turn back the clock – it’s just not going to happen. That said, if you’re like most of modern society, you may need a technology detox to help you step away from machines and treat them like the tools they are, rather than the object on which all of your self-worth depends.
Defining The Detox
Before we go any further, we need to separate our detox definition from other strategies. Our goal isn’t to completely remove computers from your life the way you might try to detox from an addictive drug. Frankly, computers are so enmeshed in our economy that you probably couldn’t avoid them even if you wanted to.
Instead, our detox meaning focuses on adjusting your mind and limiting your desire to be connected at all times. When every little beep and buzz of a phone distracts you and makes you want to immediately see what’s going on, that’s a problem. Accordingly, we define detox as “Limiting the ability of technology to influence your thoughts by exercising control of how and when you use a device”.
Types Of Detox
There are several types of technology detox you can go through, and we’re going to cover each of them in detail. A key thing to understand here is how much technology you need in your day-to-day life. For example, if your job requires you to regularly answer the phone even when you’re out of the office, you want to have it on and check each call. That’s not an addiction, that’s what you’re quite literally being paid for.
On the other hand, if you don’t need to take every call, you shouldn’t feel the need to interrupt anything else you’re doing. You do not owe every moment of your private time to other people, and you shouldn’t act like you do. Recognizing this is one of the essential steps in the detox process.
Now that we’re all on the same page let’s take a look at the types of detox.
The Social Media Detox
The social media detox is the simplest type of technology detox and involves shutting down all notifications from all social networks for a set period. Some people only do this for a day, but if you want to get the real benefits, you’ll need to do it for at least a week.
This detox is effective because social media updates are one of the biggest factors in technology addiction. Every time we see that people “Like” our content, we get a little jolt of happiness – and that’s by design. However, getting so much of our joy from social media often means we lose focus on other sources of joy in our life.
By taking a break from social media, you can readjust to the world around you and stop basing your self-worth on how great other people say your life is.
The Entertainment Detox
This is a step up from the social media detox and focuses on limiting access to all types of entertainment devices. This includes video games, television, the general Internet (including Netflix), and any use of smartphones, tablets, or computers that isn’t necessary for your daily life.
(For example, if you’re traveling to a campground, it’s completely okay to use your phone’s GPS navigation. However, you shouldn’t use it for entertainment once you arrive.)
Like the first form of detox, this method is designed to resolve a specific problem: Specifically, boredom. Frankly, smartphones are the best anti-boredom device we’ve ever created. It can play music, play movies, show the news, provide interactive games, let you contact friends, and more – all in a device that fits in your pocket.
Teens, in particular, are keenly aware of this. Whenever they’re bored for a moment, they’ll reach for their phone, so they can do something instead of standing around all day. Now, we’re not saying that being bored is a good thing, but you shouldn’t depend on a phone (or other electronic devices) as your only source of entertainment.
Stepping away from it all encourages you to reassess where you’re at and start focusing on other things you can do. Some people end up taking care of their house or doing a bit of gardening, while others relax with a good book and stop paying so much attention to the clock.
Like the social media detox, this works best if you can do it for at least a week. By that point, you’ll have started to get into the habit of doing other things with your time, and electronics won’t be quite so tempting.
The Casual Detox
If you’re not too addicted to technology yet, you may not need a full detoxification plan. That’s where the casual detox plan comes in. This method focuses on limiting your use of technology at certain times of the day but otherwise allows you to use it how and when you want.
Common limits include phone-free dinners, no technology past a certain time at night, and ignoring tech at certain times throughout the day. In some cases, this is as easy as putting the phone on a shelf outside the bedroom. When the device isn’t actually there, the temptation to reach for and check it is considerably reduced.
The casual detox works best when it’s implemented as a household rule. When everyone puts their phone away at the same time, you’re not tempted to break the detox every time someone else pulls out a device or checks their notifications. If your kids don’t have their own devices yet, consider setting some household rules as a condition of allowing them to get the device at all.
What If I Have A Severe Addiction?
It takes courage to admit you have a serious dependency on anything – and acknowledging that is the first step. Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, the director of a rehab facility in New York, explains that severe cases usually need 4 to 6 weeks of being as unplugged as possible. This sometimes – though not always – includes avoiding television.
The goal of an extreme intervention is to change the way your adrenal system and brain work, allowing them to reset to their proper, normal values. The time that was spent on computers should be replaced by healthy activities, like exercise or art. He recommends that this process be overseen by a mental health expert who specializes in addiction and digital dependency.
You can try to overcome severe addiction on your own, but it’s more likely to work if you have someone to guide you through the process.
What If I Can’t Detox?
Some people aren’t in a position to do a full detox. You may have work or family obligations that require you to stay connected – or perhaps you’re embroiled in a legal matter and need to talk to a lawyer. There are plenty of times when it’s just not appropriate to do a digital detox, but that doesn’t mean you should give up and allow technology to rule your life.
Instead, wean yourself off of as much technology as you can. Sure, you may need to answer the phone, but that doesn’t mean you also have to check social media. As long as you limit your use of technology to things that are necessary, you can get many of the benefits of the detox process.
The Phone Exemption
Up to this point, we’ve talked a lot about putting your technology away – but there’s one exemption to this. No matter how extreme your detox plan is, you should always have a home or charged cell phone somewhere nearby. It’s okay to keep your main phone off during the detox process, but you shouldn’t lock it away.
The reason for this is simple: You might need to call 911. It’s best to fix your addiction to technology as soon as possible, but that’s not as important as being able to contact firefighters, paramedics, or the police in an emergency.
If you suspect you’ll give in to the temptation if your phone is near, buy a cheap flip-phone and keep that handy instead. Every cell phone, by law, can contact 911 – even if you don’t have a plan. Basic phones are so cheap at this point that you can fit them into practically any budget, and they’re a good way to contact emergency services without the temptation of having your main phone around.
(For added help, try keeping your phone in a baggy pocket, like those in many coats. If you don’t constantly feel the phone, the temptation to start using it is significantly reduced.)