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Posts Tagged ‘digital detoxing’

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Last month our colleague Dr. Mark Light wrote an article about digital minimalism and encouraged us to take a 30-day digital decluttering challenge. Like Mark, I made the decision to delete the Facebook app from my phone this past year, and I have to say I don’t miss it! I was finding that for me, the stress and frustration I experience when I see political banter and misinformation circulating social media outweighs the joy of sharing personal photos, experiences, and updates on a regular basis. I now check Facebook about once a week from a browser to make sure I’m not missing any major life updates from close friends and family, but it is no longer part of my daily life. In doing so, I have found a way to personally practice digital minimalism – “a philosophy of technology use” from Cal Newport “in which you focus your online time on a small number of activities that strongly support the things that you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

While this approach has worked for me, I recognize that not everyone may be ready to take such drastic actions as deleting social media apps from devices, even if they feel the urge to do some digital detoxing. In fact, some experts acknowledge that it may not be realistic to completely “break up” with social media. Chris Stedman, author of IRL: Finding realness, meaning and belonging in our digital lives, says “if we’re going to have a healthier relationship with social media, we’ve got to stop thinking of it as a mindless activity and start thinking of it as a meaningful one with the potential to reveal certain truths about ourselves.”

gardening gloves weeding a garden

Doing regular self-reflection and decluttering, much like a gardener would regularly check on and weed their garden space, can help you enjoy and find meaning in your social media use. For example, rather than endlessly scrolling through a social media feed, you might choose to stop regularly and assess what emotions are evoked by the content you’re reading. Does your social media use bring you joy and amusement, or does it leave you feeling anxious, discouraged, or frustrated? If the latter, you may do some decluttering by choosing to unfollow certain people or accounts. Taking regular breaks from social media can also be helpful. These are not permanent break-ups, but more like sabbaticals or vacations to disconnect and see life from a different perspective.

Whether you choose to become a digital minimalist or to simply do some digital decluttering, I encourage you to consider how digital detoxing could benefit you today.

Sources:

Aina, M. (2021). Glued to your phone? Here’s how to rethink your relationship with social media. NPR Life Kit. https://www.npr.org/2021/07/16/1016854764/social-media-balance-relationship-boundaries

Newport, C. (2019). Digital minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world. https://www.calnewport.com/books/digital-minimalism/

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County.

Reviewed by Lisa Barlage, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

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a computer with a reload icon that reads "reset"

With a year of COVID behind us, we found that not being able to have face to face meetings and events forced us into more digital means of connecting. Youth experienced online school, employees worked from home, and even our entertainment and socialization involved technology – and all of this technology in our homes caused a digital fatigue. While there was somewhat of a reprieve in the summer, our smartphones still kept us digitally connected.

In September 2020, I discovered a book by Cal Newport, a Computer Science Faculty member at Georgetown University, called Digital Minimalism. He defines digital minimalism as “a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of activities that strongly support the things that you value, and then happily miss out on everything else”. Ironically, even though he teaches Computer Science, he has never been on social media. The other interesting thing I found was that he authored this book pre-Covid. Even though I enjoy technology and like to stay up on the latest digital gadgets, I was already feeling the fatigue of being attached to my phone 24/7. I decided to take his 30-day digital decluttering challenge consisting of three steps:

  1. Define your technology rules and limit your technology use
  2. Take a 30-day break from a specific technology, i.e., social media
  3. Reintroduce technology slowly

I decided to take a 30 day break from Facebook, which for those who know me is a challenging thing to do, as I have been on Facebook for 15 years. On October 4, I deleted the app off my devices and told my co-workers I would not be on Facebook for a month. While not intentional, my 30-day experiment ended the day after the Presidential election, so the biggest joy that I had was not having to see all the political banter. Overall, I only felt I missed two things while I was not on Facebook for 30 days: my daughter’s senior pictures that the photographer posted, and her senior night volleyball pictures, which my wife showed me on her phone. Prior to this experiment I was spending two hours a day on Facebook, or 1/12 of my day, or essentially one month of each year!

Cal Newport shares other ways of continuing in digital minimalism after completing the initial 30-day challenge, such as deleting apps on your phone that you frequent the most. I never put the Facebook app back on my phone after last November, and I now have to log in to a web browser to see Facebook. This extra step makes it harder to connect and I do not log on too frequently. Ultimately, most of us remember a time when we survived without being connected 24/7. I encourage you to set your own 30-day digital minimalism challenge, and then keep exploring ways to reduce your technology use and “happily miss out on everything else”.

