Put Down that Phone – Digital Wellness has Arrived and Here’s What You Should Know About It
Is it just the latest flash-in-the pan trend coming out of the Silicon Valley, or can it really address a growing problem in our hyperconnected digital society?
Our insatiable appetite for connectivity
Now’s a good time to be alive. Today’s technology has liberated us and is empowering us to lead lives we previously would’ve never thought possible. More than half of the world is connected to the internet and smartphone usage is on a constant rise. It’s much easier for nearly everyone around the world to link up and consume content online.
But there’s a dark side to this consumption.
We’ve always been reminded of the ‘dangers of technology’. From AI-powered spaceship HAL 9000 turning on its human crew in 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, to Morpheus offering Neo (The Matrix’s version of Jesus) a red pill to ‘follow the rabbit hole’ at the turn of the millennium, we’ve always been reminded of our growing reliance on tech.
Yet such dangers, which we previously thought of us mere fiction, are now become realities.
Online platforms – be they social networks, e-commerce sites or games – today are using persuasive and motivational techniques to bait its users. According to the World Health Organisation, these include: Scarcity,where a snap or status is only temporarily available, encouraging one to get online quickly; and Personalisation, where news feeds are designed to filter and display content based on one’s interest.
These tactics may sound familiar to you as they’re basically Snapchat and Facebook.
We spend much of our waking hours using our devices whether for work or play. Apart from encouraging us to keep up-to-date (for fear of losing out in this faced-past internet age), such techniques tap into our innate desire to socialise. We’re just getting more used to doing it via our screens than in person.
With great Wi-Fi comes great responsibility
With the looming risk fostered by hyper-connectivity, even the world’s tech giants are worried that today’s tech is making us lose touch with reality.
Apple recently announced controls that allow iOS users to monitor the time they spent on devices; as well as setting time limits on app use, controlling the level of distractions from notifications, and regulate children’s’ device usage.
Meanwhile, Google is adding features to the Android OS the help users keep their smartphone usage in check. This includes a dashboard showing people just how much they’re spending time on devices and apps. The company is also introducing a ‘wind down mode’ – which is effectively a ‘do not disturb’ function that greys out the phone in the evening to prevent pre-bedtime distractions.
But these efforts are still relying on devices to automatically keep our habits under control. It’s important to remember that they’re just tools which we can use.
We’re letting technology tell us what to do, instead of the other way around. We’re being tethering to our devices and social media networks to the point that withdrawal may even cause anxiety, panic and even depression.
But like our computers, our brain needs to rest its processing power. It also needs a regular clearing-up of cache and junk data to operate smoothly.
Part of the popularity of digital wellness today is the trend of undergoing ‘digital detoxification’. While tech developers are creating more tools to help balance our device usage, the onus is really on us to control our connectivity.
This can be as simple as stashing your phone in your desk or bag or creating rules for yourself to not use it during mealtimes (as itchy as it may be for the foodie in you to not post your dish in Instagram). In this case, leaving your devices out of sight, out of mind can be beneficial.
And this detox doesn’t even need to take long. Even three dayscan help one lower their stress level and reliance on technology. What’s key is that one takes enough time away from their screens to begin appreciating the importance of balancing digital life with real life.
Taking back control of technology
There’s nothing innately negative about using more of the internet in our daily routines. As with everything else, moderation is key. Using the internet more frequently but without responsibility not only makes us susceptible to be fired up by unverified news, it can also make us compulsive in our pursuit of updates.
But humans are analogue creatures, not digital ones. There’s only so much information that we can take in at a time, so it’s important to keep ourselves in check when we plug in.
By establishing healthy guidelines and boundaries on our relationship with technology, digital wellness may just help remind us that we’re the internet’s masters; not vice versa.