Before we even complete that first yawn in the morning most of us are already staring into our smartphone screen doing a status check. It could be checking our emails or seeing the latest crazy cat video on Facebook or Snapchatting away before we even brush our teeth. Somehow, before we even start our day, our gadgets consume most of our waking hours. Most of us will immediately reach for our smartphone as soon as we hear the ‘ding’ of a message. Even at work, our minds are continuously multi-tasking, shifting between the task at hand and the distractions of our favorite gadget. While technology and the great digitization are supposed to help us become more productive, we give them complete control over our lives. As we get increasingly drawn into the world behind the screen, most of us find ourselves frazzled, less productive and even unhappy (yes, studies link heavy use of social media to depression!)
We simply cannot look away from the fact that digital addiction is just as real as any other form of addiction that gives a dopamine hit. So if you find yourself increasingly addicted to your digital devices to plan your life or to even keep your entertained, a digital detox might be in order. In this blog, we take a look at why a digital detox is a good idea.
The Physical and Mental Impact
Excessive use of devices not only have a behavioral impact but also affects our bodies in a negative way. For starters, increased device use impacts our sleep quality as the glow of the devices delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. It’s not just our sleep that gets affected by heavy device use. Some other physical implications of heavy gadget dependence are listed below:
- Excessive use of electronic devices can lead to brain restructuring and lead to shrinkage of gray matter, inhibit white matter’s ability to communicate, impede cognitive performance, and increase cravings.
- It increases the risk of Metabolic Syndrome which is a combination of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. The effects of sitting down still in one place for a long time cannot be undone easily. A study published in the Journal of Public Health establishes the relationship between screen time and metabolic syndrome in young adults and shows that “screen time was associated with an increased likelihood of MetS in a dose-dependent manner independent of physical activity.”
- Excessive texting or playing games on tabs or smartphone can lead to soreness and cramping in the fingers, forearms, and wrists and lead to pinched nerves and muscle strain.
- Staring at your smartphone increases the stress on your cervical spine and lead to its early wear and tear, spinal degeneration and might need surgical intervention. On an average, people spend over two to four hours hunched over their smartphones. That amounts to approximately 1400 hours of excessive stress on your spine as every inch that your head tilts forward, the pressure on the spine increases. Pinched nerves, herniated disks, and change in the natural curve of the neck are just some of the effects of increased screen time.
- The blue light from digital devices not only keeps us awake but also damages the retina. One study published by the Review of Optometry shows that increased exposure to Blue-Violet Light causes the maximum death of retinal cells.
- Increased screen time leads to attention problems, increased anxiety, and depression, especially amongst children and young adults.
The Behavioral Impact
The need to ensure a charged phone so that you don’t miss a late night text might seem harmless enough but sends your stress levels through the roof. Our bodies need some solitude to recharge and by constantly staying glued to our devices we are depriving our bodies of that much-needed alone time. A report by Digital Trends reveals, “People in the U.S. check their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts a staggering 17 times a day, meaning at least once every waking hour, if not more”. It further goes on to reveal that the average American spends more than 4.7 hours a day on the phone…that’s approximately one-third of our awake time!
When people get overly attached to their devices, they start spending more time on their devices and less on human face-to-face interactions. The need to spend time with their devices supersedes attending to essential activates such as work or even spending time with family. When checking emails or messages becomes a greater priority than completing a task at hand, when your smartphone relationship begins to have a productivity impact and when you see yourself getting defensive about your digital behavior and find yourself checking your smartphone every hour or feel the need to respond to or at least check your email as soon as it hits the inbox, it might be time to consider a digital detox.
Going in for a digital detox has many advantages…the foremost ones being giving an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and the real world, increasing your capacity to self-govern and giving yourself the opportunity to actually do things that can make your happy and fulfilled. Taking a break from the digital world helps you reclaim your time, your health and your life. It’s a break that’s worth exploring.