Whether it’s extreme texting, tweeting, Googling, posting or blogging, the phenomenon of being caught in the web of the Web is real. Rationalizations range from coping with today’s information overload to fear of missing out (FOMO). Digital Detox.Yet, detriments of such continual digital connectedness range from the stifling of family and social bonds to a lack of life skills that only face-to-face communication fosters.
In 2011, The New York University Child Study Center reported that 8-to-18-year-olds average more than six hours of daily media use and that school grades of a surveyed group that considered themselves “heavy” users were considerably lower than their “light” use counterparts. Stanford Communications Professor Clifford Nass, author of The Man Who Lied to His Laptop, remarked in a 2013 NPR interview that people that do extensive media multitasking “can’t filter out irrelevancy, can’t manage memory and are chronically distracted. They say they are productive and can ‘shut it off’, but can’t keep on task and focus on one thing.”
Fortunately, programs to unplug are catching on. More than 400 middle and high schools in 20 U.S. states plus Canada took a Digital Blackout Challenge to refrain from using electronic devices for one week during the 2012-2013 school year (DigitalBlackout.org). From Chief Sealth International High School, in Seattle, Washington, senior Marissa Evans says the experience informed her “there’s a balance between ‘too much’ and ‘just enough’” in being connected, and classmate Alex Askerov terms the Challenge “a breath of fresh air.”
For the 2013 documentary film, Sleeping with Siri, Seattle-based journalist Michael Stusser underwent a one-week, self-assessed “techno gorge”, followed by a digital detox of the same duration. During stage one, he said his blood pressure went up 40 points after four days. He found, “You’re always waiting for a response.” He subsequently enjoyed being disconnected.
Foresters, a Toronto, Ontario-based life insurance provider, asks families to take a Tech Timeout pledge for at least one hour every day and make Sundays entirely non-tech, packed with family activities and socializing.
Learn more at TechTimeout.com.