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Digital education

‘Techno’ Detox – Are you ready to ‘switch off’?

9 December 2020
Smart phone,Laptop computer,Notebook with coffee and glasses on wooden floor.Top view focus.
Smart phone,Laptop computer,Notebook with coffee and glasses on wooden floor.Top view focus.

Our relationship with digital technology and the online environment feels almost natural by now. In real terms however, this is a fairly new enhancement to our daily lives. In just a few decades it entered and affected our existence almost without realising this change. Many of us remember painfully slow dial up signal connecting to the Internet in 1990’s, following with gradual information sharing via floppy discs, CD-ROMs or USB sticks using the famous ‘real’ save button, continuing with chats and taps using various early apps focusing on answering common needs of users; moving on to the communication revolution utilising Bluetooth connection, talk-to-text messaging and social media alerts. Suddenly conversations became fun; we turned to use of emojis, gifs and memes (and bitmojies). But we can’t stop the progress and we have entered the era of face-to-face connection, virtually speaking. Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, FaceTime, live-streaming via Teams or broadcasting thank to Vimeo Live – all of these advances allowed us joining in practically, they brought amazing improvements of broadcasting our own content, captivating and satisfying audience from all around the world.  Almost naturally, without strong endorsement, the cloud-based smart trends moved into our everyday lives. Internet of things (IoT) is perceived almost like a ‘glue’ to a network of physical ‘smart’ devices connected together and being able to exchange data for our benefits. Connection is everywhere. We cannot escape it. But where does it lead us – especially after recent events of global pandemic?  

There has never been a greater need to switch off from all the technological noise than now. Early 2020 brought a different means to our day-to-day activities and lives while we are still trying to understand the appropriate and healthy harmony between professional-private life (for many of us mostly occurring from safety of our own homes). So-called work-life balance has never been this important and yet, it has never been so hard to separate one from the other.   

Remote working became a new norm and almost expected in many cases. The new phenomenon is here to stay; but are we truly ready to commit to our remote work-life? Are we genuinely accepting the new ways of dealing with our work affairs, personal businesses, or even romantic relationships?  

As with any relationship and contact, we call for reflection and question ourselves how dependent we are on using digital technology and, ultimately, who is in control?   

Working on this blog with my colleagues in the Centre, we offer five tips to scale down on use of technology in our everyday lives:  

1. Are you ready to switch off? 

Look into your relationship with digital technology. We have been asking the same question in the past couple of months because of what we think is important here. What is the impact of technology and how does it affect us? So, our awareness of how much time we spend being ‘connected’ and ‘glued’ to the screens, is a self-journey to recognising the positives and negatives of technology and its impact on us.               

To check upon your digital behaviour ask yourself these questions: 

  • Am I switching between screens (even if I’m supposed to have time off screen)? 
  • Am I distracted from real-life conversations or events? 
  • Am I staying up later than I should because I’m monitoring work emails and responding to messages? 
  • Do I lose track of time when I’m on my phone/laptop?   
  • Do I feel tired after too much screen time – physically and mentally?  

2. Are you getting interrupted all the time?  

According to Larry Rosen, our brains can refocus after an interruption approximately after 20 minutes (Larry Rosen is a psychology professor at California State University and co-author of The Distracted Mind).  The key here is to stay focused – do not get distracted by pings, alerts, calls and calendar events. Notifications and announcements are designed to capture our attention.  

To check upon your digital behaviour ask yourself these questions: 

  • Do I need to check my phone straight away if a notification comes through? 
  • Does my use of technology affect my close relationships? 
  • Do I get distracted by feeds I follow (topics and stories that I’m interested in)? 
  • Am I aware how I feel after being distracted by social media?  
  • Am I regularly checking notifications on my personal device during work time? On the contrary, am I getting work notifications during down time? 

3. Do you respect yourself?  

In these times of remote work and homeworking, it can be difficult to take breaks and not feel guilty for taking time off the screen.  What is essential here to think about? Break regularly! Taking irregular breaks and not following a healthy diet and drinking regime may have serious health implications. Headaches, fatigue, broken sleep pattern, affected vision or weaker muscles – all of these negative effects and many other symptoms have been directly linked to use of technology.  

To check upon your digital behaviour ask yourself these questions: 

  • Am I missing lunch or working extended hours out of worry that I’ll miss an important email, or I won’t finish a task? 
  • Am I feeling like I’m missing something important at work if I don’t keep an eye on my phone during my breaks? 
  • Do I suffer from ‘Zoom-fatigue’ and ‘Teams-anxiety’? 
  • Do I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information I’m receiving? 

4. Environment, environment, environment – right place and right time? 

Thankfully, it’s not all negative. Positive uses of tech for our health, work, education and fun have bloomed in the past couple of years. Digital offers many benefits to our working settings. It’s important to make sure we find the right balance in using it without feeling anxious or distressed – using the right technology, at the right time and place. Concentrate on jobs during the daytime and switch off to reconnect with your family and friends in the evenings. Tracking our screen time is always a good idea. With little help from third-party apps (such as Moment (iOS), Flipd (iOS and Android), QualityTime (Android) or Forest (iOS and Android)), we can achieve preventing the harmful effects of social media and digital networking sites. It’s also important to create a working culture where expectations are well managed. Instant responses and on-screen availability for eight hours a day is impossible. We need to have the opportunity to have time to focus and think without digital interruption. 

To check upon your digital behaviour ask yourself these questions: 

  • Am I scheduling calls back-to-back? 
  • Am I multitasking while in a meeting?  
  • Am I allowing time for thinking? 
  • Am I using the right technology to do my job in the most effective and the best possible way? 
  • Is my working environment balanced? Am I comfortable with this tech-environment set up? 
  • Am I creating enough device-free zones and times? 

5. Fresh air, great outdoors and smart tech – What next? 

We adopted the flexible working model, i.e. work from home, very quickly without really thinking about the long-term effects. Spending time between four walls all day long isn’t healthy and good for our wellbeing. There are many proven health benefits from being outdoors. Being outside in natural light instantly changes our moods and feelings. Regular physical activity in nature can boost our resilience and help with many types of mental health problems. Unplug more often, achieve great outcomes.  

To check upon your digital behaviour ask yourself these questions: 

  • Am I getting enough fresh air during my working day? 
  • Do I move regularly during my working hours? 
  • Am I taking part in ‘digital siestas’, i.e. time when digital meetings are not allowed? 
  • Am I eating / drinking regularly?  
  • Am I staying in touch with others outside my working hours?  

Consideration and conclusion 

What is digital mindfulness? We came this far and yet we know so little about being digitally mindful. We (in the centre) feel that enhancing our well-being and happiness is a key factor to our great working relationships. We created an environment which is supported by trust, enhanced by honest approach, and led by team spirit.  

We hope that this blog post has given you some food for thought, allowing you to reflect on your practices with the digital environment during 2020 and how you may look at changing your habits in the New Year. Taking these considerations into account, we hope you manage to have a relaxing break, taking some well-earned time away from the screen.

Written by Marianna Majzonova and the Digital Education Team at CESI




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