Mobile devices are making us feel lonelier–at least according to one-third (33%) of Americans who reported feeling that way in a recent survey of 2,020 U.S. adults (conducted by the Harris Poll* on behalf of Eventbrite). Even major tech companies are aware of the negative side effects of constant screen time and are building features to help recalibrate user behavior. But beyond yearning for social connection, most of us also count on our phones for productivity, entertainment, or just a surefire way to zone out – and it’s starting to take a toll.
As an executive and mom, this trend rings true to me as I’m constantly yanked away from enjoying real-life moments and experiences due to a buzzing phone or email pings. Like the majority of us, my life isn’t going to slow down. When well-intentioned family and friends suggested I consider how I could implement more time for self-care, I came to a realization. While ‘self-care,’ ‘treating yourself,’ or ‘me time’ is typically associated with indulging or pampering, the notion isn’t all about extravagance–it’s is a deliberate action you take in order to support your mental, physical, and emotional health. We spend more time in front of screens than ever, but our increasing preference to spend on experiences signals a strong desire and need to connect with others in the real world.
For this reason, and with some inspiration sparked by International Self-Care Day (July 24), I recently set out to recalibrate my digital behavior in a way that would fit into my life and not remove me from it. I started to explore “digital detoxing” as my chosen form of self-care.
What does it take to ”digitally detox”?
While many of us crave the benefits of disconnecting digitally, we don’t always know where to begin. Eventbrite’s findings indicate nearly half of adults (49%) think they would benefit from a digital detox – yet only about 1 in 10 (13%) have actually done one. What’s holding us back? A digital detox sounds intimidating and going cold turkey from all screens isn’t a realistic practice for me. But by definition, digital detox is any period of time when a person refrains from using electronic devices and with the goal of reducing stress or focusing on social interactions in the physical world. I didn’t need to go completely off the grid to create the mental space to be present for myself, family or friends – I had just identified a sensible form of self-care.
Finding yourself a moment of zen
To jumpstart my digital detox, I began deprioritizing tech during group activities and events. Just making a conscious decision to not look at my phone was enough to change my experience. I’ve noticed certain bands encourage this mindset by asking the audience to put their phones away – even if just for a song – so everyone can really come together (and without an obstructed view). The energy in the room palpably shifts when these moments happen–the performers feed off of the more present energy of the crowd, and the audience reacts to a suddenly more intimate performance.
Regardless if your digital detox starts by attending a show with a group of friends, joining a large gathering like a festival, or taking a yoga or cooking class, coming together over a shared experience offers the opportunity to put you more in touch with yourself, your community, and the world. But this fulfillment only comes if you truly connect. Which in my case, means intentionally leaving my phone in my pocket and stashing it for awhile. I’m not alone in thinking this way–according to research, three-quarters of Americans (74%) also agree that they generally are more fulfilled by in-person interactions over online interactions.
Who to take along on the journey
Years ago, my team and I were completely brain drained but still under a deadline after hours of reviewing user research and debating our perspectives. As a solution, an intern suggested we move the meeting outside, away from our computers and the stale room. This environmental shift opened the doors of creativity and collaboration as our attention was refocused on the conversation rather than our screens. It feels funny to label that session a digital detox, but the dedicated moment was essentially what we were doing.
Soon enough, Millennials and Gen Zers, like my intern, will make up a majority of the workforce. Understanding their general digital wellness perspectives is especially valuable to a manager who wants a team that is recharged, happy, and productive. I was surprised to learn self-identified polar opposites—introverts and extroverts—both agreed that they could benefit from a digital detox (53% and 56%, respectively). As an age cohort, I assumed that Gen Z (18 to 22 years old), the first generation exposed to the internet from birth, would have some of the worst habits and hardest time disconnecting. But according to our findings, Gen Zers seem to have more well-established boundaries when it comes to their digital wellness and make the space for what is often considered ‘self-care.’ In fact, more than a quarter (28%) of Gen Z have done a digital detox, compared to just 19% of Millennials (23 to 38 years old). On the other hand, only 10% of Gen X (39 to 54 years old), and 7% of Boomers (55 to 75 years old) have unplugged for the sake of digital and social health.
As it turns out, putting down our phones and exploring the benefits of a digital detox is something a great number of us are interested in but are left paralyzed simply by not knowing where or how to begin. In the spirit of International Self-Care Day, I encourage you to ‘treat yourself’ and approach your next live experience or event as a self-care opportunity.
Need some inspiration for a digital detox-friendly Self-Care Day experience? On July 24, San Francisco venue The Midway is hosting an immersive dance experience featuring Outkast music and Brooklyn’s Long Meadow is showing Love and Basketball as part of a free Summer Movie Under the Stars series. To kickstart your journey, check out live experiences in your city. Maybe the next one will be your transformative self-care moment.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Eventbrite from March 28- April 1, 2019 among 2,020 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.