Research reveals that 67% of smartphone owners in USA feel the need to check their smartphones whether they have received any notifications even though there has been no alert at all. According to another research conducted by Deloitte, one third of Britons check their smartphones within the first five minutes of waking and one in three wake up to check their phone in the middle of the night.
While we are talking about technology, we couldn’t definitely not mention social media. There are 1.28 billion people who use Facebook every day and 1.9 billion people who use it every month on the face of the earth.
We feel both physical and emotional impacts of being interconnected with technology. Looking at the screen for long hours can cause temporary or permanent physical damage on our body. Being constantly subject to stimulants exhausts us both mentally and physically. Looking at the screen for a long time causes ailments such as headache, visual fatigue, burning and itching in the eyes, blurry vision and text neck. As inured as we may have become to it, not being able to allocate time for ourselves and our loved ones is the most important emotional impact.
“Digital detox” is a concept that has become a hot topic in this very period. As the name implies, it is a deprivation practice knowingly and willfully conducted for a specific period of time in order to detoxify from usage of smartphones, computers, tablets and the internet.
There are various ways of digital detoxification for everyone. While some are more challenging, others are easier to perform. Setting a rule for every day and sticking to it is a good example of detoxification performed at home. For example, rules such as not taking your smartphone with you while going out for dinner on Mondays, turning off notifications on Tuesdays, not checking your smartphone as soon as you wake up in the morning on Wednesdays, charging your smartphone outside the room on Thursdays.
The tourism sector leads the way when it comes to detoxification performed out of home. There are now plenty of hotels and camps that promise digital detoxification and guide their customers in reclaiming their individuality. One example is Digital Detox Company, which, with its specialists, helps its guests with digitally induced physical, mental and emotional stress to “become centered” and “calm down”. Another example is the Digital Retreat program at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas. The program director argues that digital detoxification practices are especially rewarding in such a period where mobile devices have become a source of stress and says “People are expecting to constantly stay in touch and this causes stress on the body.”
The program aims to keep its guests away from their smartphones and instigates them to engage in healthier activities like yoga, learning how to make smoothies or writing letters to loved ones instead of checking their smartphones.
Apart from the tourism sector, some fast moving consumer goods brands are also using digital detox as a marketing tool. The sauce brand Dolmio has launched a campaign that is based on the idea of “too much technology”. The fact that children are exhausted from tablets and smartphones and do not notice any details around them is the main reason that triggered the campaign. Dolmio has created a pepper mill named Pepper Hacker that deactivates the WiFi connection and makes sure that people having a meal together are actually spending time together.
Innocent is a brand with the purpose of becoming a sustainable brand which has noticed people’s need to relax and calm down and started organizing a festival that aims to be nested within nature in England. As the name implies, neither phones are allowed at the “Unplugged Festival” nor there is any WiFi at the festival area. Jamie Sterry, the brand activation manager of Innocent, summarizes the festival as “an excuse for people loaded with excessive amounts of emails and information to get away from the intense and stressful city life.”
However, even though the philosophy of digital detoxification is keeping people away from technological devices for a long time and thus enabling them to become centered, it is not that realistic or doable in today’s world. For that reason, apps have started to emerge that show how to at least minimize the effects of technological devices without having to cut them off altogether or how to use technology beneficially.
Quality Time keeps track of how much time you have spent on your smartphone and which apps you have used on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis. Moment does the same but with an added feature that allows its users to manage their family members’ screen time. What these apps have in common is that you can set daily limits for yourself and be notified when you go over your limit.
Be Kovert is an entity that positions itself as a “research and design laboratory”. Be Kovert allows you to be one step ahead from your smartphone by integrating micro-electronics into jewelry so as to let you know about the notifications beforehand. It alerts you with subtle vibrations for important notifications from certain people or with specific keywords. This way, it offers products that allow people to better manage their digital lives.
There are numerous brands that match digital detox with the concept of sleep and that get into business in this regard. Apple has launched special features taking into consideration the sleep disorders that are brought about by excessive technology consumption. IOS 10 update has many sleep related features. It sets alarms for its users who activate “Bedtime” app to remind them when to go to bed and when to wake up.
In line with these global developments, we have conducted a research in order to find out people’s relationship with technological devices and how much time they spend with technological devices. Our research comprised of 100 females and males who are 15-45 years of age, AB/C1/C2 SES and live in İstanbul.
89% of the interviewees use smartphones and the remaining 11% use phones without smart features. 79% of the interviewees have other technological devices apart from smartphones. 80% of the interviewees have laptops, followed by tablets and desktop computers.
The majority of the interviewees spend a total of 1-2 hours a day on their smartphones. A high proportion of interviewees spend around “2-3 hours” and “more than 5 hours” a day. Time spent on smartphones is mostly allocated to social media or phone calls. In addition, a high proportion also spends time on smartphones for business purposes or following news.
Generally, smartphones are stated to be checked around “20-50 times” within the day. “Social media” and “phone calls” are the most frequent reasons to check smartphones, just as for spending time on smartphones. However, as distinct from spending time, “checking the time” appears as another factor. For that reason, it is probable that the number of checking smartphones might be higher than stated.
Half of the interviewees keep their smartphones in the bedroom while sleeping. 18% of those who keep their smartphones with them check their smartphones in the middle of the night.
The majority of the interviewees never leave their smartphones. The ones who do mostly do that while sleeping. Other than that, even though there are interviewees who say they could stay away from their smartphones for about 1-2 hours, only a small group of people has stated that they stay away from their smartphones for periods as long as 5-6 hours and they only check them only when they receive a phone call.
3 out of 10 interviewees have knowingly and willfully tried to stay away from their smartphones before. The reasons behind are wanting to rest their head on vacation and wanting to keep away because of feeling that they spend too much time on their smartphones.
It has been stated that they mostly spend “less than half an hour” on technological devices other than mobile phones. Even though the majority has said that they spend less time on these devices, the proportion of the ones who have said that they spend “more than 5 hours” is quite high. They spend time on such technological devices for business purposes the most. Apart from that, research, social media and watching movies/series are among the other reasons for spending time on them.
A small portion of the interviewees has stated that they have heard the concept of digital detox before. The ones who have heard about it have a positive opinion but say that it is not something easy to practice and it would not be possible especially because of work. For that reason, the number of interviewees who say that they have practiced it among the ones who have heard about it is relatively low.
When digital detox was explained to the ones who have not heard about it before, most of them had a positive opinion, insomuch that 28% said they would consider giving it a try. Even though it has been stated that it is a good practice that might be needed, most of them do not find it doable because of various reasons. Work and family are among the most stated reasons. There also are the ones who can not stay away out of habit. Some interviewees have said that they do not need such a practice since they do not spend much time on technological devices at present.
79% of the interviewees who have children limit the time their children spend on technological devices. Being harmful for children’s development, distracting their attention, fear of it becoming a habit and children not allocating sufficient time for their homework are among the reasons why.
In such a period where the use of technology is increasing day by day and turning into a necessity for many, aiming to stay away from it is definitely something not reasonable. However, it will be even harder to make such a distinction for the coming generations. For that reason, precautions are already being taken by many people in order to control next generations’ addiction. For instance, the chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school where there are no computers and even using them at home is not approved. This is the case for employees of tech companies like Google, Apple and Yahoo.
As a consequence, even though we may not be able to keep away from technology completely, it seems that practices that would enable us to turn to ourselves and look around and help us keep healthy both physically and mentally as well as brands and sectors that invest in such practices will become more and more important.