If you thought this post was about some apple cider vinegar cleanse or a special workout plan, sorry to disappoint. But if you still want to learn how to not only feel less stressed and anxious, improve your focus, and build stronger relationships – you’ve come to the right place. Diet and exercise play a huge role in physical well-being, but that’s not what’s hurting our nation most. We need a detox – a digital diet – and we need it now.
Our Electronic Devices Are Killing Us. Here’s Why…
When was the last time you went somewhere without your cell phone or smart watch – including on a walk to your kitchen, or to your laundry room, or even worse, your bathroom? We have an unhealthy cell phone habit in this country and it’s killing us, and not just in the ways you think.
It’s literally killing us
Recent studies have shown that during daylight hours across America, approximately 481,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. But it’s not just drivers who are being harmed by cell phone use. Reports by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association also estimated that 6,227 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2018. Some states have already banned texting while driving (and walking) in an attempt to deter pedestrians and drivers from using their phones, implementing fines as a means of punishment.
But we still do it.
People are dying every day and we’re still talking and texting while we drive.
Our devices are destroying our mental health
When was the last time you really took a break from your phone? I mean, turned it off, or put it on the charger on silent and walked away. Oh, and checking on your smart watch isn’t taking a break.
How many times a day do you check your email? Your Facebook? Your Twitter feed? Or do you allow push notifications to interrupt your day every time someone tags you or sends you a message? We allow our phones to be a constant source of interruption. As a mom of three, it’s not often I get to finish a thought without one of my kids interrupting. That’s just life. But I’m certainly not going to give my phone that kind of control over my focus.
Try an app like Moment (iOS) or the built-in Digital Well-being app (Android) to help you break the cycle.
Put it down. Walk away and don’t look back.
Our phones are killing our budgets
I recently abandoned my Apple Watch and iPhone 7 for a simple Google Pixel 3 and a “dumb-watch” that just tells time and doesn’t require nightly charging. Why you ask? Many reasons, but at the top of my list was the cost to upgrade to a newer Apple device: from $1099 to $1449. Oh, and that’s not all. As my Apple Watch was slowly beginning a death march to its final resting place, I also scoped out the price of a new one. Clocking in at $699, I gave it a hard “No.”
If you’re not money-saavy, or at least money attentive, you probably won’t notice the total cost of your new device because most cell service providers will allow you to pay $30 at a time with their 0% financing programs. That’s right – you’re financing a cell phone. Not only that, but let me point out that $30 is a tank of gas. $1449 – a week in a beach house filled with fun experiences with your family. $1449 is also only $1000 less than the cost of my first car.
Put it into perspective and that new device doesn’t seem as necessary as you thought – I hope.
Our devices are killing our personal relationships
When was the last time you had a real conversation with your spouse? Your parent? Your children? Recently I was on a field trip to the zoo with my 4 year-old’s preschool and noticed just how many elementary aged children have cell phones or tablets. In fact, most of the gaggle of elementary-aged children who were also visiting the zoo that day were carrying some type of device, and while they were joking and laughing, they were also very fixated on taking pictures, surfing the net, and playing with their electronic toys. I mean, who needs a real tiger when you can Google one, or download an app that lets you keep them as a pet?
Our devices are letting real experiences slip through our fingers…
Do you really spend time with your kids when you’re vacationing, visiting the zoo, or dropping them off for the first day of school, or are you stuck behind the lens of the camera on your phone? Put the phone away. Experience these things with your kids. Take one picture and then put it in your pocket. I guarantee when they look back on those memories, they won’t say, “Man, I wish Mom had taken more pictures,” but instead, “Wow, what an awesome day that was. I had such a good time.”
And we’re passing these addictive habits to our children
Think your child doesn’t notice how often you’re on your phone or your laptop? Ask them sometime. You might be surprised by the answer. On days that I have needed to work during daytime hours while my children are home with me, they beg me to put away my phone and my laptop and play with them.
I’ve seen the addiction first-hand. I recently let me 3 and 4 year-old try out an educational game on my iPad mini. What started as 10 minutes of fun, turned into a meltdown of epic proportions when the 10 minutes ended. No one, adult or child should be so attached to an inanimate object that a disconnect causes such a level of physical stress. It’s unhealthy.
It’s time to go on a digital diet.
And so, I’ve started to limit my usage as best I can. Because I freelance for a living and it’s necessary that I be somewhat available to my clients, I set specific times for checking my email and office messenger. I use Do Not Disturb mode to unplug beginning at 9PM every evening, allowing it to mute notifications. I have removed the Facebook app from my phone to limit my usage. I try to experience things with my kids, instead of living behind the camera lens, but still, I feel I’m tied to my phone. In a world of dependence, with my digital drug. I dream of returning to the days of the corded, tabletop phone that can’t accompany me everywhere I go.
What will it take for us to wake up from smart device slumber or are we doomed to live in a world of inattention for the rest of our days? I beg you – put down the devices.
Want to join our 7 day device detox?
Day 1 – Simply pay attention to how many times during the day you pick up your phone and what apps you use the most. You can track this with the Well Being (Android) or Screen Time (iOS) to really get a concise picture of how you are spending your time.
Day 2 – Cut down the number of notifications that you receive during the day by changing your phone’s settings. There are very few apps (if any) that really demand your immediate attention. I suggest turning off notifications for social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. Also suggested, email. Do you really need email updates as soon as a message hits your inbox. Simply disable notifications for non-emergent email accounts.
Day 3 – Set Do Not Disturb hours on your phone and follow them. For example, if your normal bedtime is 11pm, set a schedule to turn on Do Not Disturb on at 9pm. Use the two hours before bed to read or do some non-screen time activities. TV is also ok, because, hey not everyone likes to wind down with a book.
Day 4 – Take no pictures during the day. This includes screenshots. Live in the moment. If this happens to be the day your child learns to walk (or some other momentous occasion) limit yourself to 3 photos. Enough to get one good one.
Day 5 – Check your phone 3 times during the day. I suggest wake-up, noon, and 2 hours prior to bedtime. You can answer calls and texts during the day, if necessary, but the goal is to avoid the phone completely other than selected check-in times.
Day 6 – Check your phone 2 times during the day. Avoid the phone completely other than selected check-in times.
Day 7 – Delete your three most used apps (other than text messaging, phone, or other basic phone apps). For most folks, this will be social media apps. Need to access Facebook for a business page? Delete the Facebook app and use Pages instead.