The latest smartphone model used to be the pinnacle of luxury, but now, time away from that device has usurped it as the commodity people most crave.
The technology that helped simplify lives, fortify connections and spread access to information has in some cases eliminated human connection. Smartphones carry the guise of allowing a user to multitask, but this digital convenience can lead to real-world accidents—think texting while driving.
Add to the equation that the world seems to be on fire—literally and figuratively. A constant stream of headlines regarding natural disasters, political division and socioeconomic instability is delivered straight to phones, serving as a perpetual reminder of the chaos of the surrounding world.
There’s a greater reliance than ever on technology, with one study finding that consumers spend an average of five hours a day on their phones, a tally that nears 11 weeks annually. That’s why cell phone addiction—and its potential side effects—is becoming more of a concern. Research suggests that addiction to technology is associated with anxiety, sleep deprivation, and other physical and mental ailments, contributing to the growing trend of digital detoxes in which an individual purposefully disconnects with their mobile devices.
With 47% of consumers admitting to limiting their use of mobile devices, it’s no surprise that the travel industry offers entire vacations around the concept of going tech-free through digital detox packages. From sailing trips to detox safaris, operators aim to provide a level of immersion that keeps you present. The Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel incentivizes the surrender of devices upon check in with vouchers for kayaking, books, cards and board games. It’s the realization of the idea that time wasted on devices could be better spent engaging in experiences—a literal exchange of one for the other.
A more affordable way to detox is simply to try spending time away from one’s phone. That’s the rationale behind National Day of Unplugging, a project that encourages a 24-hour break from mobile devices. It’s a way to be more mindful, or more aware, of what one is doing, to temper the relationship between human and device. Mindfulness is a natural partner of digital detoxes, since it requires a consumer to consciously devote thought to something done automatically, like checking a phone for notifications.
That said, it’s not necessary to ditch the device altogether to escape the digital drudge. It may seem counterintuitive to rely on a device to help disconnect from it, but there are smartphone apps that exist to help users simultaneously unplug and practice self-care. The meditation app Headspace serves as a primer on mindfulness, with guided meditations that can assist a person in becoming more conscious of digital behavior. Mute, an app that tracks the amount of time spent on a device each day, asks users to account for their phone usage, sending alerts when a certain level of usage is reached. The logic behind these apps is that awareness can contribute to a healthier relationship with devices.
Any brand can support the disconnecting trend by considering ways to enable non-digital behavior. The point isn’t to do away with technology, but to be more mindful of how it affects day-to-day life. It’s a reminder that while technology supports our lives in many ways, the reverse is not true—our lives do not exist to support technology.