I am writing this after not seeing a screen for seven days. SEVEN DAYS! My longest digital detox this yet!
A digital detox is not a new idea, individuals and companies have been doing it for years now, but it is an underrated idea. Here is the concept: you must go a predetermined and specific amount of time without ANY electronics.
When we really look at what screen time is doing, a digital detox seems a bit more tempting.
1. Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)
CVS is a diagnosable eye condition. It is caused by screen time. Essentially what is happening is your eyes are performing the exact same task over and over again. And while you are rarely required to focus further away than a few feet, you do have to change focus often (from your keyboard to the screen, to papers to your coffee etc.). There is a term, repetitive strain injury. We usually use this to describe something like tennis elbow, but it is an adequate term for CVS. This repetitive motion is far from ideal.
2. Poor Quality Sleep
Blue Screen of Death
Well not the real blue screen of death, but close to it. All screen emit a small amount of blue light. This light is hardly noticeable, however it has a dramatic affect on our sleep cycle.
The blue light messes up our circadian rhythm. There is a small gland in the brain called the pineal gland. The pineal gland has a bunch of different functions, but the one most talked about is it produces a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is what regulates are waking and sleep cycles.
As it turns out, the stimulus that tells the pineal gland to start producing melatonin is the color of light coming in the eye, and in the afternoon and evening the color is much warmer in tone. The golden light of evening stimulates the gland and the sleep cycle begins. However, the blue light of screen inhibits this process simulating the light that is more common in the morning, and the wake cycle begins.
The Alarm That is Always on
Keeping your cell phone beside your bed is a bad idea for a lot of reason (EMF being by far the biggest), but when it comes to directly affecting your sleep it is the potential alerts at 2am. If you can sleep through a tornado you may be exempt from this, emphasis on the may be exempt. The pings, buzzes and dings of a cell phone has an insidious way of grabbing your attention, even from the most beautiful slumber.
You Don’t go to Sleep
The last way electronics affect your sleep is that you just don’t do it. Whether it is checking Facebook, watching the 100th episode of Family Guy, or getting sucked into one more game of COD, electronics are keeping your mind engaged when you should be winding down.
3. Sitting is the New Smoking
I am sure you have heard this many times by now. But, it is very true. The effects of sitting for long periods of time are horrific. Everything from digestive problems, to a higher likelihood of depression. Unless you have a standing desk, you are most likely sitting.
Try and sit up straight, use all the good ergonomics your HR person told you about. Now hold it……. Tired? Most people will be. Even the best posture while sitting is still not great because we get tired so quickly and fall back into a slouched, unhealthy posture. We are just not made to sit!
4. A Shift in Perspective
The world of memes, twitter feeds and the sharing every moment of your life is a lot of fun sure, but it changes the way we think. When we were in Thailand, I lost count of how many times I heard “let me try that picture again, I need a new profile pic.” So much time is spent thinking of something clever to post, or trying to get the perfect shot that we miss the moment all together.
When the sun is setting, sometimes it’s nice to just watch it go down. It is when we do this, when we really experience a moment that we start to see things differently.
A day without electronics is all it takes to start seeing the world differently. To see that life goes on even when you don’t get a new post up. That although your likes and comments are appreciated, they aren’t required immediately (or at least they shouldn’t be).
5. Your Memory Will Thank You
Me: “What is the name of that actor who was in that movie about that guy who had that dog?”
Everyone within earshot: “I’ll Google it.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I am as much of a fan of Lord Google as everyone else, but there is in fact some benefit to come from using our brain instead of Google’s. I am fully aware that there is some pretty compelling evidence saying access to Google at all times is actually improving our memory, but the memory that is improved is not the be all and end all.
When we Google something we trigger memories, and we exercise or spatial memory (we remember we read something, and remember where to find it again). This is awesome stuff, but what happens when you are trying to remember the name of your best friends Grandma?
When we set the phone down and actually pay attention to what people are saying, devoid of the distractions of technology, we retain what is said to us better. While this may not seem important to you, it is most certainly important to the people you are talking with.
Time for a Digital Detox?
I spend a huge portion of my working life staring at screens, and because of that I do everything I can to mitigate the harmful effects. The best thing you can do is a digital detox. 24hours is a good place to start. I prefer no less than 3 days, 7 days is a bit of a stretch though. This is enough time for my brain to re-orientate to the real world again.
That being said, even with my pretty relaxed schedule it is not practical for me to be in digital detox mode all the time so there are a few other things I do to help.
- Get some computer reading glasses. I wear mine almost all the time now. They even help with fluorescent lights!
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule to help reduce CVS. Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.
- Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed. Read a book, or chat with your partner.
- Try and resist the temptation to Google something whenever you can.