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12 August, 2022
 
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Are we digitally addicted?

How to avoid digital dependency

Opinion

Opinion

by Francesco Gatti

Smartphones are wonderful but they can have serious detrimental effects on our mental health and overall well-being because they lead to digital dependency. One big downside of digital hyper-connectivity is the tendency to multitask.

It is now acknowledged by scientists that the mind cannot do two things simultaneously. So multitasking, in reality, means switching from one task to another. Chronic multitasking makes us feel busy and gives us an aura of importance but the price we pay is very high. When this modality becomes a habit, we are in trouble.

We love having all the information available in the world at our fingertips but it is easy to get completely lost in it. Use technology and enjoy it, but become conscious and do not be used by it.

Research suggests that being distracted from a task (like, say, working) for just a minute can disrupt short-term memory, causing you to forget whatever ideas or intentions you had in mind. Sound familiar? How many times have you been in the middle of something just to get distracted by an irresistible impulse to check your phone and completely forget what you were doing?

So where do you stand on the scale of digital addiction? Let’s look at some stats just to give you an idea of the current state of affairs:

Young people spend an average of six or more hours a day on their smartphones.

50 percent of teens feel addicted to smartphones.

The average American user turns to their smartphone at least 46 times per day, and only sometimes are they doing something useful (i.e. looking up a restaurant on Google Maps).

And regardless of numbers, just look around: everyone is glued to their phones as if their lives depended on them. So many people walk on the street in a trance-like state as if hypnotized by their phones or eat at restaurants with their phones at arm's length, ready to check the latest notification as soon as possible.

There are of course many positive aspects attached to smartphones. They can improve communication making us feel more connected with our families, friends, and loved ones. And they can be extremely helpful in emergency cases. However, we need to remember that technology is just a tool. It can offer tremendous advantages but it requires us to be vigilant and alert in the way we use it, to avoid being used by it.

So what to do? Are there any practical steps we can take to protect ourselves from digital dependency? We personally found the following very useful.

Turn off notifications.

Check emails and social media only at specific times (i.e. 3 times a day).

Leave the phone at home when going for a walk or spending time in nature.

Never go to the gym with the phone.

Do not look at the phone whilst eating (alone or with company).

Do not check the phone 1 hour before going to sleep and 1 hour after waking up.

Upon reflection and self-assessment, we have come to realize how digitally addicted we have become. We would check our phones at any opportunity, especially to fill gaps like waiting or queuing; these are indeed precious moments that can be used to practice awareness and relaxation. Just by reducing our smartphone exposure, we have discovered that stress, irritation and the feeling of being overwhelmed by events have decreased significantly whilst relaxation, focus and energy levels have increased.

Digital addiction is dangerous and difficult to detect, there is always a good excuse to check your phone. We made a conscious commitment to watch our compulsion to check our phones and transform that impulse into an opportunity to be present and meditate.

We love having all the information available in the world at our fingertips but it is easy to get completely lost in it. Use technology and enjoy it, but become conscious and do not be used by it.

Francesco Gatti is a meditation & lifestyle expert and author of 'Bliss Out' where he talked about promoting a culture of health and well-being based on meditation and lifestyle interventions.

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