IS IT TIME FOR A DIGITAL DETOX?
5 WAYS YOUR SMARTPHONE MIGHT BE HARMING YOUR HEALTH
Smartphones are perhaps one of the greatest technological marvels of our time — a daily staple found in the purses, pockets and hands of, oh, just about everyone.
With little more than a few taps or a quick swipe and scroll, we can communicate with loved ones (and strangers), pay bills, be entertained, shop, be woken up, search for directions, get answers, capture memories and run an entire business — anywhere, at any time.
But the great paradox of the smartphone phenomenon is that in enabling us to connect, work and live with more ease and speed than ever before, so too can they be hazardous to our health and how we experience the world around us.
Today we’re exploring some of the ways our physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing can languish in the constant presence of our phones — and how a digital detox might be the solution.
SO, WHAT’S THE DAMAGE?
There are plenty of studies, suggestions and speculation that extensive use of our phones can be attributed to anything from cancer to addiction, posture problems, eyesight problems and accidents.
Here are some of the other smartphone side effects you may not have considered:
We’re sleeping worse
For so many of us, smartphones have replaced any need for a bedside alarm clock. But having our phones in arms reach at bedtime means we’re tempted to be scrolling and swiping right up until the moment we shut our eyes.
This late night intellectual stimulation means we have little opportunity to relax our minds (and eyes) before we nod off. The exposure to our brightly lit screens is also believed to suppress melatonin (which regulates our day-night cycles) and ultimately disrupt sleep patterns.
Then of course there’s the occasional ringing, beeping and buzzing during the night — not to mention the temptation to scroll through our social media feeds the second we open our eyes in the morning.
Thanks to the convenience of “doing life from the couch” that smartphones can afford us, inactivity is on the rise because we barely have to move a muscle to make things happen.
We no longer have to walk around a supermarket to shop for groceries — we can do it all online.
Instead of heading outside for fresh air and some exercise, we opt to lie flat on our backs, scrolling mindlessly.
We’re more stressed
Our smartphones empower us to literally work anywhere in the world, at any hour — and so we do.
The round-the clock access to our inboxes, to-do lists, clients and bosses makes us prisoners to our responsibilities and means we put more pressure on ourselves to get all of the things done.
The line between work time and down time becomes blurred.
We’re more anxious
Our incessant nattering of our news feeds and current affairs websites means we’re constantly exposed to the doom and gloom of the world — which in turn leaves us in a state of panic and dread.
A quick flick through the glossy, curated and seemingly perfect lives of those we follow on Instagram and Facebook leads to a hefty case of comparisonitis and feeling ‘less than’.
Sharing our lives and businesses online, through words and images, opens us up to keyboard warriors, online trolls and other negative comments and feedback.
And finally, we become worried, uneasy or impatient when someone doesn’t immediately reply to our emails/text messages/comments.
We’re neglecting our real-life relationships
When it comes to social and interpersonal skills, smartphones are a double-edged sword. You see, although our smartphones enable us to do everything from network to find love — they often get in the way of intimacy, eye contact and quality time with those in the same room as us.
We get distracted by our phones and ignore our children. We stand next to a stranger in a queue or on public transport without uttering a word. We lay in bed with our lovers, simultaneously staring at our screens. Friends cannot meet for lunch without taking a call — or photos of their meal.
We don’t look up enough
Our constant connectedness — to our inboxes, our news feeds and our followers — means we’re more disconnected than ever to the now.
We’re so caught up in the phone in our hand that we fail to soak up what’s happening beyond those rectangular, black screens. The smells, the sights, the sounds, the people, the beauty, the life around us.
And instead of checking in with ourselves, we’re checking up on everything else.
HOW TO DO A DIGITAL DETOX
If you feel you’ve experienced any of the above side effects or are simply longing to feel a little more balanced in this wired world, it might be time for a smartphone detox.
Not only will you be amazed by how much of a positive impact this exercise has on everything from your sleep to your productivity, it will also give you a better understanding of the extent to which your phone controls your time, your mind and your life. You’ll be able to identify the number of times you get the urge to reach for your phone throughout the day.
And finally, a smartphone detox will empower you to establish some appropriate boundaries around your future usage.
Depending on your circumstances, here are some ways you can conduct a digital detox:
Go cold turkey
Switch off your phone and hide it in the cupboard for a set amount of time. Whether it’s 12, 24 or 48 hours, commit to completely avoiding your smartphone for at least a day.
Set strict time limits
If it isn’t possible for you to completely cut ties with your phone for a certain period, instead set time frames around when you can and can’t use your phone.
- Get a real alarm clock and make your bedroom a No Phone Zone
- Keep your phone out of reach (but within earshot) during work hours
- Put it a way when your children/partner/friends/colleagues are present
- Avoid using it after dark
- Avoid using it before a certain time in the morning
Delete or block offending apps or functions
If specific apps, such as social media, games, email or online shopping are a black hole, remove the temptation (either permanently or temporarily) by completely deleting the app from your phone.
Is your smartphone affecting your health? How? Are you willing to try a digital detox? Share your experience with us in the comments below!