How much time do you spend responding to emails, working with digital software, or in virtual meetings? If you’re like most modern workers, you probably spend the majority of your waking hours using the internet.
You’d think that working with the internet would encourage you to sign out at the end of the day. However, even in leisure hours, you probably still opt for digital interactions over real experiences. Worldwide, people spend an average of 2 hours and 27 minutes per day scrolling on social media, and platforms like Instagram and Facebook now boast billions of users.
But when was the last time you enjoyed spending time on the internet? Streaming the occasional show is fun, but doom scrolling and refreshing your emails every 10 minutes is probably less intentional than you’d like to admit. If this sounds familiar, then it may be time to go on an internet detox that actually works.
An internet detox will only work if you are calm and aren’t constantly stressed over time-sensitive emails or drama on communication channels. This is particularly important if you work remotely and use the internet for communication and to complete daily tasks. You simply cannot allow work to bleed into your leisure time and should never check emails during a digital detox.
You can reduce your work-related stress by speaking to your manager and letting them know that you’re overworked and/or stressed. Good managers will reassess your workload and help you set boundaries. This will help you focus on an internet detox while maintaining your work productivity.
It’s important to remember that an internet detox doesn’t necessarily mean that you cut out internet use altogether. You can still complete a detox even if your work requires you to sign in and use programs like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. But, you must be hyper-focused on using your time wisely on things that do not involve the internet, like volunteering, travel, or practicing a new art.
Using Your Time Wisely
Before starting your detox, ask yourself a simple question: why do you use the internet? For many people, the internet exists to alleviate boredom and pass time that would be spent staring out of windows or twiddling thumbs.
This means that, before your detox, you must plan ahead and fill the time you would have otherwise spent on the internet.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to spend your newly found free time. Volunteering can improve your mental health and helps to occupy your mind during the early stages of your digital detox. Volunteering also helps you feel useful and shows you the value of spending your time wisely — something that’s hard to do when you’re caught in the throes of a “doom scroll”.
You should seek out volunteering opportunities before you start your detox, as most charities and organizations post openings on their social media channels and websites. If you’re stuck looking for a worthy cause, consider volunteering with a local homeless shelter or climate activism organization as these charitable groups can always use extra hands.
A digital detox doesn’t have to last forever. Some of the best digital detoxes can be as short as a single afternoon. That's because, like it or not, you probably have to use digital devices throughout the day, and shunning social media or emails for a week will result in greater stress when you return to your smartphone or laptop.
A mini-detox also has the benefit of greater flexibility. You can take a digital detox whenever you feel like it and can end the detox at a time that works for you. You don’t have to let anyone know that you’re going on a mini-detox, and won’t come back to dozens of missed emails after a few hours spent away from screens.
The best time to take a mini-detox is in the evening after you finish work for the day. Once your workday is over, turn all your devices off and make a list of non-digital things you’d like to do. This can involve spending extra time making dinner or practicing a new art like painting or poetry. Just make sure your list contains activities that are both fun and time-consuming, as idle thumbs can easily stray toward remote controls or gaming consoles.
Going Cold Turkey
Life without the internet is almost unthinkable now. But less than 20 years ago, most people were living perfectly happy lives without the web. If you feel a nostalgic pull toward life before Google and Whatsapp, then you might want to try going cold turkey for a few days, weeks, or even permanently.
Living without the internet usually puts you at a disadvantage, but you won’t be alone in your decision to forgo the web — millions of Americans still live without the web. In part, the choice to live without the internet is due to a digital divide between generations, but folks from every demographic are reassessing their digital life and enrolling in technology rehabilitation camps.
Now, forgoing the ability to “just Google it” isn’t for everyone. But, if you do want to say goodbye to broadband and 5G, then you should ensure that you can still connect with loved ones through other means. This will probably involve getting an old-fashioned landline or flip phone so your family and friends can reach you, and you may want to subscribe to the local paper to receive important news updates that can impact your day-to-day life.
Taking an internet detox is a great way to reassess your relationship with digital media and discover new passions like volunteering or art. Before going on an internet detox, tell your boss and family members that you will be unavailable, and let them know what you are hoping to achieve. This will reduce your stress and make it easier to start a detox that actually works.