Singer songwriter Ed Sheeran had gone on a “tech detox” to take a break from his phone, emails and social media. REUTERS PIC

WITH the new year comes new resolutions. Essentially, it’s a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad. Some choose to lose the extra weight through a more balanced diet and regular exercise. Others would want to save money for that dream holiday, or spend more quality time with the family. Chain smokers would probably want to quit the habit for good.

Did I hear someone say his new year resolution was to unplug and embark on a digital detox? To refrain from using electronic devices such as smartphones or laptops, as a way to reduce stress or focus more on social interaction in the physical world. I would say this is a good move, although like many other resolutions, it’s easier said than done.

The new year has already gone into its second week!

Tech devices such as the smartphone have become so embedded in our lives that it would be difficult to cut them off completely. The smartphone has become our constant companion. We carry it throughout the day and keep it by our bedside at night. We allow ourselves to be interrupted with messages from social media, emails and texts. We habitually glance at our phone every few minutes, even if there is no alert or notification. We answer phone calls at times when it is not socially acceptable, and we put our immediate interaction with friends and family on hold when we hear that ring tone that tells us a message has arrived. We are guilty of becoming a slave to tech devices, when we should be the master.

With all these issues, it certainly is a good time to step back and put our gadgets down. But, are we able to totally disconnect from all our devices? A more realistic solution would be to spend less screen time.

The smartphone is still by far the most innovative device ever invented. What can it not do? We use it to surf the Internet and social media platforms, check emails, manage calendars, listen to music, play games, watch videos, take photos, read the news, write text messages and also, for its original purpose — to make calls. All in a single device, which was unthinkable a decade ago. And, with added features such as artificial intelligence, better camera technology and improved payment platforms — how does one disconnect totally from the smartphone?

Perhaps you can start with reviewing some of the apps that, while making your phone a great device, are not really useful and only contribute to wasting your time and money. There are millions of them. Apple’s App Store has more than 2.2 million, while Google Play Store has 2.8 million. Until May last year, App Annie reported that the average user had between 60 and 90 apps, but used only nine daily. With this rise in app usage is a rise in smartphone addiction.

As part of your digital detox exercise, review the apps that contribute little to your life and delete them. It may make your phone less smart, but less screen time would perhaps make you more productive and you can have more time for other more important things in life.

Establishing tech-free zones, turning off all notifications so that you can kick the habit of checking your phone every five minutes, are useful detox tips, but all these require self-discipline and self-determination to work.

If you succeed, the reward is a healthier and more quality work-life balance, and the satisfaction that you are the master of your device.

kushairi@mediaprima.com.my

The writer is editor of BOTs, the weekly tech section in Life&Times. Trained in Maths, he has since traded his problem-solving skills with writing about how tech has helped to transform the world for the better.

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