The digital obsession has exploded over the last few years and our addiction to screens, swiping and sliding into each other’s DMs shows no sign of slowing down. With 99% of our communication seemingly reliant on gadgets, it’s become harder than ever to step away from the smartphone and remember what real life feels like. As research grows to prove that devices are harming our health, it seems a tech-free break could be essential if we’re to avoid the physical and mental strain these so-called advances of the digital age are causing us.
But escaping our gadgets could be harder than it looks. While the benefits are endless, the reality of cutting what has become a digital lifeline could prove tough. In order to detox like a pro, there are certain rules you need to follow.
- Plan ahead
There are a myriad of benefits to unplugging your life, but suddenly going off-grid takes preparation. If your email list is bursting at the seams and your social life relies on WhatsApp, it’s vital to plan ahead and forewarn all the relevant people before you vanish from their inboxes. Informing friends and colleagues of your trip to gadget rehab will mean they’ll know to give you space, and won’t be surprised when you fall silent in all the usual chats and feeds. Get deadlines met and work out your alternatives before you start, to avoid a last minute relapse.
- Set clear rules
‘No phones in bed or at the dinner table’ could be a winning place to start in terms of rediscovering your housemate’s sense of humour or the romance in your relationship which was lost behind your laptop. ‘No screens after 10pm’ is another way to help you drift off to sleep more easily, and rest more deeply when you do. ‘Catch up on emails, chats and social media between Xpm and Ypm only’ is another great trick. Sit yourself down with an hour to respond to messages, both work-based and social, and when that timer is done, your gadgets should be switched off and swapped for a book, film or other analogue treat.
- Plan your escape
It’s all well and good trying to limit your screen time, but if the addiction is real, sometimes the only way to resist is to remove temptation entirely. Leaving your phone on charge upstairs while you’re cooking or watching something is a positive step, but to make your digital detox official, head away from home to somewhere so remote you forget which network you belong to and what WiFi even means. Whether it’s a windswept cottage on a coastal hillside, a tent in the highlands or a mountain-flanked B&B, a true technology detox ought to be located as far from civilisation as you can possibly manage.
- Find alternatives
When you’re trying to cut something out of your life, it can be tough to go cold turkey. A vital thing to do is identify what buzz or kick you’re getting from your digital world and see if you can replace those short-term highs with something more satisfying. If the ‘likes’ on Facebook float your boat, you may find a similarly moreish boost after a run or brief burst of exercise. If it’s keeping in touch with friends you need, rediscovering the magic of a long, leisurely phone call could really change your perspective. You’ll be surprised how much fun you can have replacing your digital favourites with their off-screen alternates.
- Remind yourself why
When all is said and done, the momentum behind your tech hiatus needs to come from your knowledge of its benefits. When you’re craving one final bedtime scroll, remind yourself exactly what led you to your detox in the first place. Forbes magazine recently described smartphones as an equivalent of cocaine in terms of their addictive qualities. Social media is also repeatedly associated with low mood and lack of satisfaction in its users. Mental health detriments aside, your neck, back and eyes could all be suffering if you’re slumped and squinting over a computer for the best part of your days.