Americans are spending an average of 17 hours and 9 minutes each day looking at digital devices, according to a study that was completed pre-pandemic. And since the pandemic began, Americans are spending over 19 hours each day looking at some type of digital device. There’s no way those numbers can be correct, right? We all know there are only 24 hours in a day. So, how is that even possible?
Well, if the results of the study are in fact correct and we’re looking at screens for a little more than 17 hours per day (pre-pandemic), that leaves us with only about 7 hours a day when we’re not looking at screens. 7 hours also happens to be the recommended minimum amount of sleep that we should be getting each night. This begs the question: Are we really spending pretty much all of our waking hours looking at screens?
Well, it sure seems like that’s the case. The survey revealed that Americans spend 4 hours and 30 minutes watching TV, 4 hours and 33 minutes looking at their smartphone, almost five hours per day on a computer, and over 3 hours playing video games or using gaming devices. That means over the course of an entire year, we’re logging 6,259 hours of total screen time, which is almost 261 days out of 365 days in a year just spent staring at screens. Talk about a lot of screen time…
How Technology Impacts Us
One of the big questions on most people’s minds is how does technology and staring at screens for so many hours each day affect our brains? This is obviously a very challenging question to answer.
On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine our daily lives without smartphones and tech devices. The first thing that most of us do whenever we have a question is reach for our smartphone and search for the answer. Then almost as quickly as we typed the question in the first place, we’re able to get a variety of answers from different sources. And not only does technology make it easier to access information, technology can also enhance learning, build community, and save all of us a whole lot of time.
On the flip side, there are also a number of disadvantages and risks when it comes to tech, including our dependence on modern technology, the expensive cost for people to stay up to date with the newest tech available, and the impact that tech has on our health, creating a sedentary lifestyle for many, and also leading to loneliness and fewer interpersonal interactions for some people.
So, while there are many pros and cons when it comes to using tech, research results are still mixed regarding whether or not using tech devices is good or bad for our brains long-term. One theory suggests that it’s not necessarily the amount of time that we’re spending on screens, but rather how we’re using our tech devices and what’s happening in our brains in response.
That’s why it’s important for us to be aware of our daily screen time usage and how we feel as a result of it. For example, if we feel like we’re always stressed whenever we check our smartphones, we should tune into what our mind and body is trying to tell us and start unplugging at meal times, one hour before bed, and even the first hour of waking up instead of reaching for our phones right away. Then based on how we feel after unplugging during those times, we can adapt and adjust the way that we use our smartphones and tech devices.
For starters, we’re simply overloaded with information each and every day. The average adult consumes five times more information on a daily basis than the average person did 50 years ago. And a recent study found that Americans are also the unhappiest that they’ve ever been in 50 years. While the global pandemic is probably to blame for a lot of that unhappiness, there’s no denying that it also coincides with us being inundated with more information than ever. So, let’s take a look at five reasons why you should unplug more often, starting today…
5 Reasons Why You Should Unplug
1. To Reduce Stress
A Stress in America survey revealed that almost 1 in 5 American adults cited technology use as a significant source of stress in their lives. This survey also found that 86% of Americans feel ‘attached to their gadgets on a typical day’ since they’re constantly (or often) checking their emails, texts, and social media accounts. Research has shown that people who constantly check their digital devices are more stressed compared to others who do not engage with technology as frequently.
So, by temporarily refraining from using your digital devices over a certain period of time, or taking part in a digital detox, you’ll be able to let go of the stress that comes from being constantly connected to your digital devices.
Three ways that you can find more balance and reduce stress caused from your tech are to:
- Prioritize the emails and messages that you need to respond to and leave the others for another day.
- Turn off your automatic alerts on your smartphone.
- Turn on your ‘do not disturb’ setting on your phone, as needed.
2. To Strengthen Your Relationships
Technology and the way that we use it is adding more stress to modern relationships. A study that examined ‘technoference,’ or the way that technology use interferes with face-to-face interactions with others, revealed that 62% of people said that technoference is a big problem in their family, and 45% of people considered technology a big problem in their marriage. The study also found that more than 1 in 3 people use technology in their bed every night or almost every night, and 55% of people feel that their spouse/partner spends too much time on their smartphone.
As a result, the survey suggests that technoference in relationships leads to less time spent together as a couple, less satisfaction and connection, and higher levels of depression and anxiety. To improve your intimate relationships, it might be worth your while to make your bedroom a ‘no screen zone,’ or at least limit the amount of time that you and your partner spend on your digital devices when you’re together.
3. To Create A Better Work-Life Balance
2 out of 3 American workers say that they lack a work-life balance. This makes sense, especially since 81% of workers check their email outside of regular work hours. A healthy work-life balance appears to be more important than ever this year as millions of American workers are planning to switch jobs in pursuit of a better work-life balance and growth opportunities.
Researchers have found that technology plays a substantial role in an individual’s work-life balance. A study suggests that the use of internet and mobile technologies influences an individual’s overall job satisfaction, job stress, and feelings of overwork. Therefore, unplugging or doing a digital detox may help you establish a healthier, less stressful work-life balance.
4. To Help You Fall Asleep
The blue light emitted by phone, computer, and TV screens restrains the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. This makes it more difficult for you to fall asleep and wake up the next day.
Keeping your mind engaged by scrolling through your smartphone can also trick your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake. That’s why it’s important for you to create a bedtime routine for yourself that includes cutting off your screen time one hour before bed. If you’re having trouble limiting your screen time before bed, try putting your smartphone in a different room and/or use an old-school alarm clock to wake you up instead of your phone.
5. To Improve Your Health
The unhealthy behavior of always being plugged in has gained such popularity and importance of late that there’s now a Screen-Free Week each May that is an annual invitation for all of us to play, explore, and rediscover the joys of life beyond our screens. This week is definitely needed since 65% of Americans somewhat or strongly agree that periodically ‘unplugging’ or taking a ‘digital detox’ is important for their mental health.
When you are able to disconnect from technology, you’ll actually experience a natural urge to go outside. By getting outside and doing outdoor activities like hiking with your family or taking a bike ride with friends, you’ll get much-needed vitamin D, which can help you avoid long-term health problems like heart disease and diabetes. And for every two hours spent watching TV each day, your chances of developing diabetes and heart disease increases by 20% and 15%, respectively. Your odds of an early death also increase by 13%, as well.
Research suggests that limiting your social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day can significantly improve your well-being and decrease your symptoms of loneliness and depression, as well. So, what are you waiting for? The time for you to unplug is now.
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