How to use tech to disconnect

The digital era has in many ways broken the world’s ceilings as society has known them. Opportunities—both for individuals and for companies—now seem limitless. 24-hour access to information around the globe at the touch of a finger is pure power. But power can be dangerous.

Today’s challenge for brands and their marketing teams is to create real, genuine connections between them and their customers, whose attention spans continue to decrease. Brands want loyalty, and they use technology to garner it. Our challenge is to stay in touch with the non-digital world as the digital world’s hands get bigger and bigger.  Simply put, our challenge is to know when and how to disconnect.

The battle of attention vs. tech 

In the Master in Digital Marketing, we had a three-part class called Attention for High Performance, taught by Dr. Laura Zimmermann. At first, I didn’t know what to expect. The professor informed us that we’d be completing a hands-on project to measure our phone activity over a 15-day period, observing our daily phone behavior. The first week would measure our normal activity without any changes. And the second week would measure our phone usage after implementing different strategies meant to decrease it.

It’s worth mentioning that before this exercise, I often fell victim to FOMO. But I learned a new acronym today that I would like to use more: JOMO, the joy of missing out, which is quite a challenge in today’s era of social media. We are all connected at all times: it feels like we know everything about everyone, and we always seem to have enough time for the digital world while forgetting about the one around us—nature, people, ourselves. 

It was genuinely eye-opening to see how addicted I am to my cell phone. It was like a dictator over my mind.

We found that I was using my phone for an average of 5 hours and 27 minutes per day, with most of that time spent on Instagram and Whatsapp. Throughout the class, I learned two behaviors that fueled my need to feel connected all the time: the internal, or my own struggles with self-regulation, and the external, or the social obligation to be constantly available to respond to notifications and see what’s happening. 

How to disconnect & be more present 

Dr. Zimmermann introduced us to several tools used to decrease phone usage, like setting app restrictions, overall time limits, or putting your phone in grayscale mode, so as to not be stimulated by the bright colors. These are the things I’ve done:

  • Set time limits on Instagram and Pinterest—the ones that consume most of my time
  • Turn off notifications during class and meals with friends and family
  • Delete apps I don’t need
  • Move addictive apps to the last screen 
  • Set a reminder to meditate
  • Set a bedtime alarm 

After the course, I decided to add some of my own mechanisms to boost concentration and improve my personal well-being. I realized I was forgetting to take care of myself, and I want to share these tips because they’ve already helped me improve my health: physical, mental, and social.

I schedule “me time” every day, making sure I take time for myself through meditation, yoga, or even just going on a walk, and I exercise following specific routines. Taking care of myself allows me to be more present when I’m with other people. This started with awareness; when I identified the issues I had from phone usage, I was able to take control and gain responsibility for my personal well-being. And now, my phone usage has already decreased by 15%. 

At the end of the day, I think we all have a desire to disconnect, even in today’s ultra-connected world. Luckily, the technologies that have dominated our lives have also given us the option to take the wheel. We can use tech to help us form healthy habits and disconnect after too much time online. It all comes down to awareness. Technology may be reshaping our lives, but we still own them. 

 

A fashion, art, and coffee lover, Maria comes from Medellín, Colombia and has experience in the beauty, wellness, and real estate sectors. She’s dedicated herself to a variety of roles, including marketing, sales, branding, trend analysis, and PR, and she’s passionate about finding creative and forward-looking ways to expand her knowledge and increase her likelihood of future entrepreneurial success. Feel free to link up with Maria at mariadc@student.ie.edu or on LinkedIn.