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What I Learned from My Digital Detox

A digital detox gives new perspective

In my last blog post, I shared how I planned a digital detox. Today, I’ll share the lessons I learned and what I’ll be doing differently going forward.

I’m happier without social media.

What we’ve long understood intuitively is now a known fact: Social media is really bad for you—especially your mental health. It is linked with increased risk of anxiety and depression, as well as physical ailments. Removing social media from my phone is one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself.

I needed a better app for blocking social media.

I have previously touted the benefits of AppDetox, but I needed something that was more difficult to override. Enter the Stay Focused app, which has the added benefit of displaying on my home screen how much time I’ve spent looking at it that day.

There are some technologies that are really beneficial to me.

I love reading, and listening to audiobooks means I can read two to four extra books each month. (I mostly borrow books from the library. Check out this post where I outlined ways to read more.)

I used to listen to a ton of podcasts, but I have narrowed my list to only my top eight. I’m very choosy about which episodes I download; I only listen to one or two podcasts per week, on average.

Communication apps are good for me, and some are absolutely necessary.

Voxer is one of my most-used apps, and I wasn’t willing to delete it during my Digital Detox. It’s an important tool that helps me stay connected to my sister and quite a few friends. Deleting it would have made me less connected, which is one of the best things about technology. Other apps, like Facebook Messenger Lite, WeChat, and WhatsApp help me stay connected with different friends in far-flung places.

But turning off notifications is a must.

I love chatting with friends on Voxer, but notifications were starting to be a distraction to me. I’ve told those I’m closest to that, if they need to reach me immediately, they should text or call. That leaves me free to enjoy the silence without worrying that I’m going to miss an important or time-sensitive message.

Technology time use boundaries are difficult to maintain, and ultimately don’t work all that well (for me).

I have set boundaries around my social media time usage before, but they rarely worked for long; it was too easy to override them. And once I started scrolling, it was hard to stop. I wish I did moderation well, but I really don’t. I’m very all-or-nothing. Simply deleting social media from my phone is easier than mustering the willpower to uphold an arbitrary time boundary.

My Philosophy and Values of Technology Use

At the end of my Digital Detox, I wrote the following philosophy of tech use to guide me as I considered which technologies to reintroduce.

Technology is a tool that I value for its ability to connect me to both people and ideas. However, it is easy to become overconnected: to people with whom I don’t have real relationships and to ideas that don’t build me up or underscore my values. My mind is valuable real estate, and my time is a precious resource. I don’t want to sacrifice either for connections that don’t uphold my highest values.

God is the center of my life, and a vibrant relationship with him is the cornerstone to my overall well-being

I value the relationships I have with my husband and kids, as well as my extended family and friends. I value real-life, in-person connections over digital connections.

I value depth over breadth in my relationships. I prefer fewer, (mostly) local relationships where we consistently talk about things that matter, as opposed to many superficial connections online. If a relationship matters, I will prioritize connection with that person, no matter the geographic distance between us. (And one of the true beauties of technology is facilitating that type of connection!)

I value my physical and mental health. For me, increased technology use is typically both a cause and a symptom of a decline in my mental health.

I value work that challenges me, interests me, and benefits the world in some way. Technology is often an impediment to deep, focused work and creativity.

Although technology offers up much good in the world, my directing question is whether a particular technology offers up enough good to outweigh any drawbacks that it will bring into my life.

Technology—especially social media—can quickly become a vacuum, sucking away both my time and my joy. I would rather fill my leisure time with activities that leave me feeling whole and satisfied, such as reading, spending time with loved ones, taking a walk, or pursuing a creative outlet.

So, What Now?

Now that I’ve finished my Digital Detox, I’m happily catching up on podcasts, which I missed. But how has my technology use changed?

For starters, I don’t have email on my phone anymore, and I don’t plan to reinstall the Gmail app. Checking email on my phone became a habit, but it wasn’t boosting my productivity; I often checked my email, then quickly closed the app without replying to a single email. When I open my computer every other day or so to check my email, I’m in a better position to respond or take action.

Second—and probably most importantly for my mental health, happiness, and productivity—social media is not on my phone anymore, and it won’t return. Am I less active on Instagram and Facebook? Yes, absolutely. Do I worry about how that might negatively affect my online work, and my chance of publishing a book someday? Honestly, yes. But I don’t want to sell my soul to Instagram and Facebook for the chance that it’ll help my career. I can always increase my social media presence down the road.

Finally, I’m more aware of how my screen time and technology use affects me. I’m grateful for all that technology offers, but I feel more free than I have in a long time in regards to my technology. I have a handle on my technology; it no longer has a handle on me.

How has your technology use changed over time? What changes have you made that have improved your life?

Self-care is how we parent ourselves. For a gentle, grace-filled approach to self-care,
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