Digital Detox

I work in a big tower in the heart of the Financial District in New York City. I ride up and down the elevator numerous times throughout the day. On most of my trips, there is invariably one, two, three people on their phones during the ride . You have to ride a specific elevator bank from floors 26 to 38 so it takes maybe thirty seconds to one or two minutes depending on how many stops.

The other day, I was on my way up from lunch and there were five of us in the elevator. Every single person in the elevator (except for me) was on their phone. It gave me pause. Now, let me tell you that I had just come from lunch where it is my habit to peruse the news on my phone for most of my time, my eyes focused on the teeny tiny print so I am no stranger to this. I also lose all consciousness of my surroundings when I get absorbed in my phone. The cafe disappears, the people disappear, the chatter disappears and I am transported much in the way television first transported me as a kid. When I actually lift my head, I am always amazed at this phenomenon. There is always a slight buzz in my head, the residual effects of all of that digital concentration.

But I have a rule to never look at my phone in the elevator. In fact, I use this time specifically as a break from both my smartphone and my computer. Instead, I take this opportunity to breathe deeply a few times and relieve any tension that I may have. So when I walked into the elevator the other day, I saw how deeply engrossed these folks were and in fact, they seemed to be in the same all-consuming digital trance I was in moments before. I mean I was looking straight at them, not in a creepy way but the way where you might feel someone looking at you. Nope, nada, I got nothing.

You may have heard it before but I think that it’s important to mention it again. Here’s why curbing your digital smartphone use is important:

  1. Posture and fatigue: keeping your neck bent down can cause muscle strain in the neck and shoulders and even cause a pinched nerve and chronic pain. According to Spine-health, there’s even a name for it  – Text Neck! Text neck isn’t just painful, it also ehanaces poor posture (especially if you sit at a desk all day). It can also cause permanent damage to growing kids and teens.
  2. Mindfulness and awareness: this is a big one. We’v not just become digitally distracted, we’ve become dangerous to ourselves and others. It’s not just distracted driving. There was an increase in pedestrian deaths across the nation and experts believe that the use of smartphone is contributing to this rise. Also, we are missing out on paying attention to the glorious world around us. Instead of taking in a beautiful day and feeling the sun shine down on your face, we bury our heads in that not-to-miss tweet from our favorite star.
  3. Digital addiction and stress: Listen, we live in a wired world, so going completely off the grid is unrealistic. However, for peace of mind and better relationships it’s important to set limits,  You’ll also reap the benefits of a more relaxed day and more time to do the things that you love. Here is great article for a three week plan to limit your time in the digital universe from Health.com.
  4. Mind Wandering: One of the greatest gifts of curtailing the use of my smartphone, particularly while waiting on line or in an office is simply letting my mind wander. This is something we did 20 or so years ago (if you are old enough to remember). Mind wandering (aka daydreaming) is the detachment of focus from the task at hand. In essence, it’s the opposite of mindfulness and it can be just as beneficial, but in different ways. Mind wandering can lead to more creative problem solving and increased productivity. It also is another tool in the relaxation toolkit.

What is one thing that you can do this week to begin to digitally detox? Maybe you can even get your spouse, partner, friends, or colleagues to join you!

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