Digital Detox

Logoff and Login to Life (See What We Did There?)

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Online gaming. Online shopping. Fantasy sports teams. Okay, we’ll just stop there. With the world at our fingertips, thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to get sucked into the digital world. You keep up with friends and family on various social media platforms. You e-mail your boss at all hours of the night. You post photos from your sweet ski trip. We get it—2016 is an online world. Everyone is logged into something.

But when is it too much? When do you go from it being a hobby to it being a habit—or even, an addiction? We spoke to addiction psychiatrist from CeDAR (Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation), Patrick Fehling, MD about digital addictions to get a better understanding.

“The best predictor to someone having addiction to anything is a prior addiction to something else. Those tend to be people who get in recovery from alcohol or pain killers for instance. We get them clean and a new addiction develops—like exercise addiction,” says Fehling. “The same rules would apply for Internet usage—social media has to do with wanting to feel attached and connected to people. People are watching you. The narcissism of humanity, they feel important and their lives are meaningful.”

But, come on. Don’t people want to see photos of our three-year-old’s preschool artwork and a play-by-play of potty training? “Most recovery involves two ingredients: Acceptance. You have identified a problem. You’ve accepted you have a problem. The second is commitment. You are committed to do better and makes changes. That’s how you would start,” explains Fehling.

Okay, shut down by Dr. Fehling, but we’ll still post that stick-figure artwork. So much talent. In all seriousness, Fehling explained that Internet Addiction Disorder often has a duel-diagnosis. Meaning you’re depressed, have social anxiety or something else going on—you want to avoid others so you tend to ignore them and spend time on the computer.

“You have found a way to keep partial attachment going while being isolative and having less motivation to change,” says Fehling. It’s time for a digital detox. How do you learn to ignore your Fantasy Football Team? Won’t you get fired if you don’t e-mail the boss at 10 p.m.? Here are four tips to get started:

1. Boundaries. Articulate boundaries with your friends, family and co-workers. Set a time when it’s okay to be online—and when it’s not. For instance, if dinner time and getting kids to bed happens from 6-8 p.m. set a rule that there are no smart phones or computers during that time.

2. Acceptance. If you have accepted that you’re obsessed with going online, be aware as to how often you logon.

3. Commitment. If you’re ready to limit screen time, set up personal goals and stick to them.

4. Mindfulness. Once you’ve set boundaries, be mindful of your emotional state. When you go offline, how do you feel? If you find yourself more agitated and anxious, there may a level of addition.

“It’s nice to note that addictions are conditions. They have developed in the brain so you have nothing to be ashamed of—don’t be embarrassed. Our brains just develop these things from pressures. We want to extinguish stigma,” says Fehling.