Digital Detoxing in a 24/7 World: Disconnect to Connect

By Lorie Corcuera

Over the past year, I have had a love and hate relationship with technology. While it serves me and our company well in sharing information and staying connected with our community, if not managed well, being connected can be overwhelming and consuming.

That said, what does it really mean to be disconnected?

Disconnection and Digital Detox
In our modern world of the internet, social media and the cloud, to disconnect or be disconnected is an anomaly. The dictionary definition of disconnection is the act of disconnecting or lack of connection. To truly disconnect in the modern context is to refrain from using all electronic connecting devices such as smartphones, computers, tablets and the like.

It is predicted that this year, we will reach 4.77 billion mobile phone users in the world. In 2013, it was 4.01 billion, averaging 160 million new users per year (Statista). According to Internet Live Stats, around 40 per cent of the world population of 7.5 billion in 2017 has an internet connection today. The Huffington Post also shared that 58 per cent of smartphone users don’t go one hour without checking their phones.

It’s no wonder why digital detoxing has become so popular. The trend of attending digital detox retreats or simply detoxing yourself requires you to be disconnected for a specific period of time. Although the immediate and long term benefits from a digital detox reduces stress and creates opportunities for social interactions in the physical world, the path to disconnecting is challenging.

Signs It’s Time to Disconnect
So how do you know if it’s time to disconnect? Brian Scudamore, founder of local Vancouver-based companies 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and O2E Brands wrote an article featured in The Globe and Mail on “The value of going ‘dark’ on vacation”, because he discovered the importance of disconnecting. Scudamore states that “nearly half of all Americans don’t take their paid time off. It’s estimated that employees forfeit more than $52 billion in vacation benefits every year—giving up nearly five paid vacation days they’re entitled to take.”

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), we experience, on average, 87 interruptions per day (an average of 22 external interruptions and 65 triggered by the person). Another study featured in an HBR article states that 108 billion email messages are sent every day and 23 percent of the average employee’s workday is taken up by email, with an employee sending or receiving 112 emails per day.

Countering Personal Energy Crises
The Energy Project, a next-generation consulting firm focused on fuelling some of the world’s most progressive and innovative companies by integrating physiology, neurochemistry and psychology to address the most critical human performance challenges, states 74 per cent of employees are experiencing a personal energy crisis. It is also predicted that one in five Canadians have a mental illness today, and while there are many factors contributing, there is a definite correlation to our world of technology.

Take a look at the list of signs below and determine whether it’s time for a digital detox.

  • The first thing you do when you wake up is check your phone;
  • You feel anxious when you are alone or without a phone;
  • Your phone is the last thing you look at before you go to bed and the phone is by your bedside;
  • You check your phone in the washroom; and/or
  • Your phone is visible or on the table when you are in meetings and/or during meals.

If you are experiencing any of these signs, not to worry. There are simple ways to disconnect. Let’s discuss why it’s important to disconnect first.

The Key Benefits to Disconnecting

While there are many benefits to disconnecting, here are a few to inspire you to disconnect to reconnect with yourself and your loved ones:

  • Calm your mind. Creating even five minutes away from any technology will instantly bring peace and re-energize you. Add a breathing or mindfulness practice to this time away will further revitalize you.
  • New and fresh ideas and thoughts are created. Creating space away from technology frees your mind for more creativity. Add music, play, or a physical activity, and get ready to receive.
  • Learn something new. When you’re away from your phone and computer, you will likely discover a new way to fill your time like reading a book or starting a new hobby. Try a ‘technology-free day’ at home and discover new ways of being.
  • Experience human moments. Simon Sinek recently shared that having a phone visible at a table sends a subconscious message to the other person that they are less important to you. Put away the phones and gadgets and create a meaningful human connection. It’s time to show that you care.
  • Get things done. Without your phone or computer, you are likely in the present moment versus multitasking. You have the ability to pay full attention and focus on the task at hand. With that level of focus, you will also get things done on time or ahead of schedule!

Disconnect to Connect
Ready to start your digital detox? Try one of these simple steps today.

Step 1: Take a moment to reflect on the purpose of each electronic device. Decide on how you want to use it and how it supports you in your life. Do the same for your social media applications.

Step 2: Place your phone in another room while you sleep. Bonus: Turn your phone to airplane mode.

Step 3: Turn your phone to silent during meetings and while you are eating.

Step 4: Set an out of office notification stating that you are checking email during a specific period of time during the day and stick to the schedule. This will start to train the external world on how to communicate with you using email or encourage them to pick up the phone instead.

Step 5: Create a ‘technology free day’ at home. Lead by example and find other ways to create human moments with your family and friends.

I look forward to taking my own advice and creating and inspiring human connections at work and at home.

Lorie Corcuera is the co-founder and CEO of SPARK Creations & Company Inc., a training and development organization that inspires people and companies to create meaningful cultures and workplaces.

(PeopleTalk Summer 2017)

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  1. John Keetley says:

    This is such a great reminder of how we have allowed ourselves to become like “slaves” to our devices. What were once devices are now habits. Weekends I take a few hours and hike in the BC woods on Sundays with a group and usually the devices do not work. In this situation by default there is no connection to others except for good old fashion conversation for a brief time letting the friction and noise subside.

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