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What is a digital detox and why is it a good idea?

By Petrina Darrah 1 week ago
What is a digital detox and why is it a good idea to reduce stress?

Volunteering with GVI can help make a difference in communities around the world, while giving you the chance to go on a digital detox. Here’s why you should think about disconnecting. 

Volunteering in a remote location can challenge the way you perceive the world. You’ll become familiar with cultures that were new to you. And you’ll learn a raft of practical skills ranging from identifying corals to tracking animals through the jungle. 

On top of that, living somewhere with no internet connection can give you a fresh perspective on technology.

Going on a digital detox can give you a chance to step back from social media and examine the role it plays in your life.

What is a digital detox?

Volunteers in Seychelles are demonstrating the effects of the digital diet and the negative effects of social media by looking at baby turtles through their smartphones instead of being in the moment.

 

A digital detox is when you give yourself a break from using digital devices such as smartphones and computers. Disconnecting from the online world can help you to reduce stress and enjoy more connections or experiences. This can benefit your mental health. 

The idea of digital detox is largely linked to the growing understanding that social media and having a digital life can have a profound impact on our mental health. 

The pros and cons of social media

In 2018, there were 2.62 billion social media users worldwide, according to Statista. For many of us, it’s now an integral part of our daily lives. 

 

Positive effects of social media are shown here, volunteers in Costa Rica are documenting their experience of the surrounding wildlife.

 

 The positive effects of social media include giving us more opportunities to connect with like-minded people, creating awareness of current events and global issues, and helping to build communities. 

However, these are often outweighed by the negative effects of social media. As technology becomes more ingrained in our everyday lives and is adopted from younger ages, more evidence is emerging of the more negative impacts of social media on mental health. 

The idea that social media seriously harms your mental health is supported by growing research.

Social media and depression

Social media use has been linked with depression in young adults in the United States. A recent study revealed that users who spend more time on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have substantially higher rates of reported depression than their peers who spend less time on social media. 

 

Social media and depression are closely correlated, the effects of going on a digital detox have been calmness, contentment and lower stress levels.

 

Although this study only proves a correlation between social media and mental health, and not direct causation, it still makes a strong case for reducing the amount of time young adults spend on social media platforms.

Social media addiction

Social media seriously harms mental health, how to reduce stress would be to take a moment for yourself rather than documenting ever moment for others.

 

The average amount of time spent on social media by internet users worldwide in 2018 was 136 minutes per day, or two hours and 16 minutes, according to Statista. 

If you spend excessive amounts of time on social media, or can’t stop yourself from compulsively checking Facebook, you might have a social media addiction. 

New research from Michigan State University draws parallels between excessive social media use and drug addiction, pointing to compromised decision making as a common factor between the two conditions. 

Participants in the study who used social media excessively were shown to make worse decisions than those who were online less. 

Taking a break from social media: How to digital detox

Quitting social media altogether allows time for new adventures such as scuba diving in Seychelles, shown here.

 

Taking a break from social media can be difficult when it is such a habit and part of our everyday lives.  

However, quitting technology for a period of time can help you combat the effects of social media. A digital detox can improve your physical and mental health, increase your attention span, develop your problem-solving skills, and boost your creativity. 

It’s also an important way to reduce stress. 

How to reduce stress

To reduce stress, you need to take a break from the stressor.

The constant use of technology has been identified by the American Psychological Association (APA) as a factor in higher stress levels in Americans. 

One of the greatest benefits of a digital detox is feeling calmer and more content. You won’t feel pressured to constantly check your social media accounts, emails, and text messages, as  43% of people in the United States now do. 

When people don’t engage with technology constantly, they report lower stress levels than “constant checkers”, the APA says. 

When you spend less time on devices, you are also more likely to take part in more physical exercise and sleep better, which can further help to reduce stress.

 

A digital detox can be difficult at first as social media is an addiction, but volunteering in a beautiful setting makes it easier to take a break from social media.

How to quit technology

You can take a step back from social media by: 

  • turning off push notifications
  • setting aside phone-free times such as when you have meals with friends
  • limiting yourself to one screen at a time, instead of scrolling through your newsfeed while watching TV or working 
  • spring cleaning your social media and unfollowing any accounts that prompt negative thoughts
  • leaving your phone in another room when you sleep so it’s not the last thing you see at night and the first thing you see in the morning. 

You can also go cold turkey and put yourself in an environment where you simply can’t connect to the internet. Volunteering abroad is a great way to do this, as not only will you be living in a remote and beautiful location, but you will be able to stay busy during the day, preventing you from feeling the urge to check your phone every five minutes. 

 

How to reduce stress? A walk on the beach Giannitsochori is a great way to reduce stress while volunteering.

 

Being immersed in a context where you can have an impact on real global issues such as gender inequality or wildlife conservation can put into perspective the kind of content we often consume on social media.

Once you’ve had the chance to take a break and explore new perspectives, you might return to your everyday life with healthier habits and a better relationship with social media. 

Go on a digital diet with GVI

GVI has a number of wildlife and diving programs based in more remote regions of the world, with little to no internet signal. 

For example, as a Seychelles diving volunteer, you could live on the islands of Mahe or Curieuse, learning how to identify and research corals as you disconnect. 

 

Pros and cons of social media can be taken into account, but our Seychelles diving programme can be a great way to reduce stress and the negative effects of social media.

 

 

Or you could visit Costa Rica and travel into Tortuguero National Park to volunteer at our research base in Jalova, surrounded by the rainforest and ocean. 

In Limpopo, you could volunteer with South African wildlife and contribute to big cat conservation as you learn how to live in the bushveld. 

Quitting social media for the duration of your volunteering program is a great way to give yourself a digital detox and reduce stress.

Whether you volunteer in Africa with animals, or volunteer in Fiji with local communities, choosing a program with GVI is an excellent way to expand your horizons and rethink your use of technology. Explore our volunteering programs today