How to do a ‘digital detox’

We’ve all been there before. You’re walking through campus, looking down at your phone to see what a friend just tweeted, read an email from a professor, or check to see if the men’s basketball team won the night before.


Mariya Shiyko Contributed photo

Next thing you know, you stumble over a curb or come way too close to walking into someone. Technology is an important part of today’s world, but it can also be a distraction from what’s happening around you in the moment.

If you are looking to undertake a “digital detox” this year, Mariya Shiyko, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Psychology, has some tips to help you conquer a reliance on technology.

Treasure quiet

Shiyko noted that this can be cultivated in just a few minutes a day, similar to the way one would ease into a habit of exercising. She recommended sitting quietly for a few minutes and reflecting or listening to a guided meditation or taking a walk alone.

“When you are in the moment you really aren’t interested in distracting yourself because there is nothing to distract from,” she said. “Yourself is enough.”

She added that many people today use social media as a tool to learn more about themselves, based on what others say about them. In fact, people can learn more about themselves by listening to themselves, she said.

Start small

Going cold turkey might not work for everyone, so Shiyko suggested experimenting with what works best for you, such as setting a certain time during the day to be media free.

“Try changing one thing at a time, and then pausing to evaluate it and see if it works for you,” she said. “If it works, then implement it. If not, simply discard it and try something else.”

Disable automatic sound notifications

As animals, humans are very conditioned, Shiyko pointed out. And repeating a habit, such as immediately answering a text message, builds a mental neuropathway to strengthen that habit.

“By pausing and not acting [on an impulse], you are beginning to break that habit little by little,” she said. “The pause and awareness is very important.”

Decide what you want

This doesn’t mean setting an ultimate goal for yourself, Shiyko said, but rather realizing that you are in charge.

“You always have a choice, even when someone texts you or reaches out,” she said. “It’s about getting out of this role of being a victim to technology and recognizing you have the capacity to go one way or another.”