Time For a Digital Detox?


Nov 11, 2014 by Smart Blog

This year, why not consider a new type of holiday? In remote areas all over the world, you can now go on a 'digital detox' holiday or retreat - as long as you are willing to leave all technology behind for the duration.

In some resorts, staff remove any 'contraband' gadgets that are left in customers' rooms, and smartphones are deposited at reception on arrival. So why are holidaymakers spending good money to have strangers part them from their technology?



The debate over the effects of 'too much' technology has been raging for at least a decade. Just as parents of the seventies and eighties fretted about how much television was bad for children, now adults and children alike are - some say - at risk from the modern scourges of screen time and the internet.

The 'tech free' holiday industry seems to be driven by people's fear of the harm that too much technology might cause, along with a growing feeling that having a break from all things digital can actually make one feel better.



Disconnecting from the digital world of work has been recommended for some time now. It is widely believed that if employees can't read their work-related e-mail, documents and intranet while on holiday, they will get a proper rest and come back to work refreshed (and able to work even harder!) However, there seems now to be a growing call for people to disconnect from the digital world in general, regardless of whether they gadgets for work or pleasure.

Some evidence suggests this is entirely reasonable. With so many people using smartphones, tablets, laptops and the like, it is increasingly difficult to escape from technology. Yet some studies suggest that too much screen time leads to disrupted sleep patterns, reduced concentration and creativity, and increased levels of stress. Screen time has also been linked to obesity, and some neuro-imaging studies suggest that it can actually damage brain tissue and function.

The content of online life matters too, it seems. In a 2012 survey by Anxiety UK, 53% of respondents claimed that social media had changed their behaviour, usually in adverse ways. Many claimed that comparing themselves with friends online dented their self-confidence.

Cyberbullying is a major worry for children and adults alike, and some academics now view social media addiction as a real affliction.


Up to you

In contrast, others claim that social media and connecting online in general spreads feelings of support and friendship and thus enhances happiness. They point to shortcomings in the published studies (and there is no doubt that further research is needed); but does this mean that a digital detox is pointless?

The answer is probably 'not necessarily'. The best test of whether a digital detox would suit you is to make an honest assessment of how your use of technology makes you feel. If getting away from it for an hour, a day or a month enhances your life, why not? It is relatively easy to start breaking free, for example by scheduling 'gadget free' time into a recurring event, like queuing for lunch or coffee.

After all, once people are no longer engrossed in their smartphones, who knows what new conversations, observations, discoveries and friendships await?