Remember life before the internet? Think about a time long-gone when nearly every aspect our lives didn't rely on technology? Worse still, what those countless hours of tech consumption does to your body and mind in the long run?
With technology dependency and addiction becoming a growing problem in Bangladesh, a 'digital fast' or detox might be just what we all need.
A digital detox is essentially a process where you refrain from the use of electronic devices for a specific period, to maintain a healthy balance between the virtual world and IRL (in real life) activities.
Here's why we could all use one.
Being 'always on' causes stress and blurs work/life boundaries
For most of us, it's the ever-present digital connectivity, the fear of missing out and the burning need to keep checking messages, news and social media that keeps our brains over-stimulated and leads to tech stress.
That feeling of always being switched on makes it challenging to draw a line between your personal and work life. Even at home or on vacation, it's hard to refrain from checking your email or responding to that quick request from a team member.
Technology is damaging your attention span and productivity
We live in a culture that fosters attention deficit disorder because of hyper-connectivity.
You could be working on a presentation and before you know it, you're sucked into the bottomless pit that is Facebook; checking out one album after another of your friends' vacation highlights.
Since the birth of the smartphone, the average human attention span has declined significantly and is now shorter than that of a goldfish, thanks in no small part to notifications buzzing every few minutes.
Isn't it challenging to reach that golden state of productivity when you're perpetually distracted (and stressed) by phone alerts?
Social media addiction is tied to mental health concerns
Social media use has been associated with several psychological issues, including anxiety, social anxiety, depression and loneliness.
We spend our days working on a computer only to come home and stay glued to a cell phone, putting our real lives in the back seat.
Measuring your life against others' and trying to meet unrealistic expectations created by social media has a negative impact on self-esteem. As the saying goes, comparison is the real thief of joy.
Technology impacts your social relationships and experiences
Having your phone within arm's reach when interacting with your loved ones (or anyone for that matter) keeps you from fostering deep relationships, being present in the moment and gaining important takeaways from the conversation.
Research also shows that continuously taking photos detaches us from the experience and cripples our ability to remember it. Put the camera down and be here, now – maybe you'll preserve more of the present moment.
Digital devices can hamper sleep
Heavy electronic use, particularly in bed or close to bedtime, can impact sleep and mood, reduce alertness the next morning and trigger insomnia and anxiety.
This is caused by the artificial blue light that digital devices transmit, which delays your body's internal clock and suppresses the release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
In the long term, these effects can build up to a chronic deficiency in sleep.
Your long term health may be affected
Tech-neck (smartphone slouch or desk slump) has led to a rise in tech-related abnormal postures. How common today is the sight of people hunched over their phone or laptops oblivious to the world around them?
Screen glare from our devices, bad lighting and improper viewing distances are responsible for eye strain and a host of related issues ranging from watery, dry, itchy, burning or sore eyes to near-sightedness, headaches, blurred or double vision and increased sensitivity to light.
Endlessly keying away at your devices also prompts repetitive strain injuries of the fingers, thumbs and wrists.
Tech addiction can promote a sedentary lifestyle (inactive, with little physical exercise). The effects may be 'invisible' and gradual but such inactivity increases the risk of various conditions and diseases namely obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
Here's how you can realistically do a digital detox
We're practical people here so we're not going to suggest a week-long escape to the Himalayas leaving your devices and real life constraints behind. Although if you can accomplish that, hats off to you.
Here are some easy ways a responsible, functioning adult can enjoy tech-free breathers without having to shirk duties, miss deadlines or go into anxiety mode.
Consolidate your devices
Start by making a list of the electronic devices that you use every day. This may include your smartphone, tablet, computer, iPod, Kindle, TV and PlayStation.
Eliminate the unnecessary or set limits
Evaluate which apps, features or tools are important and which don't serve any real purpose.
Get rid of these time-wasters. For instance, you can remove social media apps from your smartphone and limit usage to your computer browser.
Allocate a specific time (or limit time) for certain apps. Instead of picking up your phone every time a new story hits or you receive a new notification, set aside a particular hour each day to check for news and updates and send responses. Or limit your use of these apps to 30 minutes each day.
Detox a particular app, site or device. If your gaming console is the main culprit of distraction, start by restricting your use of this problematic item.
Give yourself an overall screen time allowance. Download a screen time control app or use the built-in features in your smartphone to track your device usage patterns and set limits.
Turn off trivial notifications
Does that red notification alert compel you to take immediate action? Many social media, lifestyle and news websites send alerts every single time you have a new message or tag, or when a breaking news hits.
Turn off unimportant notifications in your settings and app permissions so you have fewer distractions and heightened concentration and productivity.
Declare tech-free times and zones
Have a no-tech rule during specific times or activities, such as when you're cooking, eating, working on a project, exercising or spending time with family and friends.
If you enjoy music while exercising, download the playlist beforehand and set your phone to airplane mode. Declare your dining table a tech-free zone. Refrain from using devices during the last hour before you go to bed.
Put your phone on do-not-disturb, silent or flight mode or put it out of sight altogether to avoid temptation.
At the very least, do a mini-detox at the end of each day by allocating an hour (or two) of device-free time. Find a balance between downtime and the demands of life that personally works for you.
Treasure your tech-free moments
Spend this valuable time doing something you enjoy or find relaxing or meaningful. This could mean cooking, reading, exercising, getting creative, spending time with loved ones – or putting your feet up and doing nothing at all.
Let your mind wander and see what you naturally gravitate towards. The best ideas and inspirations hit when our minds are relaxed, day-dreaming and not bogged down with trivialities.
Ultimately, a digital detox is a way to disconnect to reconnect. You certainly don't want to look back on our years and realise you spent the majority of waking hours glued to screens, missing out on meaningful experiences, human connections and the things that genuinely bring you happiness.