Do you ever wake up in the morning checking your phone, laptop or computer for notifications, emails, messages etc? Or do you find yourself spending pretty much every single day surrounded by screens – spending the majority of your day in front of them? If your answer to these questions is yes, then you are like me and most students at the University! Well, we are students and a lot of our work be it presentations, coursework or lecture and revision notes require and involve computers, laptops, access to internet etc. Plus staying on the top of emails and messages to cater to the work and study and also being engaged in social media platforms for maintaining a social life is a major priority. There is no denying any of that at all. But let’s just pause for a while and think, how can this never ending cycle of screen and digital engagement impact us? Does it have any negative impacts on our overall well-being? And if yes what should or can we do about it?
While I have no intentions to pull a whole lot of scientific literature here (although this has now become an integral part of my written mannerism, thanks to my degree!), evidence is building up stating the significant negative impacts increased screen time engagement and social media consumption has on student physical and mental health as well as their overall well-being! Having said that, there is also no denying that as students we have to use computers, phones and laptops for work and studying. We also continue to access emails and social media for the above stated reasons, in spite of knowing the downside of it. And it’s therefore hard to prohibit their usage completely as recommended by some of the research work.
So then what is the best way out? A good solution to this which I think we all can and/or must try could be undertaking a digital detox. So what is a digital detox? Well it simply refers to taking some time off your gadgets and devices or put in other words, it’s going “Offline”. And interestingly enough this is not the same as prohibiting the usage of digital gadgets but only engaging in a planned, balanced and mindful usage of your devices. This means that you can make most of it but also maintain your own well-being by not getting impacted by the negative effects of excessive and relentless digital consumption!
Here are three easy ways you can incorporate it into your everyday life and start your digital detox as a University student and engage in optimal usage of your digital devices!
1) Schedule an Electronic Fast and go Unplugged
Perhaps one of the most direct ways of engaging in and starting your digital detox is scheduling the off the gadgets time. Call it your electronic fast or unplugged sessions, but scheduling either some time or a few days of going gadget free would help you go on a break from your digital dive in. A good way to do this and something I tried and worked well was to sit down and look at my digital schedule in a week. This basically refers to charting out how much, how often and for what reasons do I need to engage, using my digital devices. Following reviewing that I just plan on scheduling either some of the days or certain specific hours of each day to go gadget free. This can be done by simply not using your devices, keeping them out of reach or sight or accessing the in-built features of smartphones, tabs and laptops like do not disturb modes. Even various sites like Cold Turkey which restrict you from binging on social media and entertainment sites and apps like DIGITAL Detox: Fight your Phone Addiction etc. The key thing in this tip is to undertake these breaks periodically and consistently to truly detox yourself out.
2) Don’t replace your pillow with your Gadgets
Honestly this is something I am truly guilty of! Taking my phone to bed with me! A common practice of taking one’s phone to bed and engaging in an often unnoticed temptation for mindless screen-scrolling for hours without realising it, is something we all have done at some point. A fairly straightforward negative impact of this habit is the harmful impact it has on our sleep schedules. And honestly this is also one of those habits which is easily rectifiable as well. Making it a point to have a specific place which is away from your bed (and the bed side table of shelf doesn’t count!) is a good way to get started. But what if you relapse and in a few days find yourself back to the screen-scrolling again? In order to avoid such a relapse, engage in actively priming yourself with notes or small posters on your work stations or on the wall above your bed etc. The idea is to associate your bed as the “Phone/Digital device Free Zone”! Although a very simple and easy ritual, this habit has some potential effects and is a very effective way to digitally detox yourself.
3) Actively engage in Offline Activities
How many of us schedule to meet friends and family for movies, watching a Netflix series or make video game night plans with our friends over the weekends? I can almost hear a lot of yes’s as I write this statement! And that’s a common go-to plan for most of us, in spite of engaging in hours of a screen laden week full of work, we decide to somehow unwind at the mercy of yet another screen. Another very simple change here can help you engage in a screen and gadget free time and thus undertake a digital detox. Just schedule in some time to play an outdoor sport , watch a live play in a theatre (instead of a movie on screen), try cooking, or just read, whilst actively inhibiting the plans that engage the use of gadgets. That’s it, as simple as that and this will count in positively to your attempt to undertake and continue the much required digital detox!
In the busy and ever demanding University environment where we cannot afford to go offline or off digital usage completely, these easy and achievable tips could help you get started with your first digital detox and engage in the much required off the device time.