Which is more meaningful: that perfect Instagram shot of your cliff-diving experience, or the rush of freedom you felt in that moment?
Have you ever been so distracted waiting for a work email that you missed a bonding moment with your child? Would you even know if you had?
Do your hours on social media often leave you feeling jealous, inferior, or left out? Could you have been doing something else with your time that would have made you feel good instead?
We are all guilty of over-indulging in technology, and social media in particular. Intellectually, we know we are in the wrong. Photos and emails last forever, but the current moment is fleeting. We have decades to examine the evidence. We only have one “now” to actually live our lives.
Most of us understand why we need a digital detox. The trouble comes in actually completing one.
Here are seven tips to help you succeed:
1. Set reasonable limits.
While getting rid of technology cold-turkey is ideal, it just isn’t practical in the context of a modern life. Your work will fall behind. Your mother will worry. You’ll miss important information. This type of detox might actually cause more harm than good. Instead, limit your email use to a bare minimum. Be honest with yourself about what that is, and stick to it.
2. Practice mindfulness.
When you feel the urge to check Instagram, take some deep breaths and redirect. Identify the root of your feelings. What is it you really need right now? Human connection? A beautiful piece of art to appreciate? Something to keep your brain occupied? Go chase these things in the real world.
3. Make it a group effort.
A digital detox is just like a diet or exercise program. We tend to be more successful when we approach it with a partner. Commit to your detox together, and hold one another accountable. Share challenging moments and small victories. Promise yourselves a group reward at the end – but only if everyone finishes.
4. Distract yourself.
Be intentional in filling the hole in your life that is left when you remove technology. Find other things that bring you joy and inspire a sense of awe. Spend time in nature. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Paint, write, or play a musical instrument. Take a class in a subject you’ve always wanted to learn more about. Soon you won’t even miss your iPad.
5. Don’t underestimate the enemy.
Technology, and games and social media in particular, can trigger a chemical reaction in the brain that actually mirrors physical addiction. If you don’t take your detox seriously, it will get the best of you. This habit is stronger than you think. You’ll have to fight it with strength and dedication, or you will lose.
6. Set yourself up for success.
Don’t keep your phone in your pocket. Hide it in a drawer. Don’t just put it on silent – turn it off completely. Turn off your computer, too. Put it away where it’s out of sight. The farther out of your way you need to go to engage with technology, the less often you’ll be tempted to use it.
7. Reconcile with work.
Do you feel as if you are always on the clock? Most likely, you do not actually need to be. We set expectations based on our habits. If you are worried about your digital detox having an impact on your job, be upfront with your boss. Redefine expectations for your out-of-0ffice accessibility. Most likely, as long as your boss knows when and how to reach you, it will all be okay.
“The more time we spend interconnected via a myriad of devices, the less time we have left to develop true friendships in the real world,” wrote Alex Morritt.