Did you know that the average American adult spends over 11 hours a day in front of a screen? That includes, computers, TVs, smart phones and other electronic devices. In fact, I’ll bet you are at a loss if you leave your smart phone at home by mistake. The diagnosis? Information overload. The only cure is unplugging.
While we think we are better off with the instant access to information and the ability to stay connected with each other and the world around us, there are some potential health risks and hazards to consider (and, yes, some of these would be funny if it weren’t a serious problem):
- Increased stress, depression and isolation. We’ve all heard the stories (and probably experienced it on some level) of the anxiety caused by social media, whether it’s envy or jealousy of the “perfect” lives of our friends, feelings of not being good enough or just not interacting with real people because of an obsession with social media. The “fear of missing out” is alive and well and contributes greatly to these mental health conditions.
- Traffic and pedestrian accidents and fatalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving involving the use of mobile phones is at least partially responsible for killing nine people and injuring 1,000 each day. And yes, we’ve all seen the videos of people falling into fountains and other obstacles because they were so absorbed in what they were doing on their phones.
- Relationship issues with friends and family. It seems ironic that because of our connectedness through social media, email and cell phones, we tend to have trouble in our real relationships. A “Stress in America” survey by the American Psychological Association found that 44 percent of people who frequently or excessively check email, text messages, and social media sites feel disconnected from their family, even when they’re together.
So, how do you effectively unplug, reestablish those relationships with family and friends, and get back to what is meaningful for you? Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Do a social media “fast”. Consciously decide that you will not check your Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or other social media account of choice for a given time frame. Start with a day or two (or even an hour or two) to gauge how “addicted” you are to your devices.
- Turn off your phone at night. Turn off your phone an hour before you go to bed, and then don’t turn it on until an hour after you get up in the morning (that means setting an alarm besides your phone!). Take the time to think about your day, reconnect with family and truly enjoy the peace and quiet.
- Set aside specific times during the day to check texts and emails. One big productivity buster can be checking and monitoring your email constantly all day long. If you set aside a 20-minute period three times a day to read and answer your emails, you’ll be amazed at how much more productive you are throughout the day – and you’ll find you don’t miss much by doing so!
- Make meals a “no electronics zone”. Take time to check in with your kids and your significant other during this time. Find out what’s going on in their lives, play a game, do something fun and reconnect.
What’s your plan to unplug and take a vacation from electronics?