To mark National Unplugging Day 2017, Dr Zaheer Hussain, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Derby, explains why people should ditch their smartphones and embrace a digital detox.
There has been a huge increase in the use of the internet worldwide and, with this increase, the devices used to access internet content has diversified. One of most popular ways people access the internet is via smartphones.
New smartphones are released each year and there tends to be a huge uptake of these devices all around the world. We now have a mobile device from which people can organise and run their lives. An individual can communicate, purchase items, watch a movie, listen to music, play video games, read an eBook, run a business and keep track of their health all within a single handheld device that they carry around with them.
According to Ofcom, 71% of adults in the UK reported owning a smartphone during the year 2016, up from 39% in 2012. These numbers are also reflected worldwide with 4.23 billion smartphones being used around the world.
Research into smartphone use has increased, with many researchers focusing on the psychological aspects and problematic use. In 2015, I co-authored the UK’s first research study into smartphone addiction and its related psychological characteristics, which found the more you use a smartphone, the higher the risk of becoming addicted.
The research based on 256 smartphone users found that 13.3% of the participants were classified as addicted to their smartphones and that higher narcissism scores and neuroticism levels were linked to addiction.
Many of the studies investigating smartphone use reveal these devices have become a necessity for many people, they are used frequently and can lead to compulsive use. Some negative health consequences will affect many users of smartphones, so it is important to be aware of your usage patterns and know that too much of any technology can lead to problems.
Five tips to cut down smartphone usage
Manage your time
Remember that there are 24 hours in a day and you need to organise time around daily tasks. Your smartphone use needs to be scheduled into this time so it’s important to manage your time effectively.
Reward yourself with smartphone time
Try to list the most important tasks in your day. Once you’ve completed a task perhaps you can take a short break to check your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. That way you are completing tasks and rewarding yourself with some smartphone time.
Choose 10-minute slot ONLY to look at phone
Block off time (around 10-15 minutes in the day) when you can use your smartphone. This may be around lunch time if you’re at work or in the evening once the kids have gone to bed.
Phone ban in bed
Turn your phone off before you go to bed and don’t use your phone in bed. Ideally, you want to stop using your smartphone at least one hour before bed time. There is research that suggests that using your phone before you go to bed, and leaving it on all night, will impact on your sleep. The blue light from TVs, tablets and phones can affect your sleep. Read a book instead. If you need to set an alarm, then use an alarm clock (remember those?)!
Socialise in the ‘real world’
Spend time with your loved ones, exercise, eat well and take up a hobby (sports, reading, going out) instead of socialising online. Real-world contact is always better than online contact.
How to have a smartphone detox for National Unplugging Day
Have willpower and plan
People CAN detox for one day if they have the will power. To do this they need to plan beforehand and think it over so they know exactly what they will be doing. They need to be committed to doing it too, so it requires action on the day of the detox.
It also requires motivation and discipline (a bit like preparing for a sporting event, you need to plan, commit yourself to training and then perform on the day). Some people will need their smartphones for making calls so they can instead uninstall social networking apps for the day.
Benefits of detoxing
For those who do detox, they will find that they will have more time for doing many other activities such as reading, spending face-to-face time with family, friends, colleagues. They will have more time for exercise and sleeping too which, will in turn, have a positive effect on their health and well-being.