There’s no returning to a world free from constant digital distractions. People walking down the street, their gaze glued to the screen of their smartphone, would have looked absurd two decades ago. Today it’s almost more surprising to see someone going about their day without their phone in their hand.
The COVID-19 pandemic escalated everyone’s dependence on technology. Work and play alike shifted into the digital realm. From business meetings to family gatherings to live-streamed concerts, digital solutions filled the gaps created by the stay-at-home orders. They kept people connected amidst the growing sense of uncertainty and isolation.
At the same time, the digital world comes with a darker side. Social media has exacerbated self-image issues. Research shows the hours spent scrolling are destroying attention spans. Cyberbullying is an ongoing issue that contributes to the rising issues of anxiety and depression. People hurl insults at others they don’t even know, cloaked by online anonymity.
These digital distractions aren’t going anywhere, though. They’re cemented into life as you know it and here to stay for the time being. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. These digital devices come with a mix of both positive and negative consequences.
Rather than going back to the pre-digital days, now you have to learn to coexist with the digital age. You can learn to strike a healthy balance between screen time and the real world. There are plenty of ways you can make sure you’re thriving in the digital world. And recognizing the impact of technology and the digital world is the first step.
Real World Meets the Digital World
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, any time you went out to eat you’d see at least a few people on their phones. You couldn’t go to a concert without someone’s glowing screen obstructing your view of the performance. Movie theaters created dedicated trailer segments asking people to please stay off their phones while in the theater.
Entertainment and socialization have made their way online, too. You can hang out with friends while playing a video game or watch a live-streamed performance from your favorite musician. Family members gathered for holiday celebrations over multi-person video calls. Today you find networking, socials and business meetings alike, all in the digital realm.
Now you can build a career entirely online, too. The possibilities are seemingly endless. You can launch a brand with a crowdfunding campaign, build a following and become a social media influencer, or simply find a remote position at a regular company. There’s no need to live in a major city anymore when you can find a job working from almost anywhere.
Taking Stock of the Digital Impact in Your Life
As the lines between the real world and the digital world blur, it’s more important than ever to recognize your relationship with technology. Take a moment to consider the impact of the digital world on your life. What devices do you rely on the most? Where do you spend the most time each day? How has your use evolved over the years?
How many times do you think you pick your phone up in an hour? Do you leave it alone while you’re working or are you unable to resist the temptation to check it? Can you watch a movie without glancing at your phone at least once or twice? Are you spending most of your time at the end of the day relaxing in front of the television or computer?
One of the most important things to consider is how much time you spend indoors. Do you get outside at all during the day or is most of your time spent inside and on a screen? If your world has shrunk down to the size of a smartphone screen, you’re thriving in the digital world. There are plenty of things to see without having to view them through another’s eyes.
Statistics on Screen Time and Device Use
Massive amounts of research exist surrounding the skyrocketing rates of device usage around the world. Digital devices still haven’t been around long enough to understand their true impact on the growing population. But the data does reveal just how extensively devices have embedded themselves into the world around you.
People spend about 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones per day, according to a study from the device time-tracking software Rescue Time. Another study from eMarketer revealed that the average adult spends even more time on their phone, around 3 hours and 43 minutes each day. That adds up to a total of 49 to 57 days of the year!
Another thing to consider is how often people check their phones. The dings and vibrations from constant notifications have people checking their phones whether they receive a notification or not. One study found that people check their phones about 58 times per day. If you sleep 8 hours, that means you check your phone nearly once every 15 minutes!
Check out your own screen time statistics on your phone. How do you stack up against the national averages? Is it unsettling to consider how much time you spend scrolling through your news feeds and timelines? If those statistics leave you concerned, it’s time to make some adjustments to your relationship with the digital world.
Effects of Digital Distraction
Think about all the different things vying for your attention on your device. The onslaught of notifications is intended to keep you engaged with and connected to the digital world throughout the day. Many believe that their difficulties with focusing for an extended time are the result of the countless digital distractions that surround them.
The average person receives 46 notifications per day. Problems arise not only from the notifications but from your engagement with them as well. Notifications encourage you to compulsively check your phone for any incoming alerts. And once you check your phone, it destroys any focus you had prior to picking it up.
Research backs up these beliefs. A study from the University of California Irvine revealed that it takes you 23 minutes and 15 seconds on average to return to a state of deep focus on a task. The American Psychological Association found that you can lose upwards of 40% of your productive time when your attention shifts away from what you’re working on.
Building a Healthy Relationship with Technology
Even though devices aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future, you can still work to build a healthy relationship with them. Being intentional about your device usages lets you make the most of the incredible technology available to you.
Purge Your Apps
Take some time to scroll through your phone and delete any apps that absorb too much of your time. If they’re a distraction throughout the day, clear them out.
Turn Off Notifications
Turning off unnecessary notifications keeps your distraction levels to a minimum. You can take it a step further by turning off notifications for your text messages, too.
Designate “No Device” Times
Set up times during the day, such as the first or last hours of your day, as “no device” times. Stay off your phone, computer, and TV and spend this time doing something you enjoy that benefits your life.
Overcoming Technology Addiction
As devices become more attuned to your preferences, finding yourself addicted to technology is a growing problem. Technology addiction is still somewhat misunderstood, but its repercussions and consequences are very real.
Are you finding it impossible to cut down or eliminate your device dependence? Seeking treatment for your tech addiction can help. At Lifeskills South Florida, we focus on helping patients find fulfillment from other real-time activities as well as making social connections and ultimately learn to use social media and other internet technology in a healthier and more balanced way. Contact us and learn more about The Greenfield Pathway for Video Game & Technology Addiction Treatment, where we use a whole-person approach that involves a four-phase program led by our Clinical Pathway Director for Technology Addiction, and our highly trained therapists.