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Americans have a toxic relationship with technology. Here's how to take a break

Posted at 4:30 AM, Jan 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-05 07:40:04-05

CINCINNATI -- You don't have to be a "Black Mirror" fan to feel anxious and overwhelmed by the omnipresence of modern technology.

A 2016 Nielsen Company study found that the average Americans spent over 10 hours consuming various media -- including social networking, video games, music, movies and television -- each day, creating a charivari of sensory stimulation prone to disrupting their sleep cycles and fostering the development of mental health issues

As a nation, we might need a digital detox.

If only it were as easy to do as it is to type.

Jeff Blevins, head of the University of Cincinnati's Department of Journalism, realized he needed a media cleanse the night his wife emailed him while they watched a movie together on the couch. 

"She said, 'I knew you would read this,'" he said.

Blevins's advice for a healthier relationship with technological toys isn't to go cold turkey on your media consumption -- for most Americans, doing so is simply not a practical step.

However, he did advise creating a no-go zone in one's daily schedule when all devices, especially smartphones, are turned off for a few hours.

"I think it's a good rule of thumb (to do it) between 6 - 9 p.m.," he said. "That tends to be family time for you anyway, but whatever works for your schedule."

And when you are using your devices, log how much time you spend with them. Just like counting calories, tracking the amount of time one spends on various activities can be a surprising wake-up call and a way to concretely create healthier habits.

When Blevins asks his students to do this, he said, they tend to be flabbergasted to realize how they've been spending their time. 

"A lot of the time, they're shocked," he said. "Their eyes get really big. They're not aware of how much time it is."

His final piece of advice? If someone on social media really gets on your nerves and you find yourself dedicating an undue amount of emotional energy to either engaging with them -- in, say, a political debate that won't change anyone's mind -- or feeling upset over their posts, you have no obligation to keep them on your feed. 

Just hit unfriend or unfollow. If that would be a social faux pas -- if they're a relative or close friend -- you can take the back way and just mute them. 

"It's really easy to get caught up in unproductive debate on all social media," Blevins said.

And arguing on the internet is like competing on "The Bachelor": In the end, everyone involved has exposed their worst personality traits to an international audience and nobody has won anything worth having.

Just say no.