Are You Too Reliant on Technology? Tips for Being Present in a Virtual World

I remember when I was a junior in college, ready to leave for Tenerife, Spain. It was my first trip out of the country, and I was lucky to go on a study abroad trip to the Canary Islands and get credit toward my Communication Studies major. And then, I heard the news:

“You’re not going to be able to use your phones on this trip.”

Wait. What?

This was in 2008. I didn’t even have a smartphone, but I was still attached to having a direct connection with friends and family at my fingertips.

Getting used to being away from a phone was difficult at first, but it became a completely positive challenge. I felt like I could actually live. I could live without the feeling like I was tied to an inanimate object. I paid closer attention to what I smelled, saw, tasted, and felt. I reflected on my experiences rather than being distracted by who could call or text me. It was wonderful!

Fast-forward thirteen years, and here I am, completely addicted to the cold electronic in my palm (again), and I am sure many people are dealing with the same issue. Technology is so commonplace, most of us rely on it nearly constantly. However, sometimes it is important to reset and remind yourself that you can live without technology.

This article provides five different ways for you to manage a “digital detox”, but I have listed some other, more specific ideas below.

1. For your personal health: Meditate, or just sit in silence. Silence is uncomfortable, especially when we’re so used to background noise. But even five minutes of quiet per day can force you to reflect about recent events. I also think it’s a good idea to write about what you have experienced. As a former teacher, I used to have my students record sensory experiences, think about an event of the day and try to recall what you saw, smelled, heard, and felt. Taking the time to consider these experiences helps to ground you and feel more conscious of what is happening around you. Here, you can find some tips for how to begin your journey in meditation with some specific thinking and writing prompts.

2. For social relationships: With friends or family members, focus on making connections without the distractions of media. Put your phones in another room. Shut off the TV. You could even limit music! This might seem scary at first, but the very best conversations, the ones that really open your mind and allow you to get to know people, typically happen in these situations. Challenge yourself to be completely present with the meaningful people in your life. This article provides some specific tips for how to reconnect with your loved ones sans technology.

3. For learning: I have always been surprised when students can read or study while listening to music or being bombarded with notifications. For me, trying to study or learn new material takes so much longer if I am distracted. Finding a good work space is essential. Look in your library: Is there a quiet area with adequate light (but not too much artificial light, as it needs to be easy on the eyes), close-able doors, and limited traffic? If so, that would be my go-to study spot! You could create a timer on your phone: 60 minutes of uninterrupted time to concentrate on your studies or work. Maybe even reward yourself with a little treat at the end!

The key is to silence notifications on your phone and other media and use technology ONLY when it’s necessary. You will retain information so much better with no distractions. Read this great article from for some great studying strategies!