How much digitally dependent are you?
Smartphones are wonderful but they can be very deceitful. Whilst they appear to be your best ally, they can have serious detrimental effects on your minds and general well-being.
You may have heard that multitasking is no tasking. It is now acknowledged by scientists that the mind cannot do two things simultaneously. So multitasking in reality means switching from one task to another; but this is done in such a way that it gives the illusion you can do more than one thing at the same time. Constant multitasking makes you feel busy and gives you an aura of importance but the price you pay is very high. When this modality becomes a habit, you may be in trouble. And smartphones are not helping.
Research suggests that being distracted from a task (like, say, working) for just a minute can disrupt your short-term memory, causing you to forget whatever ideas or intentions you had in mind. Sounds familiar? How many times you were in the middle of something just to get distracted by an irresistible impulse to check your phone and completely forgot what you were doing.
So where do you stand in the scale of digital addiction? Let’s look at some stats just to give you an idea of what is going on:
- Young people spend an average of six or more hours a day on their smartphones
- 50 percent of teens feel addicted to smartphones
- The average American user turns their smartphone on 46 times per day, and only sometimes they are doing something useful (i.e. looking up a restaurant on Google Maps)
And regardless of stats, just look around: everyone is glued to their little rectangular boxes, as if their lives depend on them. People walk like zombies as if hypnotised by their phones; or eat at restaurants with their phone at arm length, ready to check the latest notification as soon as possible. What used to be a bizarre Japanese habit, has become the norm in our everyday life.
There are of course many positive aspects attached to smartphones. They can improve relationships and communication making us feel more connected with our families. And they can be extremely helpful in emergency cases. What we need to remember is that technology is just a tool. It can offer tremendous advantages but it requires us to be vigilant and alert in the way we use it, to avoid being used by it.
So what to do? Are there any practical steps we can take to protect ourselves from digital dependency? I personally found the following very useful.
- Turn off notifications
- Check emails and social media 3 times a day if possible
- Leave the phone at home when going for a walk or spend time in nature
- Never go to the gym with the phone
- Do not look at the phone whilst eating, alone or in company
- Do not check the phone 1 hour before going to sleep and 1 hour after waking up
Only recently I have come to realise how much digitally addicted I had become. I would check my phone at any opportunity, especially to fill gaps like waiting or queuing; these are indeed precious moments that can be used to practise awareness. Just by reducing my smartphone exposure, I have discovered that stress, irritation and the feeling of being overwhelmed by events have decreased significantly whilst relaxation, focus and energy level have increased.
Digital addiction is dangerous and difficult to detect, there is always a good excuse to check your phone. I made a conscious commitment to watch my compulsion to check the phone and transform that impulse into an opportunity to be present and meditate.
I love having all the information available in the world at my fingertips but it is easy to get completely lost into it. Use technology and enjoy it, but become conscious and do not be used it.