In this day and age, technology is unavoidable. On a day-to-day basis we all use multiple screens: smartphones, computers, tablets, televisions, etc. In fact, we not only use them, but we have become dependent on them in our daily lives. In 2008, there was actually a term coined for the feeling of anxiety we experience when we forget or lose our smartphone, have no network coverage, or when our battery is running low; it’s called nomophobia.
Technology is such a large part of our lives that we actually fear being without it, even for short periods of time. We all know the common sayings “moderation is key” and “too much of anything is a bad thing” — well, technology applies to these sayings as well.
Alas, this information is hard for me to admit. I work for a digital marketing company and do social media for a living. I am obsessed with Instagram-ing pictures of my hilarious child and two crazy dogs. I even read books on my phone and keep in touch with my best friends via Marco Polo (we’re very hip *wink wink*).
YES, I love technology — so when we decided to take my 6-year-old daughter camping (let’s be honest, it was glamping — we don't do tents) I felt a little panicked. NO WiFi? Possibly no cell service? No TV to entertain a bored 6-year-old? How will we manage?
Well, long story short — we did more than manage. We had no iPads, no laptops, no TV, no WiFi, very minimal cellphone service and the best mini-vacay ever. As it turns out we all enjoyed and benefited from the digital disconnect. It forced us to communicate more, to be more present in the moment, to engage in games and activities we normally wouldn’t and — most importantly — it allowed us to mentally unwind.
Here are a few ways the digital detox affected our family:
It helped recharge my mind:
Working in marketing, we’re constantly creating content and trying to think outside the box for our clients. It’s not easy, and our brains get tired. Taking a physical step away from work and from the digital world all together allowed my brain to do some much-needed recharging. Upon our return, I was able to think more clearly, my thoughts were more organized and I was actually able to think better at work.
When we take time off and separate ourselves from the daily grind, it’s liberating. It gives us the opportunity to reset and view things from a new perspective. I did a little investigating and it turns out that doing nothing can actually make you more creative/productive (no one tell my husband that, please). It’s been said that you “get your best ideas in the shower” and that makes sense considering that taking a shower is one of the only times we actually turn off in this ever-evolving digital world. Multitasking is the norm now, and almost always one of those tasks involves a smartphone in front of our faces.
We communicated more (and on a deeper level):
At our house, the TV is constantly on, laptops are always running and cellphones/tablets are always within arm's reach. When we talk and communicate, it’s usually while watching a show on TV, checking an email or texting. Unplugging allowed us to really focus on one another and what we were saying. My husband was not distracted by football when I was trying to start a conversation, my child was not ignoring me while playing games on her iPad, and I was not responding to text messages while someone was trying to tell me a story. We talked and bonded more deeply than we do on a regular basis.
My child’s behavior improved:
We have a 6-year-old little girl. She’s a wonderful child, but she can also be impatient, quick to anger and she knows how to throw a fit from time to time. Her behavior was impeccable while we were unplugged. Not a single fit, my friends — and not even complaining of boredom. She reveled in having her Mom and Dad’s full attention, and the joy of us being hands-on with her 100% of the time — hiking, playing games or just talking and hanging out with each other and the local cat, Big Brother.
It improved our health:
Okay, this benefit we didn’t exactly see because it’s something that accumulates over time, but there’s plenty of research to back it up (thanks, Google). One thing I did notice was that our digital detox helped my stress levels — and we all know stress is a killer.
On top of being a stress reliever, unplugging for a while can also:
- Help you sleep better
- Help protect your mental health
- Help you concentrate better and work more effectively on any given task
- Improve your vision
- Relieve neck strain
- Improve cognitive functioning
- Improve your social skills
Overuse of technology has plenty of effects on our health, both mentally and physically. Digital is a very large part of our present and future, which means we need to learn how to use it and consume it with some sort of moderation in order to live healthier, happier lives.
I encourage you all to create more digital-free space in your life to see how it impacts your family interaction and recharges your mind. Take walks without your cellphone. Instead of "Taco Tuesday," put away all electronics and have "Technology-Free Tuesday" (don't worry, you can still have tacos!). Or just unplug for an hour and have a glass of wine with your spouse (or play a family game).
There are many things you can do to lessen technology use and live a more balanced, fulfilling life — even if you work in digital marketing!