5 steps to digital detox

Although we might appreciate that we are inundated by online space, it is good to try to disconnect from it very now and then. Here we offer some tips that can help.


In the past week, how many times, and for how long, have you disconnected from the digital space? Does it only happen when you are asleep? Is your phone the first thing you pick up when you wake up – even before attending to the calls of nature? Or do you make a regular habit of cutting yourself off from the Internet to ensure quality personal time?

These questions are being raised based on an article last week in the Cayman Compass, Digital ‘sabbatical’ for a week—Can you do it?, in which the author shared a challenge to himself and his wife to turn off their smartphones (and other devices) for 10 days whilst they holidayed in the Bahamas. According to a 2016 study conducted in the United States by Mediakix, the people spend around nearly two hours a day (116 minutes), on their social networks. More importantly, that figure does not include the time spent using applications such as WhatsApp, checking and responding to emails, or even browsing online.

However, while smartphones and the Internet are becoming virtually indispensable for daily living, we ought to be vigilant that we do not become a slave – or overly conditioned – to being continuously connected. The five steps outlined below are just a few of the many suggestions that have been made to help us limit our digital attachment, and to become less anxious, and more independent, of our digital devices.

1.  Switch off broadband routers when not needed

Does your broadband and Wi-Fi router need to be on when you are asleep? The short answer should be ‘no’. It also means that you more likely to get a better night’s sleep without having alerts and notifications buzzing at all hours of the night. You may also wish to consider turning routers off when you are away from home, or at other times when they are not needed. Although such actions might appear redundant, it is more about the discipline being fostered, and giving more conscious thought to when you connect.

2. Turn off push notifications and alerts

In turning off push notifications and alerts on your portable devices, which can come quite frequently and randomly during the day, you are limiting the impetus to constantly check your smartphone (or tablet, as the case may be). It therefore means that you can plan, and even allocate specific times during the day to check your messages and notifications, instead of succumbing to the inherent conditioning – similar to Pavlov’s dogs – of checking every ding and whistle.

3. Thin out your digital space

Are you a member of social networks that you really do not access? Are you part of groups on your social networks to which you never contribute? Are you receiving emails and alerts from people or groups in which you have no interest? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, it may be time to prune your digital space.

Over time, we may find ourselves in online groups, following blogs or on mailing lists that have become a burden, that we no longer have an interest in, but yet they are cluttering up our digital space. The solution: leave those online groups, unsubscribe from the offending mailing lists, and stop following blogs, people and sites that are no longer excite you.

4.  Ensure you are occupied

For the times when you are awake (!) and plan to not access your phone (or other digital device), the key is ensure you are occupied. Many of us constantly check our social networks out of boredom, or because we are not feeling fully engaged in whatever we are supposed to be doing. Hence when we decide to cut off our digital access, we need to ensure that we properly fill time and are occupied. Examples of activities that could benefit from your full attention – without digital distractions – include:  engaging in physical exercise; doing household chores; and having a meal, either alone or with friends. During those activities, you can choose to either: leave your smartphone/device at home; or if it must be nearby, put it in silent or aeroplane mode, or even switch them off altogether

5. Delay your gratification

Although it was highlighted above, it worth emphasizing: we need to break the conditioning of responding immediately to every alert or notification we receive. In other words, we ought to strive to become more aware of our behaviour and conscientiously choose when to respond.

Start with baby steps. When there is an alert, challenge yourself not to check it immediately. If you are supposed to working on something, challenge yourself to finish what you are doing before you check the device. Over time, lengthen period between when there is an alert and when you give yourself permission to check it. Ultimately, it is all about discipline, and being more in charge of your actions, and by extension, your life.


Image credit:  Skitterphoto (Pexels)