July 24, 2016

My day of (Screen) Detox—Finding a Digital Balance.

Public Domain Pictures

With the advent of Pokemon GO, last week’s news cycle, the upcoming political turmoil, and long summer days, it seemed like last weekend offered a great opportunity to have a screen-free day.

Perhaps part of the reason that the battery on my iPad and iPhone runs out so quickly is not a flaw in the device or poor device management, but maybe the fact that they are overused.

Without much trepidation or forethought, a weekend day combined with a long list of things to do and some potential relaxation on the horizon, the day of detox dawned.

It turns out that there were some snags. What to do about exercise videos on the computer? Going to the library instead of downloading a new book on the iPad is easy, but what about the library card number stored on the phone? Answering calls from dear friends seemed okay as it didn’t require actually looking at the screen. After working through those and other challenges, it was refreshing, if not surprising to discover that the world, social media and even my closest friends survived without constant online ministering and attention.

My biggest takeaway is that we are way more connected to our technological life than we realize; whether it is going to the library, exercising, reading a book or finding a recipe, there are actually many ways that technology does, in fact, make life easier. And yet, we need breaks and we need time to connect with others.

It occurs to me that maybe it is less about detoxing and more about balancing.

Here are some tips for finding a balance that works for you.

Step 1: If there is an actual person with you who is talking or sharing with you, pay attention to them, not your screen.

But even this is layered and complex. Working on a project together, scheduling a meeting, discussing a topic or researching a particular question or subject all require screen time. Perhaps the issue is transparency. When engaging with someone and simultaneously using a screen, communicate this and incorporate them in the process, if appropriate.

Step 2: Step away from the screen one or two hours before going to sleep.

Increasingly, there is consensus that sleeping seven to nine hours per night is optimal for our health. Moreover, the light from screens interferes with our ability to sleep well, as does the content of what is delivered on the screen. All too often, late night email exchanges causes stress and anxiety and requires people to chase down rabbit holes on issues that can be resolved with a five minute discussion in the morning.

Step 3: Similarly, don’t look at the screen for the first hour after waking.

This is a much more pleasant way to start the day, and offers the opportunity to interact with people and pets in the household. Take a little time to get centered and balanced before starting your day and create a pleasant morning ritual.

Step 4: Pay attention to how you feel.

If you are slumped over the computer, yawning, craving chocolate or caffeine, or stuck on a particular problem, take that as a sign that it is time to step away, stretch, get some fresh air, exercise, drink some water or interact with another human being. Not only will you return to your computer refreshed and re-energized, but more often than not, you will quickly solve the problem that you were struggling with or finish the assignment with alacrity.

Step 5: Recognize that we are actually not designed to sit in front of the computer for six, eight, ten or more hours at a time.

Whether it is every 25 minutes, 52 minutes or some other amount of time that feels ideal, be mindful of taking regular breaks. The break can be five minutes, but always take it. It’s not only better for the body, but it is also better for productivity and creativity.

Step 6: Use common sense.

Recognize when it is inappropriate or unsafe to be using a device and step away. Similarly, when a device can help you quickly and easily, by googling a recipe substitution, using Waze for directions, or researching a strange rash on the dog, use it.

All in all, I’m glad I took a day to detox but, in the future, I think I will shift my approach to be more mindful of my screen use. I am re-embracing the joy of reading actual books, but still plan on bringing my e-reader on vacation. I am increasingly leaving my phone at home or in the car when I go out and stepping away from the computer when on the phone or playing with my poodle.

Checking my email, Facebook, texts and other mobile applications is a habit and, as with many other things in life, if I can shift it from being a habit to being something about which I am mindful, I know that my days will be richer, fuller and healthier.

How about you? What do you think?


Author: Wendy Kuhn

Apprentice Editor: Czarina Morgan; Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Public Domain Pictures

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