13 Things You Should Know About Unplugging
Concerned you might be addicted to social media? Here’s expert advice on how to unplug.
How to take a break from social media
Need a digital detox? Feeling irritable without your smartphone, losing sleep due to your tech usage and noticing an inability to sustain a real-life conversation without checking social media are signs you need a break. “If you’re stopping everything for a notification, ask yourself if you really have control over your life,” says author and Kingston, Ont.–based productivity consultant Chris Bailey.
Lower risks of depression
One 2017 University of Pittsburgh study found that heavy social media use can lead to a nine per cent increase in the risk of depression. This may be due to a psychological phenomenon called “social comparison.” When everyone else’s (heavily edited) lives seem happier than one’s own, self-esteem can nosedive.
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Your phone ruins your conversations—even when you’re not looking at it. A 2014 American study found that the mere presence of a phone was enough to divide participants’ attention and cause them to miss subtle cues from conversation partners, such as facial expressions.
Focus more deeply
A 2016 University of California study found that subjects could only focus on a single screen-based task for 40 seconds before switching to another activity. “Flipping between apps delivers a dopamine hit to your brain because you’re wired to seek out novel information,” Bailey says. “When you detox, you notice patterns that are keeping you from focusing deeply.”
Know your limits
Set solid parameters. Will you go offline for the same 24-hour period every week or try for a longer, one-off stretch? “Think back to when you felt the most rested and refreshed—say, a week-long vacation without your laptop,” Bailey says, and aim for the same time frame.
Everything in moderation
Unplugging doesn’t have to be all or nothing—start incrementally, with tech-free dinners or a no-phone portion of the day, then work up to an attainable goal.
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Out of sight, out of mind
If you can see your phone, you’ll reach for it. To stick to your objective, turn on the do-not-disturb function, then stash it out of sight.
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Give a head’s up
Should you abstain completely for more than a day, let family, friends and colleagues know that you won’t be responding to messages. This accomplishes two things: first, they won’t think you’re being rude. Second, announcing your detox helps you stick to it.
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What do you do for fun?
Once you’re tech-free, plan activities to fill the time you’d otherwise spend hunched over your device—like knitting, playing board games or visiting a bookstore.
The buddy system
Bailey recommends enlisting the help of an accountability partner—perhaps by asking them permission to go online. “It’s embarrassing to have to ask if you can check Instagram,” Bailey says. “You’ll be more likely to stick to your plan.”
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Rather than pacifying your boredom—or other negative emotions—by checking social media, keep a digital-detox journal. Instead of tapping and scrolling, write your feelings down using good old pen and paper. “Journalling is a great way to notice patterns,” Bailey says. “Keep your focus on something meaningful and your boredom will evaporate.” New research also shows that journalling could be the key to happiness.
Don’t beat yourself up
If you find yourself on your phone before your detox is scheduled to end, simply put it away and try again. Or give yourself a short daily allowance, say 10 minutes, to keep up with essential online tasks.
Next, check out 10 surprisingly easy ways to kick social media addiction.