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Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are becoming more frequent among young people. Simultaneously, social media usage has massively increased over the past few years. Could the two be linked, and what can we do to avoid the imminent addiction to our devices and the tools within them?
According to Ofcom, we spend an average of eight hours and 41 minutes a day looking at screens. Clearly this is not a healthy habit, and is verging on addiction.
Dr Perpetua Neo, a clinical psychologist, has noticed the growing relationship between growing smartphone use, and an increase in cases of anxiety.
She said: ‘Everybody is using social media without really understanding what it can do to us and what underlies it. A lot of people are not conscious that their friends’ walls are a curated feed, therefore they start to think or believe that their life doesn’t compare, as it is not as fun or exciting.’
‘If we see social media as the only thing to measure our life against, it can be really damaging,’ Dr Perpetua added. Yet, it appears that this is the way that many young people are thinking, with ‘fear of missing out’, also known as FOMO, now part of the Oxford English Dictionary online.
However, FOMO is becoming recognised as a genuine trigger for anxiety, and something that we encounter even when we are on holiday.
This obsession with constant connection to technology has prompted a spin off trend – the digital detox. Like a regular detox, but instead of downing disgusting drinks, you ditch your digital devices.
Offline Portugal is a retreat that encourages guests to forget about their gadgets by locking them away in a safe on arrival, replacing Facebook and Instagram with yoga and surfing.
Co-founder, Rita Pim created the Algarve-based company to raise awareness of the lack of control we have over our technology. ‘It’s important to see the benefits of technology, but the most important thing is to keep these benefits as benefits, and not allow this technology to control our survival.’
Offline Portugal’s clientele often consist of professionals who work with technology. However, it is not only work that keeps us absorbed in our devices, as Rita explained: ‘When one goes on holiday, the pressure of posting pictures on social media is extremely high, and the effect of it on our lives is: if I don’t post a picture of this fabulous moment, it’s like it has never happened.’
And the original poster is not the only victim of FOMO in these circumstances. Internet friends are often envious of the photos posted to social media and this critical way of comparing our lives has a negative mental impact, and proves that there is more of a demand than ever for digital detoxing.
Tanya Goodin founded Time to Log Off when she realised that her lack of concentration was down to the amount of time she spent online. Her company has created specialised retreats where smart technology is confiscated, but the ability to live without it is regained. ‘Our inability to put our phones down is definitely affecting our holidays,’ says Tanya. She also points out that, ‘you miss a lot that’s wonderful about life and the world around you when your head is stuck in a phone.’
Better sleep, enhanced concentration and increased happiness are just some of the benefits that Time To Log Off has found guests experience after leaving the retreats. Emily Luxton, a travel blogger, was one of them, and prior to the retreat she was on her phone ‘non-stop’.
She said: ‘I found that I connected a lot more with the people around me. We were complete strangers, but we all bonded so well because no one had a phone to distract them.’
However, many people would rather lose their left arm than their phone. So for those who are nervy about quitting cold turkey, there are solutions to the holiday digital detoxing dilemma.
Many hotels are implementing digital detoxing on a slightly smaller scale, by enforcing tech-free zones in certain areas of their grounds. Lifehouse Spa and Hotel in Essex, politely requests their guests ‘not to use their phones’ in the spa.
Siobhan McCardie, a representative from the hotel said: ‘We ask that they don’t use their phones in specific areas, as these are for relaxing, unwinding and taking some time to themselves. If you are sitting on a mobile phone, you’re not truly relaxing.’
She added: ‘We do advise guests to completely turn off their phones when staying with us, but this is solely their choice and not something we ban while they stay with us.’
While this ethos may not be enough for the hardcore digital detoxers among us, it may be the perfect option for those looking to gently cut down on technology. Similar to the Lifehouse Spa and Hotel, you can now go on a digital diet in the most unlikely of places – Las Vegas.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Las Vegas, created their first Digital Detox Weekend last year, designed to provide relief from constant connectivity with devices.
American Beauty and Wellness Expert, Grace Gold, visited the retreat and chose to take a softer approach to cutting down her daily technology intake, only accessing her phone in the evenings.
‘I felt addicted in the sense that I just spent far too much time on it, and time would seemingly slip away while I was on it,’ Grace said.
The wellness pro believed ‘baby steps’ are the way forward to creating a healthy relationship with technology. ‘Start with 12 hours and then try 24 hours. You don’t have to go through some long, involved, crazy experience to feel the incredible benefits. Just take that first step.’
A step away from technology, and towards undisturbed serenity could cure your digital addiction. There are infinite benefits to the machines we so dearly love and cherish, but the question only you can decipher is: Do they have a place on your holiday?