Digital detox

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Digital detox
If you’re secretly worried about your smartphone addiction, fear not. An abundance of service providers are out there to help you disconnect.

The rise of an 'always on' work culture is keeping us permanently connected but also distracted. The average US adult spends nearly four hours a day using mobile devices. There’s a cost: staring at your phone is bad for wellbeing. Increased Facebook use strongly correlates with declines in physical and mental health. Mobile phone addiction is real. Even Silicon Valley acknowledges there’s a problem and has introduced features – such as Apple’s Screen Time and Android’s Dashboard – to help us wrest back control of our device usage. Last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the features would bring 'JOMO': the joy of missing out.

A whole industry has sprung up to help us disconnect, from self-help books to digital detox retreats to hotels that lock away guests' phones in exchange for free snacks. Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism, recommends a 30-day "digital declutter" – a break from all but essential technologies – so you can “get back in touch with what you actually value”. Ex-Google product manager Tristan Harris founded the Center for Humane Technology. Its mission is to reverse the "human downgrading" brought about by shortening attention spans and the internet’s tendency to reward outrage over dialogue.

Will it succeed? Time will tell.

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Image credit: Piero Zagami and Michela Nicchiotti.