There is wide concern nowadays that people are wasting valuable time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. and research seems to support that notion. A study out of the University of Michigan links social media to narcissism. Harvard Medical School has linked extended use of smartphones to insomnia, and in the UK studies have linked high rates of technology use to borderline autism in kids, making them less empathetic.
According to the paper “Internet Addiction in Psychotherapy” (Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D., 2015) there are six criteria of Internet addiction:
- Salience: When the use of the Internet becomes the more important activity in an individual’s life. For example, even when the person is “off line” they are thinking about the next time they will be on line.
- Mood modification: The positive subjective experiences which people report as a consequence of engaging in Internet use and which can be seen as a coping strategy for them (i.e. they experience an arousing “buzz” or a “high,” or they experience a tranquilizing feeling of “escape” or “numbing”).
- Tolerance: The process by which users increase the level of Internet use they partake in, to achieve its mood-modification effects.
- Withdrawal symptoms: The unpleasant feeling-states and/or physical effects which occur when Internet use is discontinued or suddenly reduced. Withdrawal symptoms might include shakiness, moodiness, or irritability.
- Conflict: The various conflicts emerging as a result of the person’s excessive Internet use: interpersonal conflict; conflicts with other activities (e.g., job, social life, other interests).
- Relapse: The tendency for repeated reversals to, or recurrence of, prior behavioral patterns.
I’m no psychiatrist, but I don’t believe that abstinence is the answer to resolving this problem. This is where digital detox comes in as a valid solution. There are great benefits to being connected these days, and let’s face it, if you’re not online, you’re really missing out on so many opportunities. That being said, digital detox is a temporary situation with long term benefits. Digital detox is refraining from using a smartphone, a tablet or a computer for a specified period of time in order to counter the addictive nature of online use. Many say digital detox is good for our mental health, it creates opportunities for better human relationships in the physical world, it increases our productivity, improves posture and lowers stress and anxiety levels.
But how does digital detox benefit those of us who are well balanced in their use of the Internet? Well, getting off the grid for a while can provide you with a different perspective on life, and that is quite valuable. Whenever we do the same thing, over and over again, or stick to one environment or source of feedback and affirmation, we become stuck in that world view. Alternatively, changing perspectives helps create the conditions for new life experiences and more opportunities to get inspired and grow.
Start with a 24-hour detox. You’ll notice the extra time on your hands and re-learn how to entertain yourself without the Internet. You will also challenge your dependencies and give yourself a new world view that may open the door to new horizons.