Digital overload

 

Do you need a digital break? Quick check: if you are reading this online, how many browser tabs do you have open?

If you’re reading it in print, do you also have your tablet open with Candy Crush, are you scanning your text messages on your phone at the same time, and are you keeping half-an-eye on a television blaring somewhere in the distance?

Digital “noise” has become a part of our everyday lives, and its evil spawn – intense multi-tasking – is leaving our brains foggy, less productive and desperate for detox according to Stanford University communication professor Clifford Nass, in a recent interview with LiveScience. “There’s nothing good about doing it.”

Our constant connectedness – the beeping and buzzing and bleeping digital devices we carry around – aren’t just causing us to become mega-multi-taskers; they are also taking a social and financial toll. Basex, a research firm that specialises in technical issues in the workplace, reckons that information overload is responsible for economic losses of $900 billion a year at work.

The real due bill, though, may be for the damage this busyness has inflicted on our productivity, creativity and the quality of our relationships. William Powers, author of Hamlet’s Blackberry (a cautionary tale about the digital din of our own making,) says that 24/7 connectedness has left people with a feeling that life is out of control. The first warning sign, he says, is a heightened sense of having too much going on that requires a constant toggling of our attention.

“You don’t really know how addicted you are,” Powers told Business News Daily. “We’re not built to handle that onslaught of information.”

And this is the world that our kids – digital natives – are growing up in. So how do your ease off the pedal in a world that is demanding your attention everywhere you turn?

Set a time limit
The first step is setting the boundaries, and then sticking to them. Cold turkey isn’t always the way to go – it’s better to ease into it. For example, don’t check your email outside of work. Set a time limit for kids watching television or playing electronic games.

Try a whole weekend digital free
This is not for the faint-hearted. If you need to keep your mobile phone on in case of emergency, leave it in your bag with the volume turned on high, and refuse to check it unless it rings. Replace digital kids’ activities with practical family ones. Instead of online games, spend some time together playing board games. The kids may complain at first, but rainy Saturdays playing Monopoly is the stuff that family memories are made of.

Detox social media
If you are planning to detox from social media, remember to post a messages to your online friends before you go. Then turn off all of your notification settings. It’s going to take willpower to resist compulsive checking, so find something to distract yourself – try reading a book with the kids.

Do it as a team
Make it a family goal to keep to the limits (or detox) that you set. Be accountable to each other, and replace that digital time with family projects. After a month, evaluate the outcomes of your detox, and see the difference a digital break can make for your family.