Digital Unplugging - 5 Ways to Pull the Plug
By Reginald Corbitt, SafeCyber
Thursday, March 9, 2017.
Recently, I read on social media, “Almost everything
will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” I thought
about how true this statement is as I begin to do my own unplugging from the
Technology has gone quickly from a convenience to a necessity for most of the
world. From communicating, to controlling things, to banking, we are without a
doubt in the age of the “Internet of Things” (IOT). A term coined by innovator
and consumer sensor expert Kevin Ashton back in 1999, where he described the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to
as "connected devices" and "smart
devices"), buildings, and other
items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
It’s the 1960’s American animated cartoon The Jetsons come to life. Gartner
Inc., a leading
information technology research and
advisory company, predicts that by the year 2020
there will be 21 Billion connected devices. Americans were expected to spend
$36 billion dollars on tech devices this past holiday. More connected devices
mean more and more connected people.
As another example, the other day I saw a construction crew of five sitting on
the sidewalk, taking a break from the job they were doing. Each one was engaged
on their phone, and in a very humorous way, it confirmed that we are living in
the digital age. Construction workers who have been known to be “people watchers”
were no longer interested in what was happening around them but more interested
in what was happening in the world of their phones; their digital world.
We are constantly receiving text
messages, images, and videos into our consciousness night and day from phones,
laptops, gaming devices and TV’s. If the first thing you do in the
morning is check your phone for work emails and you have fear and anxiety when
you are not able to get to it immediately to respond, you probably need to
If your teenager is constantly on her device,
having trouble focusing on face to face interaction, school work, or there are
behavior issues when restricted from the device, they probably need to unplug.
If you are the family that goes out to dinner and everyone pulls out their
device at some point during that time, the whole family needs to unplug.
If the most
you’ve ever unplugged was the amount of time you were asleep, you have probably
become dependent on your device. Eighty- percent of cell phone users claim they
could not go a single day without their device. The panic that ensues when a
digital device is lost, stolen or restricted access to indicates there is a
possible issue. Forty-three percent of homes no longer have a landline because
digital devices have taken their place and almost of cell owners say they have
slept with their phone next to their bed because they didn’t want to miss a
Researchers in China scanned the brains of seventeen
young adults who overuse technology and it showed similar
brain patterns to those addicted to alcohol and cocaine. The reports of phones being snatched
while people were walking and looking at their phones continue to be on the
rise in major cities. What has become an essential necessity for constant
connection can also be a consistent distraction.
Pedestrians have been
killed because they were looking at their phones while walking or crossing the
street. New Jersey
assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has proposed a ban on walking while texting and
on pedestrians using all forms of electronic communication devices on public
roads unless they are hands-free.
“Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to
themselves and drivers on the road,” Lampitt said. More importantly, younger
children having access to the Internet unrestricted with no boundaries or
without being taught the proper digital citizenship or Internet safe usage
guidelines can be extremely dangerous.
There are some who would argue that there’s no health benefits to digital
unplugging. If it is necessary to unplug from the real world from time to time
to reset, clear your head, or just relax, why would one not have to unplug from
the digital world? People are dealing with real issues and daily stressors
associated with constant connection and contact with social media.
Research has found that social
media promotes narcissism, smartphones could possibly cause insomnia, and too much screen time seems to be making children
“Our brains were never designed to be always on and permanently connected with
the amount of stimuli that we get [today],” Max Blumberg, a research
psychologist from Goldsmiths, University of London, said in a recent interview. “Our brains
haven't evolved to handle that level of high activity yet,” he continued. “And
that's a problem.” “Our brains will always be
seduced by the high stimuli [of constant connectivity] because of the dopamine
that it provides," Blumberg explained in another interview. "It's really similar to having ADHD.”
Personally, I have found myself spending hours on my devices looking at
research, and discovered that I may have spent 10, 12, sometimes 14 hours in
front of a screen. At the end of the day, I find it necessary to shut my
laptop and phone off because my brain has been overloaded with media and
Unplugging and starting fresh the next day has
always helped me come back with clarity and fresh ideas. But every so often
I’ll take days where I’ll do a 7 day detox (I’m shooting for a 14 day detox
soon) to practice self control, time management or to center myself.
Digital detox events, programs, festivals and even
apps that helps one deal with the overwhelming need to be constantly connected
are now available to the public. There is even a National Day of Unplugging.
Digital dependence can disconnect you from others physically, mentally and
emotionally as well as from yourself at times. Not everyone has the money to
attend these types of events, and some may feel they are not “that far gone”
yet to go to such an extent of “unplugging.” However, most will agree that they
spend a large amount of time on some type of device regularly.
Sixty-seven percent of cellphone owners say they check their phone even
when they don’t get an alert of activity. Some researchers are labeling this
the “new yawn” because of its contagious nature.
Now that we are starting a new year think about adding regular digital
unplugging to your list of resolutions or life style change. Unplug now while
you have the chance because once we go from the digital age to the space age
like The Jetsons, I’m not sure if we will have that opportunity, and that age
is sooner than you think!
Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master. Christian
Here are 5 ways to pull the plug:
How you start your day sets the tone for the rest
of the day. Try starting your day without checking your phone for text
messages, emails or social media alerts.
Have a set time that you will be off the grid.
Don’t check any emails or unless you are someone whose manages many from email
set certain throughout the day that you’ll respond. For children set a time
where phone devices are turned in once they are home and devices used for
homework go off at a certain time and don’t allow devices in the bedroom at
Say no to social media. Don’t give into the urge to
post, check and respond to your social media. You can change the settings
notification to turn off mobile notifications or log out completely to help
control those urges. Social media has caused a lot of people to become
anti-social, as in not being able to communicate effectively, or withdrawing
themselves from family and friends.
When in public only use your device if necessary or
when attending an event only use it to exchange contact information. When out
to dinner with someone, be courteous and try not to take it out to” check in”
on social media.
Unplug to plug into family. When at home make it a
habit of placing devices far away from everyone while spending time together,
in order to focus on the family and show them that time is valued and important
to you. Parents who do not unplug will raise children who do not unplug.
Reginald Corbett is the founder of SafeCyber, whose mission is to educate and
promote cyber awareness to schools, community organizations, parents and care
takers of youth. He travels across America raising awareness about cyber safety
topics such as Cyberbullying, Dangers of Social Media Apps, Online Predators of
Children, and Digital Footprint and Reputation. He is the author of the soon to
be released book, “Protecting our Children in the Digital Age,” where he
discusses how parents can protect their children by sharing his own experience
with his teenage daughter Reginald can be contacted at email@example.com.