My Day of Virtual Detox

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After spending a considerable amount of time choosing the “right” day to experiment with technology detoxing, I finally mustered up enough courage to go 24 hours without my phone, laptop, tablet and television. It was strange to start off the day without my usual routine of scrolling through all my social media accounts the second I woke up. My morning continued while I had to fight off the urge to check my phone to catch up on what I had been missing out on since the previous night. To avoid temptation, I motivated myself to get out of the house and take advantage of the beautiful weather. This experiment prompted me to think about how much time we have wasted since becoming chained to our technology. According to a 2010 University of Maryland study, students who participated in the study 24 hours, Unplugged described their social media fast as feeling “in withdrawal, frantically craving, very anxious, extremely antsy, miserable, jittery, crazy,” which are the same terms used to describe alcohol and drug addictions (ICMPA, 2010). Indeed, these terms used to describe a day without technology are alarming when they are also used to describe drug abuse. Here are some thoughts I have gathered on my day “offline”:

  • Connecting and Reconnecting

Unplugging it a great way to connect or reconnect with people, nature and even your pets. The habit of constantly keeping our phones in our hands has unfortunately caused us to forget basic mannerisms such as maintaining eye contact during a conversation. Don’t be the dinner date who is constantly distracted by text messages, or the friend that feels the need to “Snapchat” every moment spent together. While we are scrolling on our phones, we do not realize that our actions suggest to the people around us that they are not as interesting as our newsfeed. Indeed, genuine connections are not built on a one-sided conversation. Live in the moment! Just because you don’t document your hike on social media does not mean that you are any less active than those who do. Leaving our phones at home gives us more opportunities to connect with the world around us and notice the little things that have been changing while our eyes are glued to the screen.

  • FOMO- Fear of Missing Out

Have you ever felt worse after scrolling through your Instagram feed because you saw your friend vacationing in Cuba while you are sitting at home? A lot of us can certainly identify with this fear of missing out. Although this new era of technology allows us to see gorgeous images of beaches we may never visit, it also leaves us a feeling of dissatisfaction because we may actually never get to visit that white sand beach. Researchers at University of Missouri found that “Facebook postings about things such as expensive vacations, new houses or cars, or happy relationships can evoke feelings of envy among surveillance users” (E. C. Tandoc, P. Ferrucci, M. Duffy, 2015). Furthermore, Duffy, a researcher, states that “if [Facebook] is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect (E. C. Tandoc, P. Ferrucci, M. Duffy, 2015). Jealousy is never a good feeling and constant obsession with checking out our friends’ trip to an exotic, tropical island will only foster more of this ugly feeling. Instead, practice gratitude for the things we get to do or have; and don’t forget that everybody follows their own pace and path to reaching their goals.

  • Time Management

Unplugging is a great time to read that book you bought last month but have been putting it off since season 3 of Orange is the New Black came out. Surely, Netflix is entertaining, however, does it provide the same new insights into life as after reading an amazing book? Say we escape from stress and distract ourselves by going on our phones for 15 minutes at a time, several times a day, now imagine that 15 minutes adding up to 2 hours every day. That time could be used to do something more productive. Moreover, constant media distractions and multitasking have long term consequences including shorter attention span and an inability to filter out irrelevant information. Ophir, Nass, and Wagner’s study on “Cognitive Control in media multitaskers” reveal that “heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability” (Ophir, Nass, and Wagner, 2009). When we go online and mindlessly scroll through masses of content, we do not gain any valuable information (unless you consider seeing your friend’s steak dinner important). Managing our time better will only lessen our stress from the work piling up due to fickle attention spans.

 

If you are a true technology addict, it may be difficult to go cold turkey, but small goals can be achievable:
  • Put your phone away or set your phone to “do not disturb” (if you have an iPhone) when you are spending time with others
  • Don’t answer work emails on weekends
  • Fight the urge to take photos of everything you see when you are outdoors- relax and sit back to enjoy the scenery and your eyes will thank you later
  • Turn off your phone when you are studying- an excellent way to not get distracted and increase your attention span
  • Technology is a convenient way to keep in touch, but we have long forgotten the excitement we get when we receive a hand written letter or postcard. So go ahead, send that postcard to your grandparents, relatives, or friend!

 

 

[Interviewer]  Joy Chang is a student at McGill University studying psychology and sociology. Currently, she is interning at The British Columbia Psychological Association and is writing for the Piece of Mind blog. She is interested in how art and psychological health are intertwined.


 

References

Merrill Study: College Students Unable to Disconnect. (2010, April 22). Retrieved July 23, 2015, from http://www.merrill.umd.edu/deadline/index.php/2010/04/22/merrill-study-college-students-unable-to-disconnect/

Ophir, E., Nass, C., & Wagner, A. (2009). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 15583-15587. Retrieved July 23, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2747164/

University of Missouri-Columbia. (2015, February 3). If Facebook use causes envy, depression could follow. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150203123415.htm

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