Technology addiction and digital detoxes

Posted by Tim Forer on
First published on MSN.
Tim Forer, a barrister and employment law specialist at Blake Morgan LLP answers a few questions on technology addiction and digital detoxes.

What are the downsides of sharing every aspect of your personal life on social media – Facebook etc?

I have a general rule of thumb that you shouldn’t put anything on Facebook or any social networking site that you wouldn’t want your boss or a potential employer to see – either now or in the future. Images of wild nights out, ill-judged comments, personal arguments and even poor spelling could all have an impact on your potential job prospects if an employer sees them. If in doubt, I’d leave it out!

There has been in recent years a tendency for “oversharing” but we’re now seeing people who are much more aware of the potential pitfalls of putting all aspects of their life on social media. Young people in particular are now using different sites for different things. They’ll carefully tend their Facebook page as a “shop window” that they don’t mind their boss or parents seeing – and for anything more edgy they’ll use instant messaging apps such as Snapchat to avoid leaving a permanent trace of their activity. Following their lead is a good idea.

What are your top tips for people who try to put their gadgets aside but who really struggle without them?

It can be hard, but take a break! Leave the smartphone at home and go for a walk – or even just leave it switched on in a different room. Reassure yourself that you’ll hear it ringing if anyone is trying to get hold of you urgently – and everything else can wait.

If you’re using the phone to check work emails, remember that it’s perfectly reasonable for you to be non-contactable outside working hours unless your contract specifies that you’re on duty. If you’re really worried, set aside a time for emails – maybe allow yourself five minutes every two hours to check in. After that, check out again.

Turning off individual features can also be liberating. Try just switching off your work email account and uninstalling Facebook at the weekends – making it harder to quickly check back in and see what’s going on. If there’s an emergency, or a friend really wants to get hold of you, you can still be contacted by text or phone.

If you’re really having trouble, consider ditching the smartphone for a simple phone that just calls and texts. Then use a tablet or laptop to check into social media when you want to – perhaps for half an hour in the evening. That way you make a conscious decision to pick it up and put it down again and you’ll be in control instead of it controlling you.

More people seem to find it harder to live without technology. Why is this? As in, more gadgets, more social media sites etc?

Technology has made remote working far easier and contributed a lot to flexible working. This can work in your favour but it can lead to stress – we feel like we’re always plugged in. We’re not going to be able to put the genie back in the bottle as social media and smartphones are, of course, here to stay. What we can do is be more disciplined and choosy – install only apps that you feel you want to use – and remember, you don’t need to respond to every alert.

What are the main benefits to a (even temporary) digital detox?

The answer’s simple – if you’re not engaging with your smartphone you’re free to engage with the world around you. If you find yourself aimlessly swiping through your feeds rather than interacting personally with your friends and family, it can lead to a feeling of disconnection from real life. Even if you only manage to fully switch off for a day here and there, or for a family holiday, you’d be surprised at how much more you enjoy life without the distractions. If you’re concerned about going offline, tell your employer, family and close friends where you are and leave an emergency number. Then switch off - and when you switch back on again you’ll probably find you haven’t missed much anyway!


About the Author

Tim is highly experienced in employment law and specialises in advocacy. He also provides practical, commercial advice to organisations.

Tim Forer
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