If you’re the sort of person who is never far from your phone, tablet or laptop, chances are at least one of your New Year’s resolutions involved a “digital detox.”
As the name suggests, digital detoxing is all about cutting out apps, devices and social media time-wasting in pursuit of a “cleaner” digital life. But just like many physical detoxes, the jury is out when it comes to whether digital detoxing works – or whether it’s even necessary in the first place.
We’ve all got one of those friends who crows about how “freeing” it is having an old-school cell phone and locks their laptop in a vault after 5 p.m., making us feel hopelessly addicted to our devices. We also know that pang of shame when we’re still hunched over the computer at dinner time – but it doesn’t have to mean instigating an all-or-nothing approach.
In the 21st century, we can make peace with the fact that technology and apps are a part of our lives, but we can learn to use them in a healthy way. Here are some tips to stop you from plunging head first into a digital detox.
1. Approach technology mindfully
Centr expert Alexis Naim describes mindfulness as “the capacity to feel and to be in the here and now.” If you’re constantly fishing your phone out of your bag to check Instagram even though you checked it five minutes ago, take a moment to think about what’s really happening. Are you feeling stressed? Worried about a friend you haven’t seen for a while? Maybe you’re hungry and frantically browsing food blogs? If you can begin to understand why you use your tech, it can help you feel less dependent on it.
2. Make friends with robots
Well, maybe not robots, but “virtual assistants.” Whether your go-to AI buddy is Siri, Alexa, or Google, there are lots of ways you can get virtual assistants to sort your life out without ever having to pick up your device. If you’re the kind of person who jumps on a search engine for a measurement conversion only to find yourself blinking, four hours later, having disappeared into an internet hole, get better at asking your virtual assistant instead and keep cooking.
3. Develop good app habits
If your smartphone is groaning with games that jingle and sparkle at you to get your dopamine levels racing? (It’s true: those games where you squash gemstones, fruit or colorful shapes are designed the same way as gambling machines.) No wonder you’re starting to feel the digital burn. Clear out your apps and repopulate your phone with useful apps—like Centr—that can help you with mindfulness and meditation exercises.
4. Use your device’s built-in "detox” functions
These days, most smartphones and laptops have built-in functionalities that can help you manage your device use (or overuse) on a day-by-day basis. Try setting your phone to automatically switch to “do not disturb” after 6 p.mp, or to turn up the screen color warmth after dark to help you wind down. Using these simple tools can help you maintain a healthful level of device use without the need to move to the middle of nowhere
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