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It’s easy to get lost among a frenzy of text messages, smartphone apps, and social media. According to a recent Student Health 101 survey, 50 percent of students check their smartphones multiple times an hour. Taking time away from the digital world can give you more time to focus on the activities and relationships that are important to you.

Unplugging for Academics

Constant use of technology can contribute to having trouble concentrating. A 2011 study published in the journal Learning, Media and Technology found that students who focused on their schoolwork without distractions learned and retained new information more effectively than students who texted, surfed the Web, or used social media while studying.

Loren Frank, an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, explains, “It’s important to have periods when the brain can process previously stored experiences. Constant stimulation may result in less effective thinking and decision making.”

Plus, the light emitted from phones, computers, and other devices can make it difficult to fall asleep.

Plug In to Relationships

In the recent Student Health 101 survey, over 55 percent of the respondents said they felt technology distracted them while spending time with other people. Scott M., a graduate student at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett, says, “Unplugging regularly helps me concentrate on the real things I love to do.”

Practice Unplugging

In the book Net Smart: How to Thrive Online, Howard Rheingold explains, “Start small [and] find a place in your routine for a new behavior.”
Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Out of sight, out of mind: Kathleen K., a student at South Central College in North Mankato, Minnesota, says, “I just shut my phone off and spend time with my family.” Turning your phone and other gadgets off will help you resist the urge to check them.
  • Schedule appointments with technology:Designate times to check your phone and social media accounts. Leave devices home when you can. Scott shares, “At dinner, my family puts their phones away.”
  • Explain when you’ll be available: Let people know in advance how long you’ll be “off the grid.” This may help you relax.

Unplugging on a regular basis will create space for other important things in your life. As Vivian K., a student at Ohlone College in Fremont, California, explains, “A major benefit of unplugging is being able to connect to reality and appreciate what you have in the moment.”

Tips on explaining why you're unplugging

I'm Going to Be Off The Grid

If you regularly use technology to connect and communicate with family members, friends, and colleagues, you may want to let them know why and when you won’t be available. If people understand what to expect, they’re more likely to accept and support your decision to unplug from your digital devices. They may even join you!

Here are some tips to help manage people’s expectations:

  • If there are people in your life that worry if they can’t reach you, tell them in advance when you’re unplugging and check in when you turn your devices back on.
  • Explain that you’ll be unreachable for X number of hours.
  • Post a note on your social network pages saying that you’re taking a rest from technology.
  • Send a text saying you’re taking a nap, hanging out with a friend, going to a meeting, etc.
  • Record a voicemail message that indicates when you’ll be available.
  • Mention that you need some quiet “me time.”
  • Suggest that your loved ones join you for an in-person activity.

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Get help or find out more
Rosen, L. (2013). iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us (Reprint Edition). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Weeks, A. and Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. The MIT Press, Massachusetts.

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