The term "digital detox" suggests, as with an alcohol or drug detox, that we are imbibing so much of a substance that it is potentially poisoning us. Can digital interaction actually poison us? There is growing, but not yet conclusive evidence, that too much digital activity could be harming us physically. Phones on high volume with constant use could adversely affect our hearing, constant tapping onto a screen might give us repetitive strain syndrome neck and back problems, and the heat from mobile devices might be penetrating our skulls and frying our brains. There's also growing evidence that Wifi signals might impact on the quality our sleep.
Taken together it sounds like a rather doom and gloom scenario suggesting we might just end up as gibbering, stooped wrecks in our old age. Clearly both positive and negative symptoms of this digital wave of change are being reported. It's beneficial but it is also bad. There are clearly some toxic side effects to diving quickly and fully into the digital inferno!
So, part of a digital detox for the new year (or for anytime!) might involve making some common sense actions to help keep our physical bodies healthy amid the constant rise of digital technology. Here are 15 tips:
1. Buy or use a chair with better back and neck support for when you are using a computer or tablet.
2. Refrain from bending your neck over your phone when texting, and try to be mindful of having better posture.
3. Use the speakerphone setting on your cellphone to reduce holding the phone to your ears (many headphones can offer as much radiation as a smartphone to the head, though potentially less heat).
4. Switch off broadband and wifi routers at night and when you aren't using them.
5. Make sure to eat healthily when sitting at your computer (or engaging in other digital activity) -- don't let the familiarity of the activity be a reason for sugar snacking.
In these above five tips, I offered tips to help your body feel healthy despite some of the physically-toxic aspects of digital technology. But perhaps the more reported on issues around the "toxic" nature of the digital world has been the psychological and emotional impacts. In the ten remaining tips below, the "toxic" element I want to tackle is a pollution of our emotional world, the distraction and the diluting of our important relationships.
6. Switch off your devices for set periods of time and fully focus on the physical world. Two good times to start with are meal times and bedtime.
7. Turn off "push notifications" and "alerts" on your smartphones and tablets so you have to decide when to go in to check emails and other messages rather than be constantly alerted and notified.
8. Spend more time out walking — in the woods, on the park, in order to breathe fresh air and get away from the pull of devices.
9. Resolve to give loved ones, friends and colleagues your full physical attention when they need it. No more phones buzzing in pockets or on your lap.
10. Prune your "social media garden." Leave online groups you never engage in, prune your Facebook friend list, stop following blogs, people and sites you never read. Unsubscribe from mailing lists.
11. Declutter your various desktops, tidy files into folders and delete where necessary. Delete apps you never use. Clear your various inboxes, especially those overloaded with unread mails.
12. Visit your privacy settings on the different social media platforms you use, get more clued up and take control over who sees what and when in your social media life.
13. Practice not responding immediately to everything that comes to your attention; choose more consciously when to respond.
14. Cut down the number of hours you spend online and on different devices.
15. Think about what parts of your digital life you really value and love and resolve to enjoy those more mindfully. Make your digital realm the realm you want it to be.
You may need to admit that you are addicted. You may also need to accept that the pain in your neck (literally) owes itself to that addiction.
Perhaps the most toxic form of the digital realm reveals itself when you start to behave like a kind of gadget yourself. You look at adverts when the corporations want you to. You respond because the corporations need you to be on and reacting. When your digital time is no longer really yours then you have really become overshadowed, taken over by the very world that claims to serve you with miracle innovation and technology.
So, why not make this the year when your get back in control of your digital life?