Digital Detox: Two Ways to Handle Technology and Not Let it Handle You

Nowadays, you can’t read a newspaper without seeing another piece of research about how our lives are being impacted by technology and that we need to learn how to manage it better.

We know technology is essential to human advancement, and is vital to us being better custodians of this planet. However, humanity is easily distracted; therefore, our relationship with technology needs to be relearned.

Every time we hear a ping or feel a vibration we get a little release of dopamine in our brains, making resistance to looking at our devices futile.

Is it any wonder that we check our smartphones on average 221 times a day?

Recent research found that 80 percent of millennials look at their phones upon waking; this addiction is a strong one.

As a result, our cognitive processing has become shallower and we have become so distracted that we play directly into the hands of the autopilot. Digital devices are modern-day tranquilizers. They instill a trance-like state almost immediately as they are anchors for our subconscious to take over. We must learn how to manage the machines, rather than let the machines manage us.

Two Effective Ways to Go on a Digital Detox

You have two choices, depending on how far you want to take this; one is easy, the other slightly more demanding. The easy way to manage a digital detox is to turn off all notifications on all of your devices, which includes your email, calendar, and apps – everything. Your challenge then is to look at your devices only when the time is right and you decide consciously to do so.

Bob Geldof recently put a ban on morning emails at his super successful TV company, Ten Alps. Every email received gets a message saying that the sender’s query will be dealt with after 2 p.m. “I employ these people to have ideas,” he says. “What’s the point in having a company of secretaries?”

Work out which part of your day is most useful for you to connect to the digital world and limit yourself to just those moments.

For those wanting to go deeper into the detox, I would challenge you to not use anything digital at all for four days and see how you feel as a result. That will be a proper de-digification.

By managing the way you interact with the digital world you will take control of your attention and focus, and therefore find it much easier to stay conscious and awake. Remember that those devices put you on autopilot, and that you should use them only when necessary.

When I did the full disconnect I found that the first couple of days felt quite taxing, but it soon became extremely liberating. My phone once broke on a business trip and I had no way of getting reconnected for over a week. It turned out to be a fabulous break and taught me that technology is our friend when we consciously use it, and not when it uses us.


Adapted from Wake Up! A Handbook to Living in the Here and Now: 54 Playful Strategies to Help You Snap Out of Autopilot by Chris Baréz-Brown

Chris Baréz-Brown is a best-selling author and the founder of Upping Your Elvis, a consultancy that helps businesses like Nike, Unilever, and Sony to embed a dynamic creative culture within their company ethos. He has a monthly column in GQ and lives in Dorset, England.

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