Addicted To Technology? 5 Good Reasons To Take A Tech Break
There’s a lot to love about technology. Our smartphones and laptops allow us to work remotely. The Internet enables us to track our investments and our fitness, catch up on favorite TV shows, play word games with friends or strangers and order groceries. But that same technology can also disconnect us from what’s most meaningful in our lives. That’s the direction Ginny Reyer was taking until her good friend and business partner called her out on her constant texting.
It wasn’t an easy conversation.
“When my business partner told me she thought I was too distracted, I got defensive. I thought, really … what is she talking about? How could she? How DARE she? I DEPEND on it to keep on top of things. And then I realized that, even as I was arguing that I had my texting under control, I was stealing glances down at my cellphone.”
Reyer’s friend suggested they take a tech break to do some brainstorming and recharge themselves creatively. Like the good Jersey girls they are, the two headed to the shore. No cellphones. No iPads. No Instagram feeds. No excuses.
“We weren’t 10 minutes onto the Parkway before my hands started to itch. By the time we reached the exit for Long Beach Island, I had a headache,” said Reyer. “My friend joked that tech withdrawal was setting in. Secretly, I was worried she was right.”
Reyer isn’t alone. Most of us are plugged in more than we realize, and the everyday gadgets we just “can’t live without” are doing a number on our health and well-being.
We’ve known for some time that multi-tasking can compromise the quality of cognitive work, especially when it comes to efficiency. And the pressure to stay connected 24/7, especially as it relates to work, isn’t helping either. Researchers at Kansas State University found that continuing to communicate with colleagues after hours not only creates stress, but the inability to distance yourself from work also prevents your brain from recharging for the next day.
A growing number of employers are beginning to address the issue. USA Today reported (Prof Tackles Tech Distractions One Student at a Time, April 20, 2014) that some companies are encouraging employees to take a tech break by limiting access to email after hours; others, like Google and General Mills, are providing meditation rooms and creating programs to help workers to take a break from their computer screens.
Of course, technology isn’t the bad guy, but for many the challenge lies in finding a healthy balance between the real and virtual world. Here are a few common-sense tips to consider.
- Monitor your screen time. Most of us wander onto the Internet or social media aimlessly, usually when we’re bored. Start tracking how much you use social media/the Internet/your phone. Sometimes simply quantifying the amount of time we spend in front of screens is sufficient incentive to cut back.
- Set up a gadget-free time/zone in your home. Three in four cellphone users report that their phone is within five feet of them at any given time (Are You a Nomophobe?, 2014). To put distance between you and your electronics, create a tech-free oasis, such as your bedroom, the kitchen table or the family room, and set a time to power down your devices.
- Keep your chin up. According to Dr. Kenneth Hansraj of New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, “text neck” is becoming an epidemic, causing head, neck and arm pain, which, if left untreated, can lead to permanent damage. To help ensure the curves of your neck and spine remain in correct alignment, take regular breaks from your computer, tablet and cellphone; and when texting, avoid dropping your chin to your chest for a long period of time.
- Exercise your body, not your mouse. Physical inactivity has become a global pandemic, say researchers in a 2012 study published in the journal Lancet, causing as many as one in ten premature deaths around the world each year—roughly as many as smoking. Instead of exchanging texts, invite a friend to take a walk, play some tennis or take a yoga class together.
- Let “lights out” mean lights out. Using a cellphone right before bedtime has been shown to interfere with the length and quality of sleep, according to a 2014 report from Veloxity (Cellphones’ Effects on Your Sleeping Habits). The reason is that ambient light from electronic displays suppresses melatonin levels in the brain—a natural hormone and neurotransmitter that tells our bodies that we’re tired.
Finally, consider taking a tech break. “The first day without my cellphone was difficult,” said Reyer. “But then something happened. I started looking at the gorgeous beach. I started noticing the people around me. Instead of walking around with my head down, texting my friends, I focused on the person right in front of me. It was productive, illuminating and fun.”