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5 steps to wean yourself from tech and social media addiction

A healthy life should not be a dependent on anything whether it be gadgets, alcohol or food.

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Addiction maybe defined as “Any activity, substance, object or behavior that is the primary focus in a person’s life, which may prevent him/her from optimally performing other activities to the extent that it may harm the person or other physically, mentally or socially.” Engs 1987

Technology has intrinsically woven itself into the fabric of society, and continues to seep into more areas of human existence. The irony with technology lies in that what connects us to the rest of world isolates us from real-time human interaction. As our dependence on technology continues to grow our social interactions mutate, and as with all change, certain valuable nuances get lost.

There is a growing body of research which provides evidence on the negative impacts of excessive gadget use on family functioning (Chasanah & Kilis, 2018). Current research also links usage of smartphones with physical and mental health symptoms like headaches and irritability (Acharya et al. 2013). It is imperative to bear in mind while there seems to be a growing consensus that excessive use of gadgets has a negative impact on overall health, the key operative to the negative impact consensus is the word ‘excessive’. It is only when gadget use is excessive that a dependence and addiction is formed and the quality of life is negatively impacted.

While the current social climate and technology advances facilitate and propagate gadget dependency/addiction, there are steps that individuals can implement to assist in reversing their addiction.

Awareness

The first step to working on gadget addiction is to become aware of the amount of time you are spending on your gadget. It is also useful to track how many times you open certain apps and why. Collect this data for a week and then look at it ask yourself the following questions:
1. How many hours this week did I spend on gadgets?
2. Do I only use gadgets for constructive purposes or am I using gadgets to avoid tasks or to stalk people?
3. Which apps/programs do I use the most?
4. Which gadget do I use the most?
5. If all the hours I spend on my gadget aren’t constructive/helpful, if I reduce 30 minutes of screen time what are some of the other things I could do?

Once you have this data and insights, you will hopefully feel more prepared to start reducing your gadget usage. If you would like to do this for a child create a timetable of the day and mark the hours of technology use with the child.

Create small technology free pockets during the day

Once you have an understanding of much of your day is spent on gadgets your next step is to slowly and systematically reduce it over a period of time. Create 10-15 minutes during the day where you step away from all gadget use. During this time, you can go outside, exercise, deep breathe or read. The goal is to try to keep yourself occupied and allow the time to pass. Every week extend this time till you can go for 90 minutes without technology! Ensure that you extend this time slowly – rushing may cause you to relapse due to frustration, anxiety or irritability.

Make lifestyle changes

Small changes in everyday routine can make a world of difference. Place your phone away from the bed; do not take your phone to the bathroom, eat your meals at the dining table and ensure the phones are in a separate room, do not buy a new gadget till you really have to, etc. Small changes like this will assist you with changing your gadget habits.

Turn off notifications and sound in general

Human beings are often conditioned to respond when we see and hear certain things. By turning off your notifications and sound, we are manually reducing prompts which activates the automatic response system.

Introspect

With any form of addiction, there is normally a trigger – whether it is a stressful home environment or emotional baggage from the past or simply conflict. Through introspection and reflection, one can get insight into why gadgets are needed, and how and why the addiction manifested. When we understand the root of the problem, we can work to fix the actual problem which in turn will allow you to work on addiction.

I am fully aware that theory versus practice is a completely different ball game and for those who suffer addiction, they find might it extraordinarily difficult to take action steps to reduce gadget use. The key in that scenario is to create a familial support network to assist you in your recovery journey, and if that isn’t impossible or has been tried, test and failed then seek professional assistance. A healthy life should not be a dependent on anything whether it be gadgets, alcohol or food.

The article is written by Tanya Vasunia, Psychology- Major Specializing in Child at Mpower.

  • Published Date: January 17, 2019 1:17 PM IST