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In today’s gadget-crazed culture, it’s easy to get lost among a frenzy of text messages, smartphone apps, and social media. According to a recent Student Health 101 survey, 58 percent of students check their smartphones multiple times an hour. Taking time away from the digital world can give you more time to focus on the activities and relationships that are important to you.
Unplugging for Academics
Constant use of technology can contribute to having trouble concentrating. A 2011 study published in the journal Learning, Media, and Technology found that students who focused on their schoolwork without distractions learned and retained new information more effectively than students who texted, surfed the Web, or used social media while studying.
Loren Frank, an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, explains, “It’s important to have periods when the brain can process previously stored experiences. Constant stimulation may result in less effective thinking and decision making.”
Plus, the light emitted from phones, computers, and other devices can make it difficult to fall asleep, and being caught up in chatting doesn’t help!
Plug In to Relationships
In the recent Student Health 101 survey, almost 60 percent of the respondents said they felt technology distracted them while spending time with other people. Rachel M., a student at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, focuses on her relationships. “If I’m with people, I’m naturally unplugged because I care about my interactions,” she says.
In the book Net Smart: How to Thrive Online, Howard Rheingold explains, “Start small [and] find a place in your routine for a new behavior.”
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Out of sight, out of mind: Alex B., a graduate student at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, says, “I keep [technology] in a bag or my pocket to get it off my mind.” Turning your phone and other gadgets off will help you resist the urge to check them.
- Schedule appointments with technology:Designate times to check your phone and social media accounts. Leave devices home when you exercise, spend time outside, or eat.
- Explain when you’ll be available: Let people know in advance how long you’ll be “off the grid.” This may help you relax.
Technology and gadgets are useful, but sometimes they take up valuable time. Unplugging on a regular basis will create space for other important things in your life.
Tips on explaining why you're unplugging
I'm Going to Be Off The GridIf you regularly use technology to connect and communicate with family members and friends, you may want to let them know why and when you won’t be available. If your loved ones understand what to expect, they’re more likely to accept and support your decision to unplug from your digital devices. They may even join you!
Here are some tips to help manage people’s expectations:
- If there are people in your life that worry if they can’t reach you, tell them in advance when you’re unplugging and check in when you turn your devices back on.
- Explain that you’ll be unreachable for X number of hours.
- Post a note on your social network pages saying that you’re taking a rest from technology.
- Send a text saying you’re taking a nap, hanging out with a friend, going to a meeting, etc.
- Record a voicemail message that indicates when you’ll be available.
- Mention that you need some quiet “me time.”
- Suggest that your loved ones join you for an in-person activity.
Get help or find out more
Weeks, A. and Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. The MIT Press, Massachusetts.
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