3 questions on digital detox

3 questions on digital detox

Digital technology is an integral part of most of our lives. How does it affect your way of communicating and your relationships?

How could we use the benefits of technology without being overwhelmed by the adverse effects?

Do you ever think about how digital technology affects your health and well-being? Do you do anything about it?

Ravi Ravendran
Retired Project Director,
Wellington, New Zealand

In the early ’70s, when I went to London to further my studies, telephone calls were so expensive that I only managed to speak to my parents about 3 times during the first 5 years. The other way was to write and receive letters, but the personal contact was absent. I was a teenager and the lack of communication with family was very traumatic. It is so different now. These technologies allow me to be in touch with my sister and loved ones, who live far away, on a regular basis and with ease.

Strangely while the digital technologies bring us closer to those loved ones who are far away, they can add distance with the ones living close to us. A few years ago when I realized that I was sending texts or WhatsApp messages rather than meeting people personally, I started to adopt the approach of first trying for face-to-face communication, especially at work; phone calls or voice calls next; email where I need to record or explain in detail; texts to send short messages like reminders and appointments, or as a last resort. I also try to avoid Facebook other than to follow some inspirational teachers. Take time to talk to a person. The body language and human interaction help a lot; we avoid so many misunderstandings that result from emails. Avoid groups in WhatsApp or Facebook unless the purpose of the group is well defined. Refrain from putting confidential information on any of these platforms. Limit the use of technology to set times. Control the technology rather than letting it control me.

Personally I don’t think technology has affected my health that much, except for the degradation of my eyesight due to prolonged computer use at work, which might be due to getting older as well. However, I have seen compulsive behavior and addiction in many people. It is even common to see people checking their phone while crossing the road. Many have also said that the chatter in their mind has increased or amplified due to the constant use of these technologies, which in turn affects their sleep and well-being.

Pankhi Chauhan
Consultant Editor and Content Writer,
Ahmedabad, India

The ever-widening scope of hi-tech communication has definitely boosted my work opportunities and performance. Yet, while I find my friend-network expanding with regular use of digital technology, I also discern a pattern emerging from such communicative means, which I believe has a rather singular effect on me. Where I feel refreshed, happy, satisfied, inspired even, on meeting friends in the flesh, ‘meeting’ them via a screen leaves me… well, for the lack of a better term, partly satisfied. Limitation creeps in: texts and emojis fall short of conveying subtle nuances, often leaving the tête-à-tête lacking heart, not to mention that miscommunication poses a bit of a risk as well. Still, virtual relationships flourish because more often than not, the other party prefers the screen. Sometimes, I wonder if my social networking is taking over my so-see-all networking …

Albert Einstein predicted, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction, the world will have a generation of idiots.” And most unfortunately, our intrinsic typicality of waking up to reality by the time it’s too late may just prove Einstein right. However, where there’s a will, there is a way. I am no Miss Perfect, I too fell prey to my own abuse of smart technology as it is rather addictive, isn’t it? But I have learnt to use it, not abuse it – simply by using my will. So let’s make it a point that whenever our idle hand reaches out for that smart device, we employ that iron will and engage ourselves in a constructive, mind-refreshing, physically-activating and energizing enterprise. There are tons out there, take your pick!

I must admit that up until recently I paid little heed to the warnings of the adverse effects of digital technology on my spiritual, mental and physical health. I took to observing and noticed, in general, how quickly tired I became after a few hours of exposure to this technology. So now I make sure I do the following: take regular breaks – a walk around the block in the fresh air, a quick chat in person, not over the phone, a quiet read of a book. I also turn off the Wi-Fi during the night, keep the phone and laptop away while eating, cooking or meditating, and carry my mobile in a bag not my pocket. If you know more, do share.

Paul Pasternak

I find the communication is more impersonal; there is less intimate connection. It creates a sense of being connected that lacks depth or high quality. This technology gives me a lot of flexibility with my work so I can work remotely. I appreciate the easy access to information that digital technology makes possible, like GPS to get around new places and comparison shopping using the phone while in stores to ensure the products are good quality and prices are fare.

