A digital detox refers to a period of time when a person refrains from using technology devices such as smartphones, televisions, computers, tablets and social media sites. Detoxifying digital devices is often seen as a way to focus on real-life social interactions without distractions. By forgoing digital devices, at least temporarily, people can get rid of the stress that comes with constant connectivity.

Before deciding if it’s right for you, consider some of the benefits and potential methods of doing a digital detox.

Although people often feel that they cannot imagine life without their technological devices, research and research has found that the use of technology can also contribute to stress. A study conducted by researchers in Sweden found that the use of heavy technology among young adults was related to sleep problems, depressive symptoms and increased levels of stress.

If you spend time on social media, you’ve probably found yourself comparing your own life to that of your friends, family, strangers, and celebrities. You might find yourself thinking that everyone seems to be living a fuller, richer, or more exciting life based on the tiny, selected glimpse you see in your Instagram or Facebook posts.

As the saying goes, comparison can really be a thief for joy. Detoxifying your social connections can be a good way to focus on what’s important in your life, without comparing yourself to others.

FOMO – The fear of losing

The fear of losing, known as FOMO, is the fear of losing the experiences that everyone else is having. Constant connectivity can fuel this fear. Every time you see a curated image or post about someone else’s life, you get the feeling that your life is less exciting than theirs. You may end up overcommitting to social events for fear of being left behind.

FOMO can also keep you constantly checking your device for fear of missing an important text, DM or post.

Doing a digital detox is a way to set limits and reduce the fear of losing something. The key is to do this in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling isolated from what’s happening in your digital world.

Signs You May Need a Digital Detox

  • Do you feel anxious or stressed if you can’t find your phone
  • You feel obligated to check your phone every few minutes
  • Do you feel depressed, anxious or angry after spending time on social media
  • Are you worried about like, comment, or reshare counts on your social posts
  • Are you afraid of losing something if you don’t keep checking your device
  • Do you usually stay up late or wake up early to play on your phone
  • You have a hard time concentrating on one thing without having to check your phone

How to do a digital detox

Some might suggest that a true digital detox would involve predefined abstinence from any and all digital devices and social media connections, but it’s important to make using the device work for your own life and demands.

Disconnecting from your devices can benefit your mental well-being, but doing a digital detox doesn’t have to involve a complete separation of your phone and other tech connections. The process is generally more about setting limits and making sure you’re using your devices in a way that benefits, rather than harms, your physical and emotional health.

Be realistic

If you can do a full digital detox for a while, it might be something you might want to try. Being completely disconnected can be liberating and refreshing for some people. For many people, completely forgoing all forms of digital communication may not be possible, especially if you really depend on staying connected for work, school, or other obligations.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of a digital detox; the key is to make disconnection something that works for your schedule and your life.

If you need your devices during the day for your work, try doing a mini detox at the end of the work day. Pick a time when you want to turn off your devices, then focus on spending a night completely free of things like social media, texting, online videos and other electronic distractions.

Set limits

While it’s not always possible or even preferable to disconnect completely, setting limits on when these digital connections can interfere with your time can be good for your mental well-being.

For example, you might want to use your phone to play your Spotify or Apple Music playlist while you’re exercising, but setting it to airplane mode will ensure you’re not distracted by phone calls, text messages, other messages or apps of notifications during training.

Setting limits on the type and timing of connections you’ll participate in helps ensure you can enjoy real-world activities completely free of digital drift.

Other times, when you want to limit your digital device usage, include:

  • When you’re having meals, especially when you’re dining with other people
  • When you’re waking up or going to bed
  • When you are working on a project or hobby
  • When you are spending time with friends or family
  • Before you sleep every night

Remove distractions

Another way to start your digital detox is to turn off push notifications on your phone. Many social media apps including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and news sites send alerts whenever you receive a message, mention or new post.

Instead of checking certain apps or websites every time a new story or post arrives, set aside a specific time each day to check your posts or mentions. Then set aside a certain amount of time, about 20 or 30 minutes, to devote to updating and submitting responses.

Do the work for you

A digital detox can be anything you want and it can take many forms. You might try giving up all digital devices for a while, including television, cell phones, and social media. In other cases, you might want to focus on restricting the use of only one type of digital device, such as a phone or game console.

Some ideas you might consider trying:

  • A digital fast: try to give up all digital devices for a short period of time, such as a day or even a week
  • Recurring digital abstinence: choose a day of the week to run out of devices
  • A specific detox: If an app, website, game or digital tool is taking up too much of your time, focus on restricting the use of that problematic item
  • A social media detox: focus on restricting or even completely eliminating your use of social media for a specific period of time

Digital Detox Tips

Some people find it too easy to give up on their devices. Others will find it much more difficult and even cause anxiety.

There are a few things you can do to ensure your digital detox is more successful:

  • Let your friends and family know you are on a digital detox and ask for help and support
  • Find ways to distract yourself and keep other activities available
  • Delete social media apps from your phone to reduce temptation and make access easier
  • Try to leave the house; go out to dinner with friends or take a walk when you’re tempted to use your device
  • Keep a journal to track your progress and write down your thoughts about the experience.