South Africans desperately need a digital detox. According to startling report by Datareportal, we spent on average 10 hours and 46 minutes a day glued to screens in 2022, which is significantly higher than the global average of 6 hours 58 minutes. No other nation spends as much time on their devices.

While technology improves our modern lives in many ways, the hyper-connectedness our devices enable has made us hyper-distracted.

Spending too much time connected to your devices can also negatively affect your health, relationships, productivity, and happiness.

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Tech’s dopamine loop

Digital addiction is a growing problem. It is so prevalent in modern society that we have a name for it – nomophobia, (or NO MObile PHOne phoBIA) the obsessive use of a mobile device driven by a fear of missing out.

Research findings released in 2021 showed that the “overall prevalence of Internet addiction was 36.7%, and that of moderate and severe addiction was 33.9% and 2.8%, according to the IAT”, with most people accessing the internet via their smartphone.

This addictive behaviour stems from the dopamine response we get from social media and engagement on devices, which triggers our pleasure system, producing a rush of this powerful feel-good hormone.

Once the initial rush subsidies, we look for additional stimulation by scrolling on to like the next image or post, perpetuating the so-called dopamine loop.

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Different ways to detox

In response, digital detoxing has emerged as a growing health trend globally. A digital detox doesn’t necessarily mean complete abstinence. Often, merely limiting the time you spend on your devices each day for short periods is sufficient.

According to data shared by Statista, a 2022 survey of internet users in the US showed that 32% took a break from their digital devices for at least two hours a day. Approximately a quarter of respondents reported engaging in a digital detox on a weekly basis, while 8% did a monthly digital detox.

5 Tips for a Successful Digital Detox:

  1. Remove common triggers: Turn off non-essential notifications, limit social media usage, and prioritise device time for value-adding tasks and activities.
  2. Set boundaries: Establish specific device or screen-free times. This could be a few hours each day or an entire day over weekends when you don’t have work commitments.
  3. Inform your contacts: Let important people like friends, family or partners know about your intention to take an extended break from digital devices to manage expectations.
  4. Create tech-free zones: Create designated areas at home where digital devices are off-limits, like at the table during meals or the living room to foster more meaningful interactions.
  5. Engage in analog activities: Rediscover analog activities that promote face-to-face interactions, such as board games, puzzles, outdoor sports, or socialising.

Digital Detox Benefits

Whether you detox for an hour, an entire day, or longer over the December holiday, you’ll experience numerous benefits.

  1. You’ll be more present: Removing the distraction of a screen or device means you’ll be more present in the moment, able to appreciate the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and emotions and, most importantly, the people around us.
  2. You’ll reduce stress and anxiety: Taking a break from digital distractions like constant notifications, emails, and social media updates may help reduce digital anxiety and help you enjoy a more relaxed holiday.
  3. You’ll become more productive: While technology can boost productivity, devices are generally distractions as we constantly check notifications or mindlessly scroll through our social media feeds. A digital detox gives you more time to engage in tasks that add value.
  4. You’ll sleep better: The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt our circadian rhythms, making it difficult to unwind and fall asleep. A digital detox before bedtime can positively impact sleep quality, ensuring that we wake up refreshed and recharged.
  5. You’ll feel happier: Social media generally portrays ‘perfect’ snapshots of our lives that can distort reality and create dissatisfaction with our circumstances. Taking a break can stop the constant comparison from stealing your joy.

As we forge our ways into another year, consider all the ways a digital detox could benefit your health and overall happiness. By disconnecting, even for just a few hours a day, we can enjoy a more fulfilling and memorable holiday season.