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Is it time to shut-down our smartphones?

Student life can be demanding. With our hectic social lives and demanding courses, our phones and laptops are seemingly crucial to surviving each term. The internet can be an amazing tool that gives us constant access to everything we need –  social media to stay accessible, search engines to stay educated and all manner of websites to stay updated, informed and entertained. But with all of this so readily at our fingertips, are we simply inviting more stress into our lives? Does the ‘university lifestyle’ rely too heavily on our access to technology?

For those that say yes, a technology cleanse might be the answer. By designating a period of time – be it a day, week or month – to abstaining from Facebook or phones, some speculate that our wellbeing will improve. Just like a juice cleanse, its advocates claim to have healthier bodies and clearer minds, and some even suggest that their productivity skyrockets. When deadlines are looming and you’ve spent the whole day binging on Netflix, perhaps a tech cleanse is just what you need to get things done!

Does the ‘university lifestyle’ rely too heavily on our access to technology?

If I already have you convinced, it is important to be organised when going into any kind of ‘cleanse’. Choose a realistic period of time and quit only the devices you can comfortably live without. Before beginning, complete any tasks that you worry might break your concentration or land you in trouble – answer those emails, inform your friends about your plans to go ‘off-grid’ and find the right sources to write your paper well in advance (books might not be as scary as you think!). If done well, the proclaimed emotional and spiritual benefits of a tech cleanse alone might make it worth it. However, many will also be looking to boost their work productivity. Is there any truth to the claims that tech cleanses improve your work ethic?

The answer is unclear. Very few academic studies have explored the benefits of digital cleanses despite their popularity, and though many people have shared their experiences, each account is highly personal. A large number of people have attested to an increase in productivity as a result of cleansing, and several have discussed at great length the health benefits they felt. Plenty of information is available on countless blogs, so all it takes is a quick google search. You’re only a tap away if you feel like trying it!

Our technology connects us to others in new and exciting ways, so throwing our phones to the side could feel like we’re cutting a lifeline…

There is still plenty of reason to be sceptical though. When our lives depend on various apps to stay organised and in the know, quitting cold turkey can seem a scary thing. What if there’s an email you urgently need to answer? A paper that needs researching? Could you miss out on invites and opportunities if you have no way to read my texts? Our technology connects us to others in new and exciting ways, so throwing our phones to the side could feel like we’re cutting a lifeline. Universities are increasingly using social media and online resources to shape our education, and it’s easy for us to become dependent on the devices that allows us to interact with others. Throwing away access to such powerful tools is understandably a difficult decision to make.

If you don’t think a tech cleanse is for you, there are still plenty of other ways to maximise your productivity. Setting yourself deadlines, keeping organised with a planner or using team management websites like #Slack for group work are fantastic ways to work effectively. Everyone is different and will find their own methods to achieve success, so do some research and find out what works for you.

If nothing else, a tech cleanse could be a valuable way to look at your relationship with media and your phone…

If nothing else, a tech cleanse could be a valuable way to look at your relationship with media and your phone. Why is it that you’re considering something so drastic to improve your grades or get your assignments done faster? Big names like Ed Sheeran are commenting more and more on the unhealthy relationship a lot of people have with technology and communications, and our generation is arguably one of the largest affected. If cleanses are a short-term solution you find yourself returning to again and again, perhaps thinking about the way you use your laptop and consume your media is a good way to go.

If you’re supposed to be working now, close that meme page and switch off your notifications. And consider, maybe, switching off your devices for more than just a moment.

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