The Internet And Social Media: How To Disconnect

08/01/2017 08:00 am ET Updated Aug 01, 2017

By Raffi Keuhnelian

If you woke up in the middle of the night to have a glass of wine, most would say you have a problem. Yet in a time of growing awareness about Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), one in three people still get up and checks their phone mid-sleep.

Or how about needing a beer to get out of bed in the morning? Also frowned upon. And again, most people check their phones within five minutes of waking up, according to one study. When you view connectivity compulsions through the lens of alcohol, it becomes troubling.

Licensed clinical social worker Nancy Colier, author of Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual Worldtells the New York Times, “The only difference between digital addiction and other addictions is that this is a socially condoned behavior.”

Affordable mobile devices, free Wi-Fi, and evolving workplaces and schools have made the internet accessible to more than half the world. Having been a digital marketer for the last decade, I am in the business of understanding why and how people interact with technology, online phenomena and social media. I have also seen how their behaviors have shifted — largely toward overuse.

As an entrepreneur who has daily communications with partners and clients from North America, Europe and Asia, I can fall prey to some of the aforementioned compulsions. I have people in Europe emailing me hours before I wake up, and it’s only natural to want to review what they’ve sent first thing in the morning.

Exposure to the blue light emitted by smartphones disrupts your sleep cycle by suppressing your secretion of the hormone melatonin, ultimately leading to negative effects on your health. Digital "midnight snacks" are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Internet Addiction Disorder: The possible negatives effects on mental health include ADHD, anxiety, inattention, depression, executive functioning issues and impulsiveness. Generally, it is making us all more selfish, easily distracted and stressed. It seems our fear of missing out is making us miserable.

While many point the finger at millennials for obsessive social media use, it is actually their older Gen X peers who are most addicted. According to Nielsen, those between the ages of 35 to 49 spend six hours and 58 minutes weekly on social media.

The same study found that in the U.S., 97% of millennials and 94% of Gen Xers have a smartphone. The average American also checks their phone 46 times a day and it’s ruining productivity. One text buzz or lit-up screen, a quick scroll and — boom — it takes 23 minutes to refocus. 

Ultimately, because of its psychological and physical implications, Internet Addiction Disorder is not only killing our productivity — it’s killing us. Try these three tips to disconnect:

Turn on “Do Not Disturb” during family time.

Whether it’s dinner, date night or doing something with the kids, family time is important to be present for. In fact, according to one study, nine out of 10 people feel a loved one has prioritized technology over them. Turning your phone to “Do Not Disturb” for a few hours a day is a good chance to recharge its batteries — and your own.

Do not check your phone two hours before bed.

Speaking of recharging your batteries, if you want to rest properly, avoid your smartphone before bed. I give myself two hours to unwind and unplug. Remember what I said earlier about blue light: It suppresses melatonin, aka your sleep hormone. I find being rested is more important than checking Facebook one last time.

Say no to notifications.

It really is as simple as that. Turning off notifications rewires your brain and dopamine receptors from constantly expecting something from your phone. If you want to know if someone emailed you, check your inbox periodically.

As an entrepreneur in the digital marketing sphere, I understand better than most the need to be the first to know things. We are all constantly taking in massive amounts of information and data, and our society values people who are always busy.

Like many people have said before me though, it’s not about working more — it’s about working smarter. If you want peak productivity, limit your social media and internet use to specific times. Our culture will push you to always be on; you need to tell the world and yourself when it’s time to turn off.

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Raffi Keuhnelian is a leading tech entrepreneur and a digital and brand development expert. He is the CEO of iNexxus and MusicPromoToday.com

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