When is it time to step away from your device?

Do any of these apply to you? 

I check my social media (SM) feeds within 15 minutes of waking up and/or right before going to sleep

I spend more than one hour per day (or post more than 10 times per day) on SM

I feel sad or angry when people don’t “like” my posts

Sometimes I am so focused on social media that I don’t hear something that someone important (e.g. child, spouse, friend, co-worker) is saying

I get very anxious when I have to go more than four hours without checking my devices 

I have checked my device or social media in a situation where it was dangerous (e.g. while driving) 

If you answered yes to two or more of these statements – it’s time for a detox.

Let’s first talk about social media “creep.” Most people start using SM for the best of intentions. Communication, connection, professional networking, entertainment. Then it becomes something we use to observe/envy the lives of others. Then a way to monitor a partner or lover.  We need more and more of it.  As soon as we wake up, and before we go to bed. (50% of people check social media within 15 minutes of waking up).  We take pictures and have experiences for the sole purpose of posting them on social media. We find ourselves documenting, rather than experiencing, life situations.   

Research out of Oxford University’s Internet Research Institute clearly shows that more is NOT better when it comes to social media and marriage. Couples that use multiple technological tools (e.g. text, IM/DM, social media, email) to communicate with one another experience LESS marital satisfaction.  Basically this study is saying that when it comes to marriage, you can’t phone it in. Other academic studies show that social media inserts the ultimate relationship killer into your head and your bed: doubt. Which, in turn, leads to jealousy and more doubt.  

So, if someone tried to take it away from you, could you stand it?

Social media has pulled too many people out of their own worlds. As a university professor I make notes of the smiling students who are on laptops (and presumably Facebook) during my lectures. Their academic performance is almost always worse than their non-connected classmates’. It’s hard to pay attention to lectures about neural networks or quantum physics while looking at a picture of your boyfriend’s abs.  

200 million photos a day are posted via Facebook. People are living for posting, rather than living for living, viewing their lives through a phone rather than being in the moment. Measuring their experiences against the posts of others, and wondering why everyone else is having so much fun. 

A digital detox is a way to get back into your real life. It’s easier than you think, and it may reorient your perspective by facilitating real—not virtual—interactions, encouraging mindfulness, deepening communication, and improving efficiency. The average American spends an average of three hours per day on social media—that’s 46 days per year. Imagine getting some of that time back.

Four simple steps for a detox:

Start slow. Mandate a one-hour period per day when no devices are allowed, and enforce it consistently. 

Don’t go it alone.  Use this hour for real face time with someone you care about—your partner, your kids, even your pet.

Ritualize it. At dinner time, pass the phone basket even before the bread basket.  Hide the devices in another room so you can talk, rather than text, during dinner.  

Go cold turkey. None of us is so important that we can’t go off the grid from time to time. Whether for a weekend or a week, try and go device-less—or at least SM-less—for at least 48 hours. 

I ask students in my health psychology seminar to meet with a friend for 60 minutes minimum, turn off all devices, and just talk. We follow up with journals and class discussion. My students consistently report they’d had no idea what was really going on in their friends’ lives, that they shared things about themselves in a different way without the distraction of a phone, that they ate more slowly and deliberately—and several had actually cried. 

A digital detox provides a simple path to clear your mind, with the aim of making your days more about life, and less about “like.”