Limiting Technology Usage: 5 Benefits of Switching Off and How to Do It

Young people using their phones

In today’s world, technology is a huge part of our lives. We use it to look up information, give us directions, and most importantly to connect with other people. But lately, we have been using technology so much that it hinders our interactions with the people and the world around us. Very few people ever put their phones down long enough to simply stop and smell the roses. 

As a matter of fact, recent research has found that 36% of Irish people are spending over 20 hours online per week. That means over a third of our country is spending nearly an entire day online. Of all the ways we spend our time using technology, email takes up the most of it with 82% of our time. If you think about that statistic it makes sense. Most people get a notification on their phone when they receive an email and feel they need to respond to it right away. This is due to the fact that technology has facilitated and intensified our desire for immediate gratification. We want to be able to ask someone a question and receive a response immediately. This desire negatively affects us because all of the minutes we take out of our day to answer an email or to check one of our social media accounts takes minutes away from enjoying the company of our friends and family and being able to truly live in the moment. It can also act as major roadblock to practising mindfulness, a significant facilitator of strong mental health.

Now, I’m not saying we should cut out phones and technology altogether, but there can be many benefits to limiting the amount of time that we allow them to take up in our lives. Here are 5 benefits to switching off technology:

More Family Time

In a lot of homes today, family time means sitting in the same room with each other while everyone is on their own separate devices. I know my family has been guilty of this many times. This may be a nice way to spend time together while still doing what we want, but it can be harmful to family relationships.

A family enjoying time together

In fact, a 2018 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology discovered that phone use during a meal led to a noticeable decrease in diners' enjoyment. By setting limits on technology or phone use during family time, you are able to use the time more wisely to tell each other the details about your day, what’s going on in your life, and to genuinely strengthen the bond of your family.

Better Sleep

According to WebMD, “teenagers who use their phones more than 15 times a day have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep than those who use their phones sparingly”. Many heavy phone users have even developed insomnia. By limiting technology use both in and out of the bedroom you can greatly improve your length and quality of sleep. What better time to start making these small changes than March, which is Sleep Awareness Month? In order to better understand how sleep can actually become your superpower, take a look at this TED Talk by sleep scientist Matt Walker.

Woman using her phone in bed

Less Anxiety and Increased Happiness

With the rise of smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices, we have become information junkies. We always want to know what’s going on and we are constantly checking our email and social media. This can cause us to have increased anxiety, especially in situations (like class) where we can’t check our phones every minute. In fact, a team of researchers from Kent State University conducted a study on college students and found that “those with high cell phone use tended to have a lower GPA, higher anxiety, and lower satisfaction with life or happiness compared to their peers who reportedly used their cell phones less”. 

Our generation has become so obsessed with staying connected that a term has been created for it, FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out. Oxford Dictionary defines it as an “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media”. But, out of all the times we check our phones, how often is there actually something exciting going on? Did we really need to see that cat meme? Did I need to see my friend’s brunch pics? Probably not. Put your phone away and start fully enjoying the moments you spend with people, which brings me onto the next benefit….

Better Social Connections

When many people get together for a meal or to catch up they end up on their phones for half of the time. They give each other their limited attention and are only partly participating in the conversation and partly focused on what’s happening in cyberspace. This diminishes our ability to form deeper relationships with others. By turning off your notifications for a set period of time and focusing purely on the people you’re with, you’ll pick up on things you wouldn’t have and leave the conversation feeling more fulfilled and connected with the other people. 

Living in the Moment

When we use technology we miss out on what is happening around us. For example, last week I saw an old man pour some water he got from a fountain down his wife’s back and she pushed him back and laughed like it happens all the time. If I had been on my phone I would have missed something that made me laugh and brightened up my entire day. Amazing, funny, beautiful things are always happening around us, we just have to pay attention. Don’t be this guy who missed seeing a rare sight of a humpback whale and her calf jumping, breaching, and eating fish, right next to him because he was distracted on his phone.

Man glued to his phone misses rare humpback whale sighting

Now, I know turning off your phone may seem like an impossible task, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Tania Mulry gives an excellent TED Talk on how to power down technology to power up your life. If you want to try to do this yourself, the best place to start would be to take notice of how much time you actually spend on your phone during the day. You can then set goals for how long you want to allow yourself to use your phone during the day. Luckily, you don’t have to solely rely on yourself to do this. Recently, there have been many apps created to help monitor and limit the time spent on your phones. If you want to know more about those you can check it out here

Another great way to stick to your goals is to do it with a friend or family member and make it a competition. You’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have without using technology. For example, when my friends and I go out to eat, we put our phones in the middle of the table. Whoever touches their phone first has to pay. 

Overall, technology is an amazing tool that has greatly improved our quality of life, but it can be very distracting and cause you to miss out on what is going on right in front of you. In the wise words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”.