Having trouble switching off? Here’s what you should do
Are you productive? Efficient? Useful? More to the point, are you productive, efficient, and useful enough? These are the kinds of questions that arise (naturally and terrifyingly) when technology makes it easy to stay online and connected 24/7. But all this connectivity brings two unfortunate side effects. First, the expectation that we will be available at all times — from bosses, friends, the media, you name it — has increased. Second, the concepts of productivity and efficiency have been redefined according to what our devices enable. If you could be working, a certain line of thinking goes, then you should be.
Yet being able to use technology as much as we want doesn’t guarantee that we’re using our time well. The devices we love are full of bright, colourful distractions, tempting us to scroll just a little further, to refresh again and again. (Let’s not forget: Tech companies design their products to be addictive.) And the downsides of heavy technology use, studies show, are numerous: depression, loneliness, isolation, lower empathy, and even suicidal thoughts.
In her new book, 24/6, Tiffany Shlain, the founder of the Webby Awards, lays out a plan for surviving our “always on” culture. Taking a cue from her Jewish heritage, she suggests a “tech Shabbat”: one day a week without screens or devices.
For thousands of years Shabbat has prescribed that people set aside time to rest and reflect. Shlain writes that her modern interpretation benefits our mental and physical health — and she has spent the past decade practising it. Unplugging gives us more chances to enjoy hobbies and socialise, she says, but one of its greatest gifts is perspective. When we step away from technology on a regular basis, it becomes easier to consider whether we’re using it wisely.