Words by: Ryan Jackson
Remember a world in which videos were captured on camcorders, route-planning was done with an A-Z and families actually spoke to one another when they went out for dinner? These days, many seem to prefer texting to talking, and people check their mobile phones on average 200 times per day (that’s every 6.5 minutes!). Our lives seemingly revolve around mobile technology.
We are obsessed with our apps, photos and direct messages – in constant communication, expecting instant results and on-tap entertainment. We have transitioned into a new digital world that demands connectivity, efficiency, and accessibility. However, to achieve this, we have ended up sacrificing our privacy, damaging our health and forgetting the value of real-life connection.
We have allowed ourselves to become consumed by the vast wave of technology swamping our everyday lives. This has led us to a dependency on technology and an attachment never before experienced on a global scale. Mobile phones and tablets – once, expensive luxuries – have become cheaply available necessities. Anyone with the means to purchase hand-held devices can find themselves hooked – displaying the same psychological behaviours of addiction as those caused by grade-A substances.
Some are spending more time online or on social media than they do sleeping. Excessive use of social media can trigger increased loneliness, fear and jealousy, and there can be physical effects as well.
What’s more, a large majority of us use an electronic device in the last hour to bedtime. And yet, blue screen artificial light is proven to keep people alert. It suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone, which can cause sleep to be disturbed, adversely affecting people’s mood and their performance.
Energy waves and health
Any electronic device, by its very nature, involves electricity. But appliances like our mobiles, computers, Wi-Fi routers, microwaves give out unseen energy waves – electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) or radiation – which concerns some experts. Scientists disagree about their safety, but some suggest that EMFs are harmful to health. The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), says that EMFs are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” And nearly 30 studies on low-frequency EMFs suggest links with neurological and psychiatric problems, including changes in nerve function, affecting sleep and mood.
While it is not a widely accepted diagnosable condition, some people claim that electromagnetic sensitivity or hypersensitivity causes symptoms like headaches, stress, fatigue, sleep disturbances, rashes and skin burning sensations, muscular aches and pains and other health issues and psychological distress.
So, not only does the use of digital devices affect our family, social and work life, eating into precious time and affecting performance – it impacts on our health, emotionally, psychologically and physically. So, what can we do?
Top tips for a digital detox
- Count your devices – then count your blessings. Make a list of all the electronic devices you use and consider the time you spend on them. Then, make a list of all the things you love to do that don’t rely on electronic devices – whether that’s walking in the park, chatting to your family, or playing sports. This should give you an incentive to take a break from devices. It shows you how much time you will have to spare on the things that give you pleasure (and how much time you waste, ordinarily).
- Switch off. Being bombarded by messages, texts and information causes overload, and uses our mental resources. There’s a temptation to check your messages and emails if you keep your phone or device near you. So, when you get home from work, switch your phone off. Or at least, switch off access to your emails. Ideally, keep your gadgets switched off in another room. Distance is your friend. Don’t go to the dinner table with your mobile phone. When you go out for a meal with the family, leave your phone at home so you can concentrate on those you love.
- Limit your access. Give yourself a specific amount of time – an allowance – to spend on your devices or gadgets. Make a conscious effort to spend a precious slot of time on your digital device doing purposeful things, rather than it being an idle habit. Spend, say, 15 minutes of time on social media per day, and no more. Even at work, make a decision to only check your emails a couple of times per day, or at specific intervals, releasing your time to do other things.
- Keep the bedroom ‘clean’. Switch off any devices with screens at least two hours before you go to bed. Leave electronic devices outside the bedroom, so you won’t be tempted to peek. Avoiding screens will help you to avoid mental stimulation when you really should be winding down, and it avoids the depletion of melatonin, soothing yourself to sleep.
While for the vast majority of us it’s not possible to switch off completely, by trying these simple guidelines you are sure to avoid the pitfalls of digital overload, helping you enjoy a happier, healthier, more productive life.
Ryan Jackson is a success coach who runs multiple businesses in the UK and abroad. He is passionate about inspiring others to become the best versions of themselves through personal development. www.ryanjackson.org