Although smart devices are evidently essential in the world of business, we do need to create a digital balance in our lives in order to be happy and relaxed, whilst also being a success at work. But just how feasible is the ‘digital detox’ in today’s technological climate, really?
There has been talk recently of the need for a generation of tech junkies to ‘digitally detox’ being greater than ever. This summer, for the first time ever the phrase ‘digital detox’ started trending on Twitter. Reports that ‘Pokemon Go’ fanatics are walking like zombies into lampposts and other clichéd objects are a sure sign for some that the world has finally gone digitally doolally. Far from online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook bringing us social benefits via the online sphere, such platforms are now described by others as ‘anti-social media’. Ironic? Just slightly. Achieving a complete digital detox in real life? We’re betting the answer is much more complex than most care to admit.
Thanks to our smartphones, we are now constantly in touch with our social media and email accounts, and remain switched on and ready to answer an email at the ping of a push notification, no matter what time of day it is. According to Good Housekeeping Magazine, in 2014 66% of the UK population revealed a genuine fear of losing or being without their phone at any given time, with women reportedly suffering from this feeling more than men. And in always being glued to a screen it has been argued that many are now not living in the real world and have become disconnected from the present, with the potential repercussions of this including mental health problems, if not immediately then certainly in the future.
Indeed, it’s no secret these days that although regularly checking your smartphone might leave you feeling as though you are getting ahead at work, it isn’t necessarily good for your overall wellbeing. Research has also found that those who check their phone very frequently are more likely to have cognitive failures resulting in reduced awareness of their surroundings, as well as general memory failures. Being on your phone for significant time periods, especially before bedtime, can also seriously impact your sleeping patterns, leaving you feeling frequently tired and lethargic. At this point of near obsession, it is likely true that more of us are considering a digital detox outside of the working environment than ever before.
Doing away with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest is one thing, however. Eradicating digital systems and processes from your life completely, however short a period of time, is perhaps not so easy in the modern world. The mobile phone is both a communicator these days and a notepad, an ATM, a dictaphone, a digital camera, a calculator, an MP3 player, and so on. These functions do not have the same aim as social media platforms do to draw us in and check and re-check our accounts until our eyes go square. We’re not in the habit of checking our shopping lists 473 times a day, but some of us do use our mobile phones to cross off the items we need as we wander around Sainsbury’s of a Tuesday evening. We are not aware that any of us has developed an unbreakable habit of checking our online bank account seven times an hour (far from it), or that others in the team have acquired an insatiable need to work out the collective cost of the coffee run more than once on their online calculator simply because it is there.
So what do we really mean by ‘digital detox’? Is it possible that the conversation has now become bigger than the issue? Controversy around the potential for deception when it comes to paid product endorsements on platforms like Instagram – widely perceived as one of the last truly ‘social’ social media platforms – continues to rear its head in the press. Meanwhile, Twitter recently introduced new features that allow everyone to filter content and effectively control what they see and who they interact with in a bid to combat the likelihood of online trolling. So there is definitely a need to stem the level of bombardment online fans evidently feel they are currently under, but why must the only solution be an ‘all or nothing’ scenario? What about introducing a ‘digital diary’ where online access to certain sites is limited to a daily/weekly timetable and no extra time is allowed? Can’t we just go on a ‘digital diet’ instead, and pledge to clean out our most toxic apps whilst keeping the ones that we know, in so many other cases, are actually really good for us?
With apps available which monitor your smartphone usage and allows users to set limits on apps and overall daily usage, perhaps we should just consider limiting our digital usage wherever possible in order to look after our overall wellbeing instead of doing away with it altogether. We are living in the digital age after all.
By Lyanna Tsakiris, managing partner of Station Rd Marketing