Ever feel like it’s time to tuck the smartphone in a drawer, log off of the computer, shelve the e-reader, and take a complete digital vacation to a land without wifi, far, far, away? After speaking with Dr. Larry Rosen, an expert in the psychology of technology, I think you might be onto something.
Like many, Dr. Rosen, author of iDisorder: Understanding our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold On Us, is alarmed at the rapidity of technological change in today’s society. Our online lives are increasingly reactive—we communicate because we can, not because we need to. Hilarie Cash, Executive Director of reSTART, the first Internet addiction recovery center in Falls City, WA, agrees. Both of these experts champion the idea of regular technology breaks and recommend that all adults do a complete technology cleanse a couple of times a year, even if they are not exhibiting signs of technology addiction.
In the same way that cutting out sugar for several days can eliminate poor eating habits, a technology cleanse can be a boon to fostering a healthy relationship with technology. “When you complete a detox of this nature, life begins to take on a different look,” says Cash. “You start paying more attention; you are more present to the here and now.” Cash advises taking regular breaks from technology to give the brain a chance to adjust and re-set back to normal functioning. A prolonged break from the daily grind of blrrpts, bleeps, and dings can provide a chance to remember what life was like before technology dominated it: Remember what that was like?
Here’s how to complete a technology cleanse as recommended by Rosen and Cash. A minimum of three days is recommended; longer durations are encouraged.
1. Put the smartphone completely away and use a land line instead. (If you don't have one, consider buying an inexpensive flip phone.)
2. Take a total vacation from TV.
3. Create an automated response for incoming email to let friends and colleagues know you will be away, but that you can be contacted via landline if needed.
4. Unplug completely from the Internet, turning off all devices completely: Shut down all tablets, smartphones, laptops, and all other digital technology.
5. Refrain from reading on screens; get your news the old fashioned way by relying on physical newspapers, magazines, and books.
When we fail to give our brains a chance to rest or pause—to take some time to not be busy—it is difficult for the brain to store and remember information. Humans need a break to be contemplative and introspective, and research has shown that multi-tasking is quite bad for us.
After completing the cleanse you can consider integrating a weekly digital technology sabbath: Pick one day of the week to refrain from using digital technology, and notice how the extra time spent offline gives you the opportunity to be reflective, creative, human, and, best of all—relaxed.