Smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops. Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, text. With so many devices and myriad ways to communicate and stay connected, we’ve become a nation that doesn’t know how to say “no” to typing out the next message.
We all see this problem play out in our daily lives.
Take a ride on any form of public transportation and it seems that everyone is using a device – texting or surfing the web on their phones, reading an ebook, some with special balancing skills writing on a laptop despite the bumps and sudden stops.
Walk down the street and notice people texting instead of watching where they’re going. Pull up at a stoplight and the driver on your left is looking at his phone. Wait in line for coffee and the person in front of you is staring at her screen, oblivious to the barista asking what she’d liked to order.
It’s become such a problem for some Americans that they’re making deliberate efforts to unplug. In a recent Harris Poll, 67% of those surveyed try to disconnect from technology at some point each year. And 45% of respondents make that attempt at least one day during the week.
What are they trying to accomplish? The poll found that 52% want more quiet time. Fifty percent desire more time to interact with their families. A big chunk of people – 35% of those surveyed – would like more time to enjoy their surroundings.
But just as many people struggle to lose weight, begin an exercise program, or become more financially responsible, putting away our devices has become a tough goal to achieve. The poll found that 37% can’t bring themselves to be disconnected for more than a few hours at a time. Whether it’s an addiction or feeling like they’ll miss something important (or exciting), it’s hard for them to relax while being unplugged.
These days, for better or worse, businesses are 24-hour operations that require instant action. This is especially true for those in sales, customer support and communications. The poll backs up this notion, with 27% admitting that being disconnected is impossible due to the quick reaction their company requires. If their colleagues are constantly connected, they have to be as well. It’s not just a matter of collaborating on projects or providing answers to questions at 11PM, it’s a matter of perception: If you’re not connected you’re not working hard enough.
In fact, the psychological barriers for disconnecting are immensely strong. The Harris poll found that 44% felt anxious without having their smartphones. Computers are almost as hard to give a rest – 33% can’t quite put them in sleep mode.
To help people with their technical addictions, an entire industry of “digital detox” retreats has sprouted across the globe. These destinations are not necessarily focused only on disconnecting. Rather, they offer programs of yoga, hiking, art, meditation, or just plain lounging on a gorgeous beach without allowing access to any technology.
The disconnection aspect is part of a holistic approach to relaxation and getting healthy. While these retreats are not cheap (some go for as much as $5,000 per week), it’s obvious that more and more Americans are willing to put their money where their devices are.