PHOTO: The digital detox is growing in popularity and accessibility. (Photo via Flickr/David Lytle)
If you have been out to a meal recently and managed to look up from your own screen, you may have seen that couples and even whole families are paying more attention to their smartphones and tablets than they are spending time with each other.
If they are talking, it’s likely they are just discussing the subject matter on one of those screens.
I know. I am guilty, too. In an age where breaking news alerts dominate the day, it’s hard not to be distracted by the constant buzzing and dinging from apps alerting me that something is happening elsewhere in the world.
Research out of the University of Derby in the UK recently published results of its International Journal of Cyber Behaviour, Psychology and Learning study, which found that 13 percent of participants are actually addicted to their screens.
Unfortunately, even if you aren’t addicted, chances are good that phone and tablet usage is having a negative impact on your life. The study found that “the average user spending 3.6 hours per day on devices such as a smartphone, often causing severe distraction from relationships and ‘real life.’”
In a very public revealing of how addicted we are to screen time, a Houston daycare’s notice to parents telling them to get off their phones because it was negatively affecting the lives of their children went viral, which is about as ironic as it gets.
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Are you thinking that it’s high time we reckon with our addiction to technology and take a digital detox? It is possible and the ideal time to do it is coming up. The National Day of Unplugging is March 3-4 and there’s still time to plan to ditch your device for a few days.
If you find yourself unable to get through a conversation without checking for a status update or a new email, consider unplugging for a solid 24 hours on the National Day of Unplugging.
If you think that you can go longer, head out on a digital-free adventure. There are still plenty of places in the world where there simply isn’t phone service. Many of our remote national parks provide the perfect antidote for the digitally addicted. Try texting on a hike through Death Valley or checking BuzzFeed in Sequoia National Park—it’s not going to happen.
Check in to Camp Grounded, a summer camp for adults with the specific purpose of disconnecting. It provides an “off-the-grid weekend of pure unadulterated fun in the redwoods,” with more than 50 “playshops” arts, crafts, yoga, meditation, swimming, sing-a-longs and more.
For those who are really committed, unplug on a far-away adventure in Mongolia, Cuba or Patagonia with Intrepid Travel. The journeys, which are designed for those who want to disconnect, range from nine to 15-days long and focus on culture and tradition far from any cell towers.
Very simply: Don’t bring your device.
Head out on an adventure with your real camera and capture life in a simpler way. Read a book or pick up a newspaper. Try not to distract yourself with what you are missing and focus on what you are gaining from your adventure.
Most importantly, don’t forget to relax. Enjoy these few unplugged moments to return to being just you.