When I am at home I always set the cell phone to call forwarding to my landline. This keeps the phone at distance, so I am not always checking it for messages. Spend time talking to people face-to-face and when you are doing that, put your cell phone away, ideally on silent or airplane mode. This supports a deep focus of attention on the human interaction and gives it the priority.

This technology made me very sick in a number of ways and it took quite some time to figure out the source of the problem. We use hardwire cable for all Internet and printer connections to limit our exposure to electromagnetic radiation while keeping us connected. If we want to view something on a tablet, it is easy to connect via the phone hotspot when needed.

Prasanna Krishna
Director at Welfare Harvesters,
Bengaluru, India

We are in a very ‘connected’ world. The advancement in technology has brought us closer to many of our long lost associates; it has renewed relationships and changed the way we work. Paper and workspaces may become a thing of the past.

But like all things, when moderation is lost we all suffer. Overuse of these technologies is creating fissures in personal relationship, especially with our near and dear ones. One-to-one and face-to face relationships are being compromised. Anything powerful can be misused if we are not balanced. Digital technology is one of the powers in our hands, so we have to use it discreetly and with caution. One way is to use moderate the ‘entertainment’ part of it.

It can severely affect our sight and muscle movement, cause mental depression, and create lifestyle-related issues if not dealt with properly. I find a lot of youth getting addicted to it, sleeping and getting up late and wasting a lot of productive time. There is also a danger of exposure to the ‘wrong’ sort of information. One of the major things I can think of is to avoid writing, reading and forwarding spam messages. When we go to sleep, we can disconnect ourselves from these communication devices and avoid checking them immediately before and after getting up from bed and whenever we wake up in the night. Moderation is the key.

Anna Christina Pearse
Bristol, UK

SMS, email and WhatsApp play an important role in my life. I use them to stay in contact, usually on a one-toone basis, with a wider field of family and friends than I was able to in the past. I also appreciate the time element in SMS and WhatsApp. One has the time to give a considered response – to be aware of the nature of the communication – what part ego is playing in one’s response – and to be sensitive to the feelings of the recipient. I tend not to use social media and group chats except for a simple, factual sharing of events or information for the above reasons.

I feel that we need to use our discrimination in this field. The question we can ask ourselves, and need to ask ourselves, from time to time is: “What is the purpose of this communication?” In this way digital technology can actually be a tool in our self-development as it encourages self-reflection and it can give us the time that is needed for this. However, I am aware as I write these words that I have the luxury of not being in the competitive and time-pressured work environments that many people find themselves in. Nor am I a young person seeking reassurance and affirmation.

I try to follow what my body is telling me about what is still a very unknown element in our lives and also to follow guidelines set down by environmental research. This means minimal and purposeful use and particular care around children. We can turn to nature and observe how we feel when are in nature, and contrast this with how we feel when we are enmeshed in digital technology and sensory bombardment. We need to find that balance within ourselves, and work to maintain it. There is a need to do our utmost for children in this field. We have created something which is both attractive and useful to them; but it has a deadly sting in its tail.

Negin Motamed
Zoning Examiner,
Beaverton, Ontario, Canada

LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus, MeetUp etc. are needed to be aware of what is going on around us as well as to be able to share our views and affect our social network in a positive way. Especially if you are active culturally or socially you can send messages and share your views and events in the shortest possible time to the largest group you can reach out to.

The same comfort and possibility is offered by all sorts of applications to do our shopping, banking, checking the traffic zones before commuting as well as our public transportation timing and so on. Resistance to all these possibilities doesn’t seem wise! It will be similar to trying to flour our grains at this time and age with a hand mill rather than using an electric one, or to pull water with hand from the well rather than using a pipe for it. Who does that?

We can enjoy the calm and concentration by having our cell phones on silent mode during our work hours or whenever we need to focus on some activity. We can consider no WiFi periods at our resting times, during the night, or in our personal relaxation time or get-togethers with family and friends during weekends. It’s time to look at digital technology as it is in its reality, as a capable yet a mere tool. Neither fight with it nor indulge in it.

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