08 Jun Why Ditching Technology Might Be Good For You
It seems as though technology invades our lives a little more every day. Even though plenty of technological advances have helped to improve our health and wellness, an argument can also be made for taking a step back from technology now and then. Although there are probably few who would like to ditch the convenience of our beloved technology for good, there are plenty of reasons why putting down our phones and turning off our screens can be good for us.
Here are four reasons why ditching technology can be good for you:
You Will Sleep Better
As an adult in today’s uber-connected world, it’s nearly a mathematical certainty that you’re tired at all times. If someone asked you about the last time you slept for eight hours with no interruptions, you’d probably laugh. While you might be tempted to blame work, family obligations or household chores for a good portion of your missed sleep, you should take a harder look at another culprit: technology.
Most of us have our smartphones and tablets within arms’ reach 24/7. In fact, the desire to be connected is so strong that some people experience a spike in anxiety when they aren’t able to access their phone, even for a short amount of time.
This desire to be constantly connected isn’t doing us any favors in the sleep department, though. Most electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions emit what’s known as blue light. Our brains perceive blue light as a signal to wake up and be alert. Using any electronic devices within two hours of attempting sleep will likely hamper your ability to get a good night’s rest.
In addition to reducing your body’s melatonin production, which helps with sleep timing and circadian rhythms, exposure to blue light close to bedtime also reduces the number of minutes your body is in REM sleep, which is the stage in which your body gets the most restorative sleep.
Reducing your usage of technology before bed will no doubt be a tough habit to adopt. However, once you see the improvement in your quality of sleep, you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of watching television or using your smartphone in bed.
You Will Be Less Distracted
How often have you found yourself trying to focus on a particular task, only to be constantly distracted by social media and other notifications on your phone or laptop? Data released by Facebook shows the average user spends about 50 minutes per day on the site. Accounting for sleep time of around eight hours, about one-sixteenth of our day is devoted to this one social media site. Most of us probably don’t think we spend much time per day on social media, but every quick check-in adds up and distracts you from other priorities.
If you can’t bring yourself to turn your phone off completely when you’re trying to focus, you should consider turning off all the notifications. A study by researchers at Florida State University suggests any notifications from your phone can be a distraction that splits your focus, even if you don’t engage with the notification when it appears.
Another option is to try an app such as SelfControl. It’s a free application that blocks your access to all distracting websites, including your email, social media sites, news sites and more. You create a blacklist of sites you don’t want to be tempted by and then set a timer. Until the preset time ends, you will be unable to access those sites, even if you restart your computer or delete the app entirely. It’s a great way to take away the endless temptation of our uninhibited access to online information.
Even as a busy person, you’re entitled your “me” time, and there’s nothing wrong with spending some of that time on your favorite social media account. Just be sure the time you spend checking in on your accounts is intentional and purposeful rather than a distraction from your other priorities.
You Will Be More Present With Your Loved Ones
You might not notice it, but technology is undoubtedly affecting your relationships and connections with others. Have you ever found yourself shushing a loved one during a television show, even one in which you aren’t all that interested? What about picking up your cell phone to check a text message in the middle of a lunch conversation with a friend or colleague? Are you listening when your kids talk about their days at school, or are you scrolling through work emails to get ahead for tomorrow while they talk?
Many of us give preferential treatment to the notifications and information presented to us digitally instead of prioritizing the people in front of us. This is called “absent presence.” While most of us notice ourselves doing it, we have difficulty stopping. In fact, 82 percent of adults believe using a cell phone in a social setting hurts the conversation, but that doesn’t stop most of us from doing it anyway. Eighty-nine percent of cellphone owners admitted to using their phones during their most recent social interaction.
Constantly placing our focus elsewhere, rather than in the present moment, is creating emotional distance between people and harming relationships. Encourage your friends and family to leave their phones elsewhere when sitting down to dinner or for a conversation. Completely removing the temptation of the device will enrich your interactions and deepen your connection. You’ll be surprised what you can learn from each other when you’re all listening.
You Will Probably Feel Happier
As social media becomes more entrenched in everyday life, mental health professionals are noticing an alarming trend. For platforms that are supposed to promote connection and encourage relationship-building, social media sites have been found to have a negative emotional effect on some people.
As the user bases for all social media platforms continue to grow, so do the number of negative experiences reported on these sites. Many of these negative experiences stem from problems such as cyberbullying, online exclusion from peer groups, trolling and even identity theft.
Aside from these types of blatantly negative experiences, social media users can also experience low self-esteem, depression and social anxiety when comparing their lives and experiences to those they see online. When everyone else’s life seems perfect through the lens of social media, it can be easy to doubt your own happiness, and difficult to remember that everyone experiences struggles not broadcast via social media.
If you find yourself constantly comparing your life to the lives of your online friends, and your kids’ accomplishments to those of other families, it might be a good time to step away from your social media accounts for a while and focus on the real-world relationships you have. It can be easy to take for granted just how great your children are doing in some areas if you’re constantly comparing them to the unrealistic social media perfection posted by other parents.
Have you ever found yourself scrolling through Facebook without even realizing you had logged on? For many of us, social media has become a default action when we pick up our devices. If you’re trying to break that habit, consider adding an extra step to the process. You can add a proxy software service to your devices which will require an additional log-in before allowing you to connect to social media. This will require you to make a conscious decision to check social media, rather than mindlessly defaulting to it. If you try this method, you might be surprised just how many times you surf those sites every day.
A social media detox is another solution that can help you get a better grasp on your real relationships and reduce the time you unintentionally waste scrolling through social networking sites. A detox will also give you time to think about how you use social media and what changes you should consider making in your digital habits. Once you get past the urge to compare your online life to that of your friends’ and discover how much more time you have, you might be surprised by how little you miss it.
No matter how much you depend on technology, stepping away from time to time can provide a much-needed respite. Disengaging from technology can lower your stress levels, and help you relax and re-engage with your loved ones. Even if it’s only one day each week, try stepping away from technology and see how much better you feel.
About the Author: Cassie is a writer and blogger who has worked in the mental health industry for many years. She now uses her experience to help people improve their mental health and overall happiness. You can find her on Twitter at @ehealth_inform.