Our digital world provides us with many advantages, such as the ability to stay connected with others, access to knowledge and education, and all sorts of entertainment available anywhere, anytime. However, as with many innovations that make our lives better, there are unintended consequences that we have to deal with. To get a perspective on the question of how our well-being might be impacted by continuous innovation in the digital world, the Pew Institute and Elon University’s Imaging the Internet Center asked 1,150 technology experts, scholars and health specialists this question: “Over the next decade, how will changes in digital life impact people’s overall well-being physically and mentally?”. The results of this study found that 47% predicted that individuals’ well-being will be more helped than harmed by digital life in the next decade; 32% say people’s well-being will be more harmed than helped; and 21% predict there will not be much change in people’s well-being from the way it is now (Pew Institute, 2018).
While the Pew Institute didn’t specifically identify smart phone usage in their question, many researchers and experts in technology and healthy living recognize that one of the main culprits in the negative consequences of living in a constantly connected world is the smart phone. For example, a 2017 survey of adults found that 54% reported being occupied on their smartphone when they should be doing something else; 34% reported losing sleep; and 65% report being engaged on their smartphone for longer than they intended (Horwood & Anglim, 2018).
Our primary takeaway from the Pew Institute study and other recent studies on the topic, was that the overall advantages to individuals in terms of facilitating connectiveness to people, knowledge, and education anywhere anytime, outweighed the negative consequences. Furthermore, even the experts polled in the Pew Institute who felt that people’s well-being may be more harmed than helped from their digital life, stated that there are many interventions or practices that can be helpful in mitigating the harmful effects of being constantly connected.
One of the evidenced-based practices that has been shown to be effective in helping people gain control over their digital life is the practice of mindfulness (Arpaci et al., 2017; Davis et al., 2017; Mischkowsk et al., 2018). At Levelhead, we are well aware of the irony of offering mindfulness practices designed to decrease our digital dependency, by using our phones. Our belief is that it’s not the device that is the problem, it’s how and when we use it that’s at the heart of the negative consequences.
If you find that you feel a little anxious or uncomfortable when you do not have your phone nearby… or, find that your use of your devices is causing you problems either in your work or personal life, maybe it’s time to try a little digital detox. To get you started, here’s one example of our practices designed to help you make more purposeful choices and gain more control over your digital habits.
Arpaci, I., Baloğlu, M., Özteke Kozan, H. İ., & Kesici, Ş. (2017). Individual Differences in the Relationship Between Attachment and Nomophobia Among College Students: The Mediating Role of Mindfulness. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19, e404-e404.
Davis, J. M., Goldberg, S. B., Angel, K. S., Silver, R. H., Kragel, E. A., & Lagrew, D. J. (2017). Observational study on a mindfulness training for smokers within a smoking cessation program. Mindfulness, 8(6), 1689-1698.
Horwood, S., & Anglim, J. (2018). Personality and problematic smartphone use: A facet-level analysis using the Five Factor Model and HEXACO frameworks. Computers in Human Behavior.
Horwood, S., & Anglim, J. (2019). Problematic smartphone usage and subjective and psychological well-being. Computers in Human Behavior.
Mischkowski, Dorothee, Thielmann, Isabel,and Glöckner, Andreas (2018) Think it through before making a choice? Processing mode does not influence social mindfulness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 74, 85-97.