Chicago — In recent months, while mindlessly scrolling through my favorite news sites or social media, I have — ironically — come across tons of articles from people who have cut their phone use and are advocating for others to do the same. I kept hoping I would finally be motivated to stop using my own phone, but after putting it down for a few hours, ultimately I'd go right back to mindless scrolling the very next day.
While many digital detox experts recommend using your devices in moderation, I decided to completely cut my phone use for a week, cold-turkey style. In case you're considering a break from your devices, here are my highlights and lowlights from the experience. As we continue into the new year, I’m wondering if it’s time to eliminate my phone from my life for good. Will you join me?
Knowing that my phone-free week is just one way to go, I reached out to someone who makes her living advising people on how to detox. Tanya Goodin founded Time To Log Off and has written two books: "OFF. Your Digital Detox for a Better Life" and "Stop Staring at Screens: A Digital Detox for the Whole Family." Our interview has been edited for clarity and length.
VF: In December, I went on a one-week phone detox and refrained from using websites such as social media. Is that a practice you would recommend?
TG: I absolutely would recommend taking time out of the digital world on a regular basis. We’re all spending far too much time on screens and every aspect of our real lives are suffering.
VF: Why did you found Time To Log Off?
TG: I spent over 20 years working in digital. I like to think of myself as a bit of a digital canary, and I started to notice some of the symptoms of a life spent on screens a few years ago: permanent distraction, inability to focus and poor sleep were just some of the issues. I founded Time To Log Off to collect together all the existing research on what excessive time on screens is doing to us, and to provide resources on how we can all combat this growing imbalance in our lives.
VF: Do you think there’s any difference in trying to reduce phone usage for teens specifically?
TG: Because Gen Z are more likely to be very active online in their communities via messaging apps (whereas Millennials are using it more to post on social media), that younger demographic feel they are using digital productively and healthily — to keep in touch with friends. They tend to need more persuasion about the downsides of spending too much time on screens and help in seeing how time IRL can inspire a richer and more rewarding form of communication. I think teens can teach us a lot about technology, but we can still teach them a lot about relationships.
VF: What strategy do you personally use?
TG: I try and build mini digital detoxes into every day rather than going days without my devices. So I always put my phone away on my commute, I never have it visible when I’m one-to-one with anyone, and I always eat phone-free. Those mini digital pauses really add up and help to cut down on my overall daily screen-time, giving me more time for creativity, problem-solving and relationship-building.
VF: What advice would you give those looking to do a phone detox?
TG: Just try it! I have never met anyone who’s done one that regretted it. But I’ve met plenty of people who haven’t even tried. The fear of what you might miss out on is what tends to put people off — but the rewards are so worth it.