Thinking About Parenting

Steps to Complete a Digital Detox


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Steps to Complete a Digital Detox

After over 40 years together I still look forward to date night with Barb. Whether it's picking a familiar restaurant or exploring someplace new, I value those moments together when I'm alone with the woman I love.

She'll sometimes lovingly ask if I want the seat facing the TV, to which I lovingly reply, "No because the only thing I'll be looking at is you."

During the course of our meal, we will often observe others on their night out "together" and notice how the focus is on their phone screens, and not each other. And if it's a family outing, the children's attention will be glued to a screen as well.

So much for quality time.

Massive Screen Time

Could I be describing your night out above?

Do you reach for your phone before your feet hit the floor in the morning, or check it in the middle of the night just to make sure you don't miss something?

Studies show that some of us check our phones more than 100 times a day and that over 70% of us have a social media account. And the trend will only increase since other studies reveal that our teens spend upwards of 5 hours a day on various social media platforms.

Our addiction to that tiny screen is sought after diligently by personalized ads and fancy algorithms running behind the scenes.

The Problem with Screen Time

High levels of social media content have been clearly associated with many mental health issues.

These include but are not limited to:
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Diminished confidence
  • Poor posture
  • Disruptive sleep patterns
  • Severe eye strain
  • Self-comparison issues
  • Burnout
  • Loss of intimacy

"When your mental health becomes impacted by social media then it is time for a detox." 
-Germany Kent

The Benefits of a Digital Detox

Beyond just a reversal of the problems listed above there are some additional reasons to reduce screen time and social media exposure.

A few of my favorite incentives include:
  • Improved creativity
  • Solidifying personal connections
  • Self-control
  • Mindfulness
  • Moderation and life balance
  • Productivity
  • Renewed relationship with God

My approach to a digital detox is to control my screen time and not to let it control me. That means that I seek to use screen time wisely without pursuing the end goal of eliminating all screen time permanently. 

Living your best life is all about balance. (Except for your kisses, Barb. I can never have too many of those.)

Steps to Complete a Digital Detox

1. Have a clear objective

Socrates was noted as saying, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

I think that it's good practice to routinely take a look at the things we are doing to make sure they align with our beliefs, purpose, and goals.

If you are considering a change in your online habits, examine the reason you feel that you need to. 

Is your goal to improve sleep, productivity, relationships, or mental well-being? Maybe it's several motivations combined.

Then be clear on your end game. Do you want to eliminate your exposure to all social media, some content, or sites, or shorten the time interacting online each week? Choose which approach will let you live your best life.

"Just like using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain can - and does - lead to addiction, using social media to fill the void of relationships, or other needs, often leads to addiction, as well." 
-Mandy J. Hoffman

2. Kill some apps

The most efficient way to detox is to delete unnecessary apps from your phone. It is a great way to assist you in decluttering your phone just as you would your car, kitchen, or office.

I would start with any apps that you don't use regularly, that derail your productivity, or leave you feeling unfulfilled with an emphasis on negativity or sites that don't contribute to your mental state. 

"For better mental health, just turning off the unwanted notifications, getting rid of the social apps that you don't really need to have will help you in different ways." 
-Jyoti Patel

3. Turn off some notifications

This is a sound approach that will help you minimize distractions and reduce stress levels. Constant interruptions from your phone can easily steal a larger amount of time each day than you realize.

I would start with any notification that isn't essential, like work or family ones are, which will allow you to make intelligent choices about when and how often you check your phone.

4. Plan a break

I use this approach to be mindful of my phone use. It is my favorite mechanism for asserting quality time on purpose.

Here are a few examples:

*I may leave my phone in the car when Barb and I are on a date. Sometimes I'll need access to my phone for a deal or coupon, at which time I will leave it on silent (not vibrating) and place it face down on the table.

*I choose not to check any social media accounts on Sundays. I purposely stay away from sites where my content writing involves my posting (Pinterest, X, and even this blog, etc.).

I use the "Do Not Disturb" feature on my phone. It is set from 9pm to 6am daily, every day. You can customize this to meet your personal goals.

Choose times that you will be internet-free. An hour before bed or an hour after waking up are two that come to mind. Other choices include mealtimes or family events. 

5. Nurture with Nature

Enjoying the outdoors and communing with nature is a great way to reconnect with organic and beautiful things. It will jump-start your mood, lower your blood pressure, and allow you to become more grounded.

Getting in tune with nature, taking in a sunrise/sunset, listening to birds chirping or ocean waves slapping the shore, or absorbing a quiet moment in a park or woods, can all leave you feeling calm and rejuvenated.

"When it comes to social media, there are just times I turn off the world, you know. There are just sometimes you have to give yourself space to be quiet, which means you've got to set those phones down." 
-Michelle Obama


6. Put your phone out of sight

Sometimes just leaving your phone on your desk when you walk away, or in another room when you're at home, allows you short, sweet breaks from interruptions.

This approach allows you to take baby steps before attempting a full-blown digital sabbatical. At that point (when you've conquered some of your FOMO) you can go offline for a day, a week, or longer period, depending on your personal goals and needs.

"People who smile while they are alone used to be called insane until we invented smartphones and social media." 
-Mokokoma Mokhonoana

7. Get physical

This one is tricky. I've seen plenty of videos of people glued to their phones falling into manholes or crashing into walls while walking or running. But regular physical activity improves both your mental and physical well-being, improves self-esteem, releases endorphins into your bloodstream, and just plain makes you feel good.

8. Read a book

I admit to using Kindle for some of my reading. It's especially beneficial if I'm faced with unexpected dead time or delays.

However, leaving my phone out of sight while I read a book I hold in my hands, flipping each page, helps stimulate my imagination, maintain my focus, learn new words and phrases, and keeps me in the moment.

9. Delay the reach for your phone

In an earlier post, I discussed the importance of developing a morning routine and even shared my personal start to each day.

I challenge you to not reach for your phone the moment you wake up. This can help jump-start your day purposefully and mindfully. 

You will be allowing yourself to collect your thoughts and prioritize your day without the influence of texts, news, and social media.

"It takes discipline not to let social media steal your time." 
-Alexis Ohanian

10. Prioritize Mindfulness and Prayer

When you read my posts, you sense right away the importance that my faith is to me. That foundation is what drives the way I approach each day's obstacles, my commitment to family and friends, and how I interact with people I encounter daily.

Whatever your belief system, it is easy for it to get derailed by the influences of fake news, social media, advertisements, and other internet trinkets.

Your mind reacts to what you feed it. Consume all with mindfulness and purpose. Avoid giving attention to sources that overload your senses and conflict with your ability to be true to who you are.

Make it a priority to set aside time daily away from your phone for meditation, prayer, and mindful purposes. 

"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you." 
-Anne Lamott

Final Thoughts on Completing a Digital Detox

The internet is a powerful tool. Like any tool, it needs to be used correctly.

The information at our fingertips is amazing, giving us the ability to learn and grow in ways that were hard to comprehend just a couple of decades ago. I remember collecting quotes and facts on index cards, and then searching for them tediously when I wanted to recall and use them. Now that information is just a click away.

The dark side is that some of the internet and social media have given birth to jealous behavior, envy, anger, and more of fiction and fantasy. Unfortunately, many of the things that create those feelings don't actually exist.

Don't let social media control your life. Make your online choices with care and purpose. Filter and remove the debris that doesn't contribute to your self-esteem or self-improvement. Never assume that everything is genuine and true without verification and some good old-fashioned common sense.

Consider a digital detox.

Every once in a while, you must go offline to keep your life on track.

Now go live your best life,