Earlier in the month, Ofcom released the 2016 Communications Market Report where it was reported that fifteen million UK internet users had admitted to taking a digital detox due to tech information overload. According to their statistics, the population is so overwhelmed by digital information we need to detox from our digital lives, deactivate our Facebook accounts and stop checking emails.
It's not surprising so many turn to such an extreme response when they feel it all gets too much. Our current lives are driven by excess and overindulgence: we eat too much, drink too much and work too hard. When it all gets too much we get rid of that extra weight by going on a crash diet, flush out the vast quantities of festive champagne with dry January and make a promise to ourselves to leave the office on time. And so the cycle continues, year after year after year.
Similarly, digital connectivity has an increasing stranglehold over our lives fuelled by our incessant desire to continually check our messages. It's not difficult to see why: our brains are hardwired to crave more and more information, looking for validation through likes and shares.
The rush we get from an alert on our phones is the same as eating a bar of chocolate.
Such modern living is taking its toll on our lives.
The same Ofcom report found that almost half of internet users neglect housework, miss out on sleep and spending time with friends and family in favour of checking their phones! So like the diet companies that went before them, the travel industry is capitalizing on this crisis, charging huge amounts for a digital holiday.
The fundamental point that's being missed however here though is that a digital life, is real life.
Phones, apps and computers are now intrinsically part of our everyday, the two can no longer be separated. Further to this, and the hardest part for us to admit is that it's not technology that's the problem - we (and the way we interact with technology) are the problem. And a holiday isn't going to change that.
This is easier said than done, especially when you're faced with hundreds of incoming messages each day. In our world of instant gratification, it's tempting to react to every notification, but frankly our need for immediate responses needs to be reassessed. We might live in a digitally connected world, but just as we can't ignore the onslaught of messages neither should we take notice of them all.
Instead, we need to exercise our freedom to decide what is important to us.
The good news is; technology already exists to help us with that task. You can't possibly decide what's important when you're faced with hundreds of messages, but what if technology can flag the 50 most important ones? Some of these will be important but not urgent, so can be responded to at a later point, say two hours or even two days! The bonus if you let technology make real-time decisions like this, then you are able to act on those important emails much quicker than if you'd have to sift through all 400.
A long-term, sustainable approach to digital health starts with the realisation that you don't have to react to everything that comes your way. Technology can 'learn' what you consider to be important messages based on how responsive you are. For example, my boss and wife will get their emails responded to within minutes, but if I'm busy I won't even open the marketing newsletter.
If we continue to gorge on an 'all you can eat' digital platter we will be left feeling as overloaded, stressed and tired as we were before. It will be far more effective to introduce positive, long-lasting ways to curb your digital excesses. Starting today!