Updated Jun 11, 2022 - Technology

Time for digital detox

Illustration of a cell phone frozen in an ice cube

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Deep down, you know the truth: You are hopelessly addicted to the phone or iPad or computer you’re reading this on. It’s like puffing three packs of cigarettes, in the car, windows up, kids jammed in back. You know it's not great for you — or them.

Why it matters: Time for digital detox, friends. You don’t need to quit cold turkey — just dial it back.

  • The upside: a clearer mind, calmer nerves, happier friends and family.

First, the incentive: Our devices are shortening our attention spans, wrecking our ability to focus and even hindering us from empathizing with others.

  • A Baylor University study found that screen time is ruining relationships, as one partner feels "phone-snubbed" by the other.

Some restraint is being imposed by force. A handful of restaurants and workout classes are requiring you to part ways with your devices. 

  • Hearth, in Manhattan's East Village, has boxes for guests to stash their phones during the meal.
  • The French House in London has a hard ban on phones and will kick patrons out for using devices, per the London Evening Standard.
  • Sushi Lounge in Hoboken, New Jersey, tried "Reconnect Tuesdays," which gave customers 20% off if they kept their phones locked away in a box for dinner.
  • There are a slew of workout classes that ban phones from the floor. And there are coffee shops without outlets and Wi-Fi as well as bars without TVs to encourage you to actually talk to people.

Resorts are taking it a step further and offering a digital detox for days.

  • Sheldon Chalet in Alaska has no Wi-Fi or cell service and Germany's Villa Stephanie's rooms have a switch that lets you turn off the Wi-Fi and all your devices at once, Conde Nast Traveler reports.

You don't need to eat at a fancy restaurant or take a vacation to reap the benefits of a digital detox.

  1. Configure your phone. If you have a smartphone, it's got settings where you can limit your screen time. It'll shut you out of Facebook or Instagram once you've been scrolling for 15 or 30 minutes that day and prompt you to enter a password if you want more time on the app. My boyfriend had me set that password so he couldn't have more scrolling time even if he wanted it.
  2. Make it a game. Try this with friends or family: Put all your phones at the center of the table when you're out to dinner and silence them. Whoever breaks first and reaches for their device gets stuck with the bill.
  3. Create distance. Studies have shown that most of the times we pick up our phones aren't because we've gotten a notification, it's just because the phone is sitting there. Start putting your phone in another room when you don't need to be using it.
  4. Use tech to fight tech. You can buy a customizable lock box with a timer. Throw your phone in, and you won't be able to get it out for a set amount of time. Here's one at a lower price point and another at a higher one.

The bottom line: Screen time overload is hurting our relationships, our brains and our kids. Let's do something about it.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on June 8.

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