This past July, I challenged myself to put all my devices away at 8pm every night for 31 days. During the challenge, I committed to finish reading the Book of Negroes, over 400-pages of pure literary genius, develop healthy sleep habits, and cultivate new offline hobbies.
I am happy to report that I finished the book in less than two weeks, and I noticed significant improvement in my sleep quality. Unfortunately, cultivating new offline habits didn’t come to fruition.
Still, the lessons from putting my devices away at a designated time every night have been immensely rewarding. I learned so much more than I anticipated with this challenge.
If we used our phones more like a hammer, would our life be a lot better? At least, according to the musical genius himself, yes.
Look at your phone as a tool, not an obligation. Would you walk around with a hammer in your pocket? You would pick up a hammer when you needed it. You would never be addicted or obligated to it. Use your phone like a hammer only pick it up when you need it.
Writing is a very therapeutic and self-reflecting practice that allows me to learn a lot about myself.
Until I began my research for this article, I did not know there were in fact plenty of blog posts, articles and even peer-reviewed journals out there on the phenomenon of texting anxiety.
Although I didn’t feel I was entirely alone in suffering from texting anxiety, I didn’t think the problem was relevant enough to grant clinical terms, such as textiety and textaphrenia.
Text messaging is an essential part of communication that is a quick and convenient method to stay connected with our friends, family, and acquaintances.
Despite being a useful mode of communication, the expectation to be reachable and responsive 24/7, literally, can be very stressful and overwhelming to some. Textiety refers to the anxious feeling one gets from not receiving or sending text messages.
Mental health professionals are starting to see anxiety around texting show up in their practice, and it is now part of a new area of research and treatment related to mobile devices and online communication.
A digital break can be extremely helpful for people who feel like they are always on their digital devices being constantly bombarded with notifications, or feel that they are hopelessly addicted to their black screens.
Time is a precious, nonrenewable resource. Being aware of our digital consumption is not just an aspirational lifestyle choice for the riches.
Why digital break?
In a previous post, radical digital detox ideas, I mentioned that taking a break from the digital world is something I’m working hard to implement into my daily routine to avoid wasting time online.
Whenever I feel negative emotions creeping up, I find myself looking for escape by seeking distractions. Usually, these distractions come from browsing the Internet.
My favourite escape is reading comments on online forums, mostly reddit, and getting lost in other people’s stories, opinions, and ideas. It might have something to do with the fact that I find how humans interact with the social world extremely fascinating (hello, Sociology major).
However, escaping from uncomfortable feelings and emotions via the digital world almost never solves the issue, but simply prolong the feelings.
This is especially true when we are also avoiding taking care of our responsibilities. After hours spent escaping into the digital world, the real world still awaits us. The dishes remain undone, the dog unfed, the deadlines approaching, and the house disorganized.
Whatever we escape into is also almost always pointless crap, because moments later we have no recollection of whatever it is that we just watched or read to distract ourselves.
It is simply escapism.
From personal experiences, getting away from digital distractions forces us to avoid escapism and confront whatever feeling we might be feeling, wether it is boredom, sadness, or anxiety.
The best escape is to get busy with the activities and responsibilities we value, and be in the moment.
Spending time online must be an elective experience rather than a default setting.
While there are many ways to incorporate digital breaks into our routine, and is unique to each individual, here are some ideas I have found to be useful for taking a break from the digital world.
Daily Digital Breaks
Right after waking up, do not use phone, laptop and other digital electronics for at least an hour, or until after leaving the house. After work, put all digital stuff away and out of reach for a couple of hours. This practise is truly a bliss, especially, if your work requires staring at a computer screen every day.
Weekly Digital Breaks
Once a week, unplug from screens and go offline for a whole evening. Indulge in offline activities that make your life better, such as reading, getting creative, cooking and cleaning.
Monthly Digital Breaks
Once a month, take a day off from your smartphone, laptop, tablets, tv, etc. and do things completely offline. Another challenge is to put phone away for a whole weekend and do productive and fun activities in the offline world.