Digital Detox

how to deal with digital clutter

Do You Need A Digital Detox?

Digital clutter is insidious because it’s build-up is far more hidden than tangible items.

digital detox

There are two main digital dangers:

  • digital information clutter – when we store too much of it on devices or online;
  • digital experience clutter – when we spend too much of our time in the virtual world.

Digital Information Clutter

The steady stream of emails in our inbox can easily grow to many thousands.  The advances of technology mean a pretty much indefinite amount of virtual storage space.  We can “search” for the information we need – but this lulls us into a false sense of security.  For, even when the information is narrowed down, there may still be a huge amount of it to filter through.

Digital photos were supposed to make it easier to catch important moments.  The downside is that they encourage us to take far more than we need, meaning we spent more time behind the camera than present and appreciating the moment.  The more digital information we keep, the longer it will take to retrieve it when we need it.  So it seems crucial to place limits on what we retain.

But how do we achieve this?

Prevent at source

Unsubscribe from any emails from which you are not gaining value.  Don’t give your email address out during retail transactions (or if it can’t be avoided, give out one that you don’t access – you can open one for this specific reason)

Actively delete

Hit the delete button constantly.  A simple click is all it takes to get rid of irrelevant information.  The key is deleting immediately otherwise, there will be another swathe of emails or photos coming in.  It’s about keeping on top of it consistently.  Boring but frankly, necessary.

Talk to a real person

Let it be known that you encourage non-digital interaction. The humble telephone really gets neglected these days.  I ask people to ring me where possible.  Why?  Because an email or text is more likely to be ignored.  According to Dr. Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, who studies millennial generational trends, ignoring is quickly becoming the new norm.  It’s clear to see why: it’s easier to ignore some text on a screen than a voice or person in the here and now.  Your device isn’t going to feel rejected and you’re not dealing with real feelings.

At least that’s what you might hope.

The reality is that people can feel extremely socially rejected by unanswered messages hanging in the air.  The ignoring phenomenon is especially rife if the conversation is difficult or the response is going to be unacceptable to one person – even mildly.  So we take the route of avoidance.  The solution to all this? Being braver and shifting our focus into the present.  Respond to an email with a phone call if you feel yourself slipping into avoidance mode. It’s win/win because the other person will feel valued regardless of your response and you will avoid the mental clutter of messages awaiting a response.

technology and time

Digital Experience Clutter

Many of us are in a position where our TIME is dominated by digital information.  We’re spending too much of it in online and not enough in the real world. It’s become a default mode and perhaps a way to avoid more important but mentally and emotionally challenging tasks.

Research from the Institute of Inertia, a panel of Psychologists at Sheffield university, indicated that people put off the things that matter most – such as, health, relationships and financial well-being in order to engage in comparatively less important activities such as browsing the internet.

Several people have even been hospitalised with “texting thumb” a condition where they have repetitive strain injury in their thumbs due to too much scrolling on their electronic device. Ok this is quite an extreme example, but if any of the above resonates with you, it stands to reason that you could be harming your relationships and missing out on other aspects of life.  You might need a digital declutter.  If so, follow this step by step guide:

Face reality

Record how many hours you spend on technology on a typical day and what exactly you are doing.  Note down the danger times for you and triggers to reaching for your electronic device.  It’s especially important to become aware of the time spent “scrolling” in social media or “browsing” the internet because this is well known to be the biggest time drainer.

Define your baseline

All of us have the same 24 hours in a day and it’s up to us how we use them.  Decide how many you are willing to devote to being in the virtual world on a daily or weekly basis and set a timer if necessary.  This will be different for everyone depending on whether your work or social communication relies on technology.

Use technology as you need it

Ensure there is a purpose to your virtual activity. Does this purpose fit in with your higher goals and intentions in life? Have this intention in mind before you switch on and stick to it.  If you enjoy scrolling through your social media platforms, then there’s no reason why this can be a purposeful activity (to give you pleasure) as long as it is managed.

Create rules

Remember you are in control and have the ability to manage this however you like.  You might ban technology from certain situations such as at the dinner table and whilst driving (yes this is rife)  Or ban it during certain times i.e. devote an hour during your children’s bedtime where you won’t look at a screen.

Dock your technology properly

Since everything in your home should have a place, this too applies to your devices.  But all too often, they drift around the house where they invite us to pick them up and start browsing.  Dock them properly when not in use and you’ll be less likely to pick them up absent-mindedly.

virtual clutter

Above all, remember that YOU are in control of how to manage your digital information and your time in the virtual world. It is a powerful tool and an amazing resource but it that’s all it is – a gizmo to use as you wish.

Thank you so much for reading!

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