Digital Detox: What is it and why do you need it

Najooka Javier
Thursday, 20 August 2020

With the rise of a digital era, our lives are dependent on these devices. Also, not to forget the ever-evolving games and apps which ensure that we feel crippled without our phone. Applications, assistants, artificial intelligence - all bought together, today's phones can easily outsmart a human.  

The coronavirus lockdown has gotten us all hooked to our screens more than ever. The 'black mirror', as termed by the creator of famous British television series Charlie Brooker, is something we cannot imagine living without. Be it our mobile phones, laptops, tabs or television sets - a black mirror can be found everywhere.  

With the rise of a digital era, our lives are dependent on these devices. Also, not to forget the ever-evolving games and apps which ensure that we feel crippled without our phone. Applications, assistants, artificial intelligence - all bought together, today's phones can easily outsmart a human.  

The dependency on these smart gadgets has increased by manifolds during the last few months. Especially during the lockdown, with having little to do at home, the screen has become our greatest companion and yet the deadliest enemy. With films, music, social media all hidden behind one single screen; it is hard to stay away from it for long.  

According to App Annie, a global mobile data and analytics company, the average time spent by Indians on apps grew 35 per cent in Q2 2020 from Q4 2019. Italy and Indonesia saw growth of 30 per cent and 25 per cent, while the US saw a 15 per cent growth. 

Additionally, according to a report published by Publicis Groupe India, titled 'Reboot to a New Normal,' gaming witnessed a 41 per cent increase whereas OTT platforms saw a 34 per cent spike in registrations.  

According to another research by Vivo and CMR titled 'Smartphone and their impact on Human Relationships,' an average Indian spends one-third of their waking hours on their phone, which translates to 1,800 hours a year.  

Why is digital detox necessary  

Sakal Times spoke to Dr Santosh Bangar, Consultant- Psychiatrist, Global Hospital, Mumbai, to understand the implications of excessive screen time.  

According to Dr Bangar, a digital detox is an absolute necessity in the digital era. Considering the amount of time we spend on our phones and laptops, a detox of this sort becomes more critical for our mental and physical wellbeing.  

"We spend too much time in front of gadgets which can lead to physical health problems like obesity, and the sedentary lifestyle may result in blood pressure and diabetes. It also creates an effect in the eye leading to eye strain and headache. Mental health implications are also attached to it," he said.  

Stressing on the mental aspect, Dr Bangar said, "The gadgets emit blue rays which create a stimulatory effect on the brain, which can cause attention deficit symptoms like becoming hyperactive which lessens the attention span. There is also a propensity to get addicted to digital media because excessive watching may lead to the brain to produce dopamine, which brings a sense of reward-effect on the brain. Some people compare addiction to watching digital media to addiction to smoking or drinking repeated cups of coffee. Consequences like sleep disturbances, insomnia, and irritability are common leading to a feeling of tiredness the next day which can further cause loss of concentration, and to enhance concentration people drink lots of coffee or tea. So you can say it is a vicious cycle."  

But, with work from home and virtual classes, it isn't easy to take time away from screens. Dr Bangar says, "I think, the lesser, the better. It is not possible during the current scenario where everything is taking place digitally; I can advise you all to take frequent rest. That will help to relax your eyes and also problems like migraines can be lessened. For young children ageing under five should not be exposed to screen and from 5-10 years, sitting in front of the screen for at least 2-4 hours is advisable. Kids often watch Netflix or YouTube while waiting, and after such repeated practices, the situation becomes relatable as they relate to eating with watching. I advise all age groups to stick to a structured routine. Take regular exercise and frequent walks. Keeping the habit of consuming tea, coffee, alcohol, and smoking to minimal." 

Another issue mentioned by Dr Bangar is, with excessive time on the screen is, we barely find any time away from it. Dedicated time for family, friends and others is fading away.  

Effective ways for Digital Detox  

Turn off your notifications: The easiest trick to keep you off your phone is to turn off notifications. Nowadays, much work goes into working on engaging content for notifications to lure in the customer. But interestingly, notifications were originally developed to ensure you check your phone only when you have a message.  

 An effective way to use notifications is to keep them on only for essential apps. Emails, important communications and reminders can help you reduce the screen time.  

Deleting unnecessary apps: We often forget to delete the apps that we download for temporary usage. This leads to increasing the time we use our phone as an increased number of notifications pop-up on our phone.  

Keep your phone aside least an hour before going to bed: Since most of us have a habit of using our phones before going to sleep, it is important to find time to relax and detox daily.  

Changing the colour scheme: A lot of work goes into designing apps and working around what appeals to the human eyes and brain. Also, be it Instagram, WhatsApp or any other social media app - colours play a vital role. But changing the colour scheme of the phone for a few hours yesterday helps in making phone less appealing, in return reducing the screen time.  

Declutter your phone - Decluttering your phone off unnecessary photos, unnecessary apps and messages. It is important to keep the phone uses minimal and be less dependent on the device.  

Limit use: Set timings when you keep your phone away. It is good practice to avoid using phones during meals. It is also important to set timings during the day (evening walk, morning time) where unnecessary use of the phone can be avoided.  

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