The Ericksons

The Benefits of Doing a Digital Detox


Doing a Digital Detox

During the month of January, I participated in an experiment for a fellow author who is looking at digital minimalism. I had done a lot of research on the subject, myself. As someone who spends countless hours on my laptop, I have often wondered how productive that time has been. Is there a better way to do what I do? And, most importantly, is all of that connectedness actually doing me more harm than good? After doing my research, I came to the conclusion that doing a digital detox might be the perfect way to start out the year.

The thought of doing a digital detox for an entire month wasn’t easy to swallow, considering I’m a writer and blogger. I will be writing a series of posts explaining why I chose to go on a technology fast, how I did it, and my thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of embarking on such an extreme digital diet of sorts. I will also be offering you some ideas of how you can explore your digital life in a healthy way. Let’s begin by taking a look at why doing a digital detox is worth considering.

Too much of a good thing

In the past 30 years, technology has advanced at breakneck speed. Nearly every American has a cell phone and a personal computer or laptop. These tools give us a constant connectedness that has its benefits, but also its downsides.

Technology addiction

The brain responds to what is known as “reward stimulus.” This natural reward that kicks in when stimulated (often by things like food, sex, and drugs). For an addict, just remembering or looking at these things is enough to kick in the reward stimulus effect, triggering the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that alerts the brain that something exciting is about to happen. This causes the brain to crave that reward. This craving increases the pleasure the person experiences when he receives the “reward.” It also increases the level of disappointment the person experiences when the expectation is unfulfilled. Over time the brain requires more and more of the stimuli just to feel “okay”. This is known as tolerance. In order to get the reward stimuli at the desired level, the person will make poor decisions and take greater risks.

Information overload

“Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.” (Gross1)

Every minute2:Digital Overload

571 new websites are created

287,000 Tweets are sent out on Twitter

Amazon sells $83,000 in product

17,000 Walmart transactions happen

People click the “like” button 1.8 million times on Facebook.

41,000 posts are posted on Facebook every SECOND!

And, information overload isn’t limited to the internet. Go to any ice cream parlor or coffee shop and you will likely get what is known as “choice paralysis.” This inability to choose between too many options is the reason the guy in front of you suddenly draws a blank when the server asks for his order (That never happens to you, right?). If it’s far simpler to choose between chocolate and vanilla than to choose from 36 different flavors, imagine the effect information overload had on us as we surf the web.

Using our time

We only have 24 hours in any given day. Yet, Americans are now spending an average of 10 hours a day3 on TV, computer, smartphones, etc. Often by the end of a day, we wonder where the time went. We owe it to ourselves to make the best use of the time we are given so that later, we don’t look back and regret the hours we frittered away staring at our screens. Perhaps doing a digital detox is a good way to begin.

Relationships

By evaluating your technology use and putting it in a healthy perspective, you can even improve your relationships. How often have you seen people out to dinner, more engaged with their smartphone than with their spouse or kids? 82% of adults and 29% of 18-29 year-olds according to Common Sense Media4 said they felt that cell phone use had harmed conversations with family and friends while socializing. Acceptable social norms have changed significantly in the past decade. Interruptions and distractions have become normalized in the current generation of young adults. Even though Social Media can be helpful in connecting you to friends and family who you don’t get to see on a regular basis, it can also clog up your life with some negative byproducts.

care coordination“Friends” who aren’t really friends.

There’s an inherent danger with sharing personal details about your life with people who are essentially, strangers. Young people have picked up on this behavior and no longer have their antennae up, alert for potential predators, while online. This isn’t just about sexual predators. Cyber-bullying is an all too common occurrence. Young people take their cues from parents and other adults. Set an example of responsibility and caution with technology.

Our Sleep Cycle and Overall Health

According to the National Sleep Foundation5, there are 3 ways electronics negatively affect your sleep:

  • They Suppress Melatonin

Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake rhythms. The blue light from your phone and other electronics reduces melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends making your bedroom gadget-free.

  • They Keep your Brain Awake

Even though watching TV or reading on your tablet might seem like a good way to unwind, gadgets actually makes it harder.

  • They Wake You Up

The late-night chimes, dings, of your phone (and buzzes of a vibrating phone on silent), wake up people who sleep with a cell in their bedrooms.

Creativity and Critical Thinking

An article from the Guardian6 sums up what has is happening in our society. Emojis and predetermined functions such as likes and shares make interaction “efficient” so we can get on with the business of consuming more content.

“Although user-generated content has been growing exponentially in the past decade, much of it is noise and the result is that valuable and trustworthy information is now harder to find.”

My Personal Reasons for Doing a Digital Detox

As a writer, I find this especially concerning. I want to have opinions and thoughts that are my own, to feel creative—truly creative. What if my relationships with my family and friends could be more meaningful? Maybe by doing a digital detox, I could sleep better at night and make clearer decisions every day.

I feel anxiety about what life will look like without being “plugged in.” This makes me think I have a measure of technology addiction in my life. It will be interesting to see what problems I encounter, being unable to search the internet on a whim. I guess this means I won’t be able to shop on Amazon for a month, either.

I’m also looking forward to some anticipated benefits of doing a digital detox. I will get more reading and writing done, distraction-free. By the way, for this experiment, I will be using my word processing software on my laptop. After all, let’s not get crazy here.

Next time…

Next time I will be sharing some things to consider as you set your own personal guidelines for your technology use.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Footnotes

1 The Managing of Organizations, Bertram Gross,  Professor of Political Science at Hunter College

2 Daily Maile.com July 30, 2013, Victoria Wollaston, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2381188/Revealed-happens-just-ONE-minute-internet-216-000-photos-posted-278-000-Tweets-1-8m-Facebook-likes.html

3 CNN: Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, and growing; July 29, 2016; Jacqueline Howard; http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/health/americans-screen-time-nielsen/index.html

4 Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance; Common Sense Media P. 27

5 https://sleep.org/articles/ways-technology-affects-sleep/

6 The Guardian, June 18, 2015; Is technology making us more creative? Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2015/jun/18/technology-creative-creativity-web-content

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