In recent decades, the virtual online world has increasingly overlapped with our real, physical world, making it difficult to separate ourselves between the two realms. The line between online and offline is becoming blurred, causing confusion about what is truly beneficial for us. We often log on to "communicate" with others without realizing that it consumes time we could have spent interacting in person.
Instead of venturing out to explore and experience the real world, we often choose the easy way out by sitting in front of the TV all day long. Such behavior calls for a tech detox, taking time off from some or most technology use.
To achieve this, the best solution is to help one appreciate the beauty of a world without technology. It is important to note that the goal is not to condemn all technology; rather, it is to create an awareness that technology alone does not make life complete.
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1. Start Living in Your (Real) World
First, let’s return to the basics. Disconnect from the internet, turn off your mobile phones, and disengage from any other modern technologies that preoccupy you daily.
Intuitively, you know the activities I’m attempting to steer you away from: aimless browsing on Facebook and YouTube, excessive TV-watching that turns you into a couch potato, constant instant messaging, video gaming Ã¢ÂÂ unplug yourself from that world.
The goal of this exercise is to initiate the process of a tech detox. You must experience what the real world has to offer before you become motivated to adopt a less technology-dependent lifestyle.
As you begin to appreciate the richness of offline activities, such as meeting up with friends for heartfelt conversations (rather than texting over WhatsApp), spending time alone with your thoughts, practicing mindfulness in your current activities, and so on, you’ll become more receptive to the idea of living with less technology.
Going all out!
For some of you, you might want to go all out and cut yourselves off from most of these addictions at once. This could mean no TV, no computer, no Internet, and no mobile phones for a period of time (say, two weeks).
Others may prefer a slower approach, by limiting the amount of time spent on these devices per day or simply stopping the use of one particular technology for a while. It all depends on your preference and lifestyle.
2. Make Plans & Set Goals
Unless you are highly disciplined, it is likely that you will always need something to continually push you toward tech independence.
Just as effective dieting requires careful planning, a successful tech detox necessitates designing a program that includes goals with varying levels of difficulty. It is up to you to determine your approach, but remember to follow the SMART criteria: goals should be Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Realistic, and Timely.
Drawing up the Game Plan
First, consider questions such as, how will you spend the time that has been freed by eliminating technology?
In other words, explore alternatives to your tech-related activities. If all your hobbies revolve around technology, then it’s high time to find one that does not!
Don’t forget to reward yourself as well. Achieving your goals may inherently provide immense intrinsic satisfaction, but tangible gratifications, such as indulging in your favorite video game for a limited period before returning to detox, can also serve as a powerful motivational tool. Just ensure that you can tell yourself to stop when it’s time to do so.
3. Establish Healthy Habits
Old habits die hard. At times, it’s more than merely a tech addiction problem when you find yourself checking Facebook every other minute. This could be because the act is ingrained in your brain, similar to how you manage to brush your teeth while half-awake.
Even if you’re highly motivated and have devised an ideal plan for detoxification, habits can easily obstruct your progress. The great news is that, although bad habits are challenging to break, good habits can become equally resistant when cultivated over time.
Find New Hobbies
The caveat is that you will need to exercise patience in order to "reprogram" the way your mind functions. The most effective method to achieve this is by replacing your current habits with better ones, specifically non-technological alternative activities. Engage in reading a book or conversing about real-life topics with actual people.
By repeatedly making this conscious decision, these actions will eventually become second nature to you.
4. Tie Yourself to the Mast
For those familiar with Homer’s Odyssey, you may recall that Odysseus ordered his sailors to tie him tightly to the ship’s mast, and to ignore his pleas as he listened and reacted to the Sirens’ beautiful but deadly singing. The sailors followed his orders, and Odysseus became the only man to have heard the song of the sirens and survived.
Similarly, this tech detox will work if you diligently follow what you have planned out. However, concerning addiction, rationality will take a backseat when withdrawal symptoms appear. This is when you need to "tie yourself to the mast."
Keep Them Out of Reach
One extreme way would be to keep all your tech devices away so that you have no access to them. You would have no choice but to lead a tech-free life during that designated period. How about traveling to a less developed place where everyone is less dependent on technology?
Another way to accomplish this is by telling everyone your plans for a tech detox. That way, it will be harder for you to give yourself an excuse to quit (unless you are perfectly fine with explaining to everyone why you are a quitter).
In fact, why not announce it on Facebook or Twitter? That would be ironic, but judging from the crowds, it will be hard for you not to follow through.
5. Believe in the Power of Choice
When faced with the prospect of change, whether good or bad, humans tend to resist it. We justify maintaining the status quo by telling ourselves we have no choice but to stick to the old ways. However, the only constant in this world is change, and it is only by embracing it that we can truly possess the power of choice, as demonstrated by our growing dependence on technology.
It seems increasingly impossible for us to live a day without our computers, smartphones, tablets, and the internet. It may appear reasonable to accept this ‘reality’ and not challenge it by engaging in something potentially daunting, such as a ‘tech detox.’ However, it is precisely this submission that deprives us of our power and freedom to choose what is best for us, be it technological or non-technological.
The aim of a tech detox is not to denounce technology as inferior. Instead, the purpose of such a detox is to help us realize that technology is not the sole aspect our lives should depend on. We don’t need to spend all our time watching TV or using smartphones. A tech detox will demonstrate that there is life beyond digital technology.