Is Digital Recluse the Best Practice for Mindfulness?

The internet, the multiple platforms that it offers, and the many devices that aid the use of it certainly foreman integral part of our lives! Consumption begins at daybreak and goes well beyond nightfall. There is no question of its favorable impact on our lives. It has expanded the scope of availability and accessibility of goods and information. No doubt it has made our lives more comfortable and convenient in terms of communication, payments, working remotely, entertainment, display of talent, education, and a whole gamut of professional help, to name some of the many. Holistically, it stands testimony to the phrase ‘the world is a global village’.

Having explored the constructive facet to it, it is imperative that we examine if the extent of use is called for. We move from one gadget to another throughout the day, consequently becoming oblivious to the people and environment around us. An irony, because despite us being so connected with the rest of the world, we lack a relationship with our immediate environment! Social media especially, albeit empowering, has contributed largely to increased levels of anxiety and depression as a consequence of unreal comparisons. The result is a toxic relationship with it. Anything in excess leads in many ways to suffering, something we may be able to avoid!

Now, how do we enrich our lives considerably as opposed to running the rat race? Our work may not allow us the time to stave off the internet, but our personal lives definitely offer that opportunity.

The current situation of the lockdown is an adversary in the face of the challenge to use the internet lesser, making it more so a good time to start the process of practicing the skill of refraining from doing something that has addictive and destructive potential.

One of the most widely discussed related topics has been the method of ‘Digital Detoxification’. This refers to a period of time when a person abstains from using technological devices such as smart phones, televisions, computers, tablets, and social media sites. It has definitely proved helpful for many, but a cold turkey approach may not be the easiest for all. However, there is a question of sustainability, for it isn’t about being able to refrain for those 15-30 days, but more about ‘can I do it for the next 5 years’. I say this because human overcompensation is underrated. The natural tendency to overcompensate defeats the purpose the effort made in pursuing something for a few days. Can we live without the internet? Maybe yes, but largely, no is the answer!

Therefore, it is a call for us to find strategies that can be sustainable and steady as opposed to the extreme. In my understanding, this can be achieved through a concept that has been extrapolated from the idea of minimalism, called digital minimalism. Cal Newport, the author of Digital Minimalism beautifully defines this as “a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.” I urge all of you to read this book for more insight on the topic in question.

In my opinion, this is the most cognizant, mindful way of leading our lives. To be able to achieve a healthier relationship with an indispensable boon and inescapable bane of our lives. To kick start the process, I have elucidated some points that may be useful:

  1. Start with examining the apps you use and pose the first question; “Is it adding value to my life?”. Hence, beginning the decluttering process.
  2. If it is adding value, then; “is there an element of toxicity in the function of it or the people that fill it.” This digs a little deeper and allows for further decluttering.
  3. Leading us to “how much time am I spending on it?” Further, “is it a need or a want, to spend as much time?”
  4. Finally, figuring “what would be the amount of time I decide to spend on it?’.
If the above mentioned process is challenging:

  1. Start small – Start by setting aside technology for a particular hour in the day and maintain consistency. To find success, choose a time in the day that you feel is conducive to mindfully practice this. Time limits can be gradually increased.
  2. Deletion – If a particular app/game hasn’t been productively used for over 3 months, there is the least likelihood that it will turn productive. Might as well bid goodbye.
  3. Consistent digital detox – Choose smaller periods like 3 – 7 days a month to avoid using one or two digital devices and continue to do it every month. It has high potential to reduce habit and making it more of an intentional use.

Image source-Mpowerminds

Rachna-Muralidhar

Rachna Muralidhar

Psychologist & Outreach Associate,
Mpower - The Centre, Bengaluru