Is it Time for a Digital Detox?

Technology has and will continue to change the way that we communicate with one another. In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2016 to understand the correlation between technology use, stress, and health, 74 percent of respondents endorsed owning a smartphone while 55 percent owned a tablet. With the emergence of social media in the last decade along with instant messaging and email, we are connected now more than ever.

However, while technology has assisted in our communication and connectedness, research has shown an alarming correlation among technology use, mental health, and stress levels. More than 80 percent of respondents endorse constantly checking their electronic devices multiple times during the day. Multiple studies have linked constant checking of devices to higher levels of sleep deprivation, stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, memory loss, and lack of concentration.

As a result, many people are caught in a conundrum of how to balance it all – staying in contact with others despite potentially harmful effects. Outlined below are some ways to reduce your reliance on technology:

  • Consider setting a time limit to using technology. The average time spent on the phone on social media can be up to 3 hours a day for some users. Limiting the amount of time to 30 minutes to one hour a day on social media has shown to reduce depressive and anxious symptoms. As for emails and instant messaging applications, try to schedule time where you will check for new messages. Once you have answered them, continue working on other important matters.
  • As parents, modeling appropriate behavior when using technology. If your children are watching you checking your phone from the minute you wake up in the morning until you go to bed, more than likely they will mimic the same behaviors. Implementing rules such as not allowing phones while eating or in the bedrooms can be beneficial for children to learn about the limitations of technology use. Restricting the use of electronic devices in the bedroom can help improve sleep cycles, which can also help with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • Encourage social interactions among friends and family. When interacting with others, it is important to provide them with our undivided attention (i.e., situations include and are not limited to meal times, vacations, family time, date night). This additionally helps limits the amount of time we are on our electronic devices, which for the most part, would encourage isolation.
  • Unplug from technology all together. Although this may sound ideal for some, it is sometimes necessary. The time away from our devices allows us to focus on the current situation and relationships in front of us. Examples include and are not limited to going for a hike, going to the beach, or going on a “staycation,” leave your electronic devices behind and allow yourself to stay in the present.

If you have already tried the above and you are still experiencing low mood, heightened anxiety, or sleep issues, seek help from a psychologist or medical professional. A medical professional can rule out any physical issues while a psychologist can work with you in exploring your thoughts and feelings surrounding this issue.

About The Author

Kaili Chen

Dr. Kaili Chen is originally from Singapore and has lived in various countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, China, and the United States. She has worked in the field of psychology for six years in several non-profit organizations and community mental health centers providing therapy to individuals, conducting group therapy sessions, and psycho-educational seminars. Read more about Kaili here.