Friday, July 10, 2015

Digital De-de-de-detox

I don't have an addictive personality. I have my share of other issues but I've always been thankful this is not one of them. However, when it comes to my cell phone, I often feel myself slipping into the realm of addiction.

It's not just me who feels they may be addicted to their cell phone. Indeed, 90 percent of Americans are said to overuse or misuse their phones (according to an article on CNN) and up to 80 percent claim they experience a "hit" of dopamine when hearing a notification emanating from their phone. To see if you fall within the above percentages, you can take the Smartphone Abuse Test (I'm sure they have a mobile version, too). Cell phones, for me, remind me of my old relationship with the refrigerator: at times, I know there's nothing in there but I can't help but check. I also find myself getting antsy at yoga when I'm away from my phone for an hour and a half. And so, I figured a "digital detox" or few hours away from my phone would not only yield mental benefits but physical ones as well. To some extent, cell phones have been shown to emit, "low levels of radiofrequency energy," according to the FDA. And while many extensive studies show no certain link between radiation emitted from cell phones and cancers or maladies, it's generally accepted that the further away your cell phone from your head, the better. So, in taking such advice to the extreme, I figured a day of keeping my cell phone not only away from my head, but in my desk drawer was in order. But what to do with all that time not feeling bad about myself on Facebook? That's where the de-de-de comes in.

"De" is not only the prefix for detox, it serves as the first two letters of both deeds and Detroit. It is said that when we switched over to an agricultural society from one based around hunting and gathering, we reaped a few benefits from our new stabilized and "civilized" lifestyles. Once we could shift our time from worrying about where our next meal came from, we were able to develop writing and governmental systems (also social stratification) as well as art and organized religion. It is also said that once our new lifestyles were established, humans for the first time, felt a sense of existential angst about their role in society. This is not to say humans didn't previously experience primal fears that came with hunting game or wondering what happened after death, but what I learned (albeit in Anthropology 101) that when societies shifted from the structure of a tribe to a civilization, it became more difficult to define one's role in society (vis-a-vis hunter or gatherer). The structure of communities also shifted and one's social role may have become more abstract as well. What I took away from my professor's diatribe was that humans, post-agricultural revolution, were more susceptible to loneliness. This is a bold claim and essentially my own interpretation of such information but as we look at our newest revolution, the technological one, loneliness seems to be a recurring theme with the advent of social media.

In a 2013, the New Yorker published an article entitled: How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy. In the article, author Maria Konnikova cited a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University which cited that when people were generally passive on Facebook (reading/looking instead of posting/messaging), their levels of loneliness seemed to increase. As a millennial, I can definitely relate to those moments online when your "status" just doesn't seem to add up. Ergo, again, I figured, why not let go of the phone for a day and do some real social connecting, or essentially, good deeds.

Just as there have been studies done on the use of Facebook, there have been studies done on the effects of good deeds. According to WebMD, "[w]hen we engaged in good deeds, we reduce our own stress." And as we all know, prolonged stress can certainly have adverse effects on both our mental and physical health. Premature aging and a weakened immune system are just some of the adverse effects brought on by long term stress. And so, as I put down my sometimes stress-inducting phone, I decided to double-down with some good deeds. So, on my way to the grocery store, I decided to drop some change in low running parking meters, offer a hello where needed and exercise patience where I could. Not ground breaking stuff but something. If you do want to learn more about more intensive good deeds, I suggest reading up on Sit On It Detroit, a non-profit which builds benches for Detroit citizens at bus stops without them. As the Chinese proverb goes, "it's better to light a small candle than curse the darkness." Enjoy!

Since there are no pictures on this post, I'll add one of my favorite quotes:

Do not suffer from loneliness.
Go outside.
Go away.
It's all the people making you lonely.
Pick a spot on the horizon and head straight for it.
Weave your way through a strand of redwoods.
Kayak an island chain.
Peer over your toes at the edge of a canyon.
Go to your favorite place.
Again, and again.
This is what you need to do.
Not just because it fuels your independence
but because it reminds you you're a part of something bigger.
And although it may not occur to the baffled onlookers
who can't take their eyes off 
your smiling mud-covered wired-up insane self,
you aren't the one who's lonely.

~ Nike

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