Updated: Jun 15, 2020
Yes we love our tech but we’ve all been there - it’s 11pm at night and you just can’t seem to stop yourself from scrolling through Instagram or checking your newsfeed during dinner. A study by Ofcom revealed that “60% of UK adults consider themselves ‘hooked’ to the internet and one-third find it difficult to disconnect”.
If you think you might be in need of a quick digital detox, here are some simple fixes you can try.
1/ Try a new app
Yes, it sounds counterproductive to use your phone in order to become less dependant on technology, but Space App is designed to help users understand their phone usage, break phone addiction and to find their phone-life balance. Downloaded and loved by millions worldwide, Space will help you to take back control of your device so you can "consciously connect". The app is essentially a personalised behaviour change programme designed to help you think about how you use your phone and how it affects your life. Freedom app also allows you to block the websites that most distract you on your smartphone and computer in order to help you focus.
2/ Turn off notifications
Turn off your push notifications. Oxford University published a paper on digital health and found that “problematic smartphone use is facilitated by characteristics of the technology including the frequency of alerts and messages. Popular apps, like the Facebook app, are designed in ways that increase the amount of time people spend on them.” You might think that you're keeping yourself informed and up-to-date by receiving constant updates on what’s happening in the world, but this practice is also distracting. If you're being interrupted by notifications two-to-three times in an hour (and in some cases more) you are never properly focused on the task at hand, and will find yourself reaching for your phone time and time again. Start your at-home digital detox by turning off as many notifications as you can live without.
3/ Try Tech-free lunch breaks
Designate one hour per day where you do not check or use your phone. Most people feel a sense of ‘nakedness’ without their smart phone. According to Nielsen's State of the Media: Social Media Report, a third of people between 18 and 24 don't even go to the bathroom without their smartphone. If you have one hour per day where you can set yourself the challenge of not checking your phone, for instance your lunch break, you can gradually wean yourself off needing it all the time; you'll find it easier to check your phone less frequently and also be able to relax without needing a phone to distract you.
4/ Buy an alarm clock
Smartphone usage can be most problematic when blue light exposure from screens interferes with our sleep patterns, (not to mention our skin). Dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams explains that "if exposed to significant amounts of blue light at night, you may find it more difficult to fall asleep", because blue light "affects the level of melatonin, our sleep hormone." Start your digital detox by making the bedroom a tech-free zone. This is pretty impossible however, when most of us use our smart phones as alarm clocks. A simple fix? Buy an alarm clock. This means you won't have your phone by the side of the bed, automatically reducing the temptation to scroll through Instagram just before you go to sleep.
5/ Switch your screen
Turn your screen from colour to grey. This might sound like an odd tip but, part of the efficacy of our phone and what makes it so addictive is the bright colours (ever played Candy Crush?) Former Design Ethicist at Google and founder of Time Well Spent, Tristan Harris, suggests turning your phone to grayscale in settings - it won’t cure an addiction to your device, but apps such as Snapchat are suddenly far less appealing in black and white than they are in colour, and this can aid digital detoxing.
6/ Buy a beautiful notebook
By jotting things down on paper instead of on your phone, you are not only reducing the amount of times you pick up your device, but you're also making it easier for yourself to remember tasks. In a paper published in April in the journal Psychological Science, it was found that students who took notes on paper were better able to answer questions on the lecture than those using a laptop because writing things down allows the brain time to process information.
7/ Adopt the one-screen rule
Introduce the 'one screen rule'. When watching TV for instance, hide your smart phone or turn it off and just focus on one gadget at a time. Our tech dependancy has reached a place where most people have two-to-three screens at a time all within easy reach. (Who hasn't found themselves watching Netflix and scrolling through Instagram at the same time?) Try to focus on just one type of tech; it might not feel like proper detoxing, but by allowing yourself to concentrate on just one you will help to ease the feelings of anxiety and restlessness that tech over-exposure can cause.