Sources:

Alevizou, G. (2020). Virtual schooling, Covid-gogy and digital fatigue. Parenting for a Digital Future. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/parenting4digitalfuture/2020/04/08/virtual-schooling-covid-gogy/

Newport, C. (2019). Digital minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world. https://www.calnewport.com/books/digital-minimalism/

Written by Mark D. Light, Ph.D., Leader, Ohio 4-H STEM & Digital Engagement Innovations

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, MPH, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

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A person using a laptop with a smart phone within reach

If there has ever been a time when we have realized the communication opportunities and flexibility that online platforms can provide, it is now. Many of us who are working from home are now using technology in ways we would never have dreamed of just a few short weeks ago. For some, telehealth visits have replaced traveling to see doctors and specialists in their offices. And many have been keeping in touch with friends and family using mobile phones or tablets. 

But even with all the productivity while staying at home, you have most likely experienced technology overload as well. Each year during the first week of May, the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood promotes “Screen Free Week.” In response to our current situation, this year they have instead changed to “Screen Free Saturdays,” encouraging families to rest their eyes and minds from the screens of televisions, tablets, laptops and phones. 

Some call it unplugging. Some refer to it as digital detoxing. Whatever the name, it is a purposeful act of refraining from or limiting our exposure to digital technology for a specified time. Dr. Scott Becker is the director of the Michigan State University Counseling Center and specializes in researching the impact of digital technology on mental health. His research has found that the overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, stress, identity and relationships.

The overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, identity, intimacy and empathy.

Here are some practical ways to be intentional and mindful about your use of electronic devices this season:

  • Take some time to reflect on the ways you use technology in your daily life. What kinds of habits do you have now that you didn’t three months ago?
  • If you are on a screen often during your workday, follow the 20-20-20 rule from the American Optometric Association. Every 20 minutes look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent eye strain. You could set a timer or there are apps like “Break Time” on Google Chrome that will pop up on your screen to remind you take a break. 
  • When you are indoors, mimic natural outdoor conditions by exposing yourself to bright light during the day, dim light in the evening and darkness at night. Our bodies are designed to respond to light in this way. Studies show you could improve your sleep by staying off electronic devices close to bedtime. And check out the settings on your phone or tablet to automatically adjust to a warmer color at night.
  • Increase productivity and focus by managing your phone use and email response. While at work, turn off email notifications and establish certain times to check and respond to email rather than immediately responding to that urgent ding. Designate times to check your phone, especially while working on important projects.
  • Set times in the evening or on the weekend that you could designate as screen-free, choosing to spend time outside, with family, or engaged in a hobby instead of a screen.

Here’s wishing you Digital Wellness this coming week!

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood https://commercialfreechildhood.org/

Stateside Podcast (2017). Just about everyone is addicted to screens. What can we do about it? https://www.michiganradio.org/post/just-about-everyone-addicted-screens-what-can-we-do-about-it

American Optometric Association (2016) Save your vision month: Counsel patients about digital eye strain in the workplace. https://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/save-your-vision-month-counsel-patients-about-digital-eye-strain-in-the-workplace-

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2012). Light from self-luminous tablet computers can affect evening melatonin, delaying sleep. https://news.rpi.edu/luwakkey/3074

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The Live Healthy Live Well team is getting ready to kick off the Time Out 4 Health Wellness Challenge. Individuals who sign up for this challenge will receive email messages two times a week with encouraging tips and strategies to find time for health and wellness this fall. While taking a break from technology is not directly addressed through the challenge, doing so may free up time to improve mental, physical and emotional health.

Technology has many positive uses, but the overconsumption of technology can have a negative effect on health. In a webinar titled This is Your Brain Online: The Impact of Digital Technology on Mental Health, Dr. Scott Becker, director of the Michigan State University Counseling Center, discusses how the overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, stress, identity and relationships. Additionally, research suggests a direct association between screen time and obesity in both children and adults.

capture In a world where technology is everywhere all the time, deeply ingrained in all aspects of culture and society, how does one reduce technology consumption? A good place to begin is by taking time to consider how you use technology in your daily life. What aspects of technology could you minimize or live without? Maybe there are times in the evening or on the weekend that you could designate as screen-free, choosing to spend time outside, with family, or engaged in a hobby instead of a screen. In the workplace, try turning off email notifications or designating set times to check your phone, especially while working on important projects, to increase productivity and focus. Be deliberate about how and when you use technology to reap its benefits without suffering health consequences.

You may also want to try “digital detoxing”, the act of refraining from electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers for a specified period of time. Join others in a digital detox by pledging to participate in Screen Free Week, held annually in May, or the National Day of Unplugging, held on the first Friday in March. In the meantime, unplug and spend time outdoors, and don’t let any vacation time that you may have go to waste. Take time to refresh and recharge!

Author: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Sources:

Michigan State University Extension (2015). This is Your Brain Online: The Impact of Digital Technology on Mental Health. https://mediaspace.msu.edu/media/t/1_77c64xn4

USDA Nutrition Evidence Library (2010). What is the relationship between screen time and body weight? http://www.nel.gov/conclusion.cfm?conclusion_statement_id=250317&full_review=true

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