Digital Detox

Is Social Media ruining our minds?

That’s the question that Assisted Living Today posed in an infographic, an excerpt of which is posted below:

In my Sexuality and Social Media class, my students and I discussed whether we, as a society and as individuals, are becoming too connected to our smart phones and computers. Specifically, we evaluated the findings contained in the infographic in light of the following:

  • How much do we prioritize our time online?
  • Can we disconnect long enough to take a tech-free day?
  • How often do we check our phones when we are out with others? What are the rules of etiquette in the age of social media?
  • Who sleeps next to their phones? Is this healthy?

Over the past two years, I’ve learned how to keep my laptop closed at least one day a week. I've found it wise to limit how wired I am to give my brain a chance to rest. I must admit, though, that I would have had a harder time doing that if I wasn't able to easily respond to emails via my BlackBerry.

As I socialize with others, I’ve also started letting each person or group be my guide as to whether I keep my phone in my hand or on the table. If my friends have their phones out of sight, then I’ll try to do the same. If I need to keep my phone out for any reason, I’ll let the person know why. Do I succeed in being 100% present with others at all times? Of course not. But, I’ve gotten better about it, and I’ve learned to acknowledge to myself and my friends when I’m feeling distracted and why that is so.

Although I’ve limited my connectivity, I’ve still found it difficult not to check my phone several times a night. I’m a light sleeper, and I don’t have a clock in my bedroom. So, my telephone became my clock. As I'd roll over throughout the night, I’d click on my phone to check the time. If there was a notification of an email, I'd open my email folder. If a text message came in late at night, I’d read and respond to it, and then I’d look to see if I had any emails. If I was up for longer than three minutes, I’d go on Twitter and respond to a few Tweets. It was a slippery digital slope!

I realized that as light a sleeper as I am, it wasn’t healthy to be spending so much time on my phone in the middle of the night. How much was my sleep disrupted by this? How urgent were any of these matters? And, what message was I sending to The Man about how I prioritize him and my time online?

On Friday night, I started my digital detoxification. My BlackBerry remained in the living room, while I was in the bedroom. Over the past several days, life has gone on without me checking my emails and responding to friends and colleagues at 2:00am. (Note sarcasm.) I’ve also noticed that I fall back asleep faster since I’m not up for as long. I have a feeling that this digital detox is here to stay!

How connected are you? Are there regular times when you consciously choose to be tech-free? Do you have any rules about cell phones when you are out with others or asleep?

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