With so much overlapping of the virtual online world with our real, physical world in the past few decades, it’s getting harder to split ourselves between the two realms. The line between online and offline is becoming a blur. The result is that we get confused about what’s good for us. We get so used to logging online to ‘communicate’ with others without realizing that it’s eating into the time we could’ve spent interacting in person with another.
Instead of going out to explore and experience the real world, we take the easy way out by sitting in front of the TV all day long. Such symptoms call for a tech detox, time-off from some or most tech use. For that to work, the best solution is to make one appreciate the beauty of a world without technology. Note that though the idea is not to condemn all technology; rather, it is to create that awareness in you that technology is not all you need to make your life complete.
Recommended Reading: 5 Ways “Tech Addiction” Is Changing Human Behaviour
1. Start Living In Your (Real) World
First, let’s go back to the basics. Get off the Internet, switch off your mobile phones or any other modern technologies that have been pre-occupying you daily. Intuitively, you know the activities I’m trying to turn you away from: random net surfing on Facebook and YouTube, prolonged TV-watching that’s turning you into a couch potato, incessant instant messaging, video gaming… unplug yourself from that world.
The point of it all is to kickstart the process of tech detox. You have to see what the real world has to offer you before you are motivated to stick to a less technology-dependent way of life.
When you start realizing the richness of the activities you engage offline, such as meeting up with friends for heart-to-heart talks (rather than texting over Whatsapp), having some me-time for your thoughts, practicing mindfulness with whatever it is you’re doing at the moment and so on, you’ll become more open to the idea of living with less technology.
Going all out
For some of you, you may want to go all out and cut yourself off from most of these addictions in one go. That may mean no TV, no computer, no Internet, no mobile phones for a period of time (say, two weeks)?
Others may prefer to go slower by limiting the amount of time spent on these devices per day, or to simply stop using one particular technology for a while. It all depends on your preference and your lifestyle.
2. Make Plans & Set Goals
Unless you’re really disciplined, chances are that you’ll always need something to keep pushing you towards tech independence. Just as effective dieting requires delicate planning, a successful tech detox requires you to design a program of some sort that comprises of goals of varying difficulties.
It’s up to you how you want to do it, but keep in mind the SMART criteria: goals ought to be Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Realistic and Timely.
Drawing up the Game Plan
To start, ask yourself questions like, how will you spend the time that has been freed from shutting out technology? In other words, explore alternatives to your tech activities. If all your hobbies revolve around technology, then it’s high time to find one that’s not!
Don’t forget about rewarding yourself too. Hitting your goals may in itself provide immense intrinsic satisfaction, but tangible gratifications like indulging in your favorite video game for a limited period of time before returning to detoxing can also be a strong motivational tool. Just make sure you can tell yourself to stop when it’s time to stop.
3. Establish Healthy Habits
Old habits die hard. Sometimes it’s more than just a tech addiction problem when you catch yourself checking your Facebook every other minute. It could be because the act is wired into your brain, like how you manage to brush your teeth while half awake.
Even if you’re highly motivated and have come up with a perfect plan to get yourself detoxed, habits can easily get in your way. The great news is that even though bad habits are difficult to break, good habits, when cultivated with time, are equally resistant.
Find New Hobbies
The catch is that you’ll need to have some patience to ‘reprogram’ the way your mind works. The best way to do that is to replace them with good ones, by which I mean non-tech alternative activities. Read a book or chat on a real-life topic with real people. Once you make that conscious choice over and over again, such actions will become second nature to you in time to come.
4. Tie Yourself to the Mast
For those of you familiar with Homer’s Odyssey, you would be able to recall that Odysseus ordered his sailors to tie him tightly to the ship’s mast, and to ignore his pleas as he listens and reacts to the Sirens‘ beautiful but deadly singing. The sailors did what they were told and Odysseus became the only man to have heard the song of the sirens and survived it.
Similarly, this tech detox will work if you dutifully follow what you have planned out. However, as far as addiction is concerned, rationality will take a backseat when the withdrawal symptoms show. This is when you need to ‘tie yourself to the mast’.
Keep Them Out of Reach
One extreme way will be to keep all your tech devices away so that you have no access to them. You’d have no choice but to lead a tech-free life during that designated period. How about traveling to a less developed place where everyone’s less dependent on technology?
Another way to do that is to tell everyone your plans for a tech detox. That way, it will be harder for you to give yourself the excuse to quit (unless you’re perfectly fine with explaining to everyone why you’re 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 to not pull through.
5. Believe in the Power of Choice
When faced with the prospect of change, be it good or bad, humans tend to resist change. We justify the status quo by telling ourselves we don’t have a choice but to stick to the old ways. Yet the only constant of this world is changing, and it is only by embracing it that we can actually possess the power of choice, like how it is with our growing dependence on technology.
It is seemingly getting more impossible for us to live a day without our computers, smartphones, tablets and the Internet. It sounds legitimate to submit to ‘reality’ and not fight it by getting ourselves involved in something that sounds a little daunting – like a ‘tech detox’. But it is precisely this submission that robs us of our power and freedom to choose what is best for us, technological or non-technological.
The goal of a tech detox is not to denounce technology as inferior. Rather, the purpose of such a detox is to let us see that technology is not everything our life has to rely on. We don’t have to spend all our time on the TV or the smartphone. A tech detox will show you that there is life outside digital technology.