Volunteering is a Great Way to Digital Detox
Have you ever thought about trying a Digital Detox? We live in an always on, permanently connected world. Most of us spend many hours a day using a computer for work or leisure purposes. When we are not sitting in front of our computer, we are walking around with a Smartphone or tablet device. Add to this a mobile internet connection, and we never, ever escape the demands that technology now places on us.
The argument could be made that we no longer drive our technology, it now drives us. Just take a look around next time you visit a coffee shop. How many people are busy working on their laptop? Or using their Smartphone to send SMS or chat on Facebook? A high percentage for sure.
This constant digital connection affects us in some serious ways. Both physically and mentally. And this why a Digital Detox is now seen as a very beneficial thing to undertake.
A Digital Detox is Hard to Accomplish
We are so dependent upon the technology that we use almost without thought every day, that getting away from it is incredibly hard for some.
Firstly, there is the work issue. How do you step away from the keyboard for a period of days, when you have to use a computer to perform your job?
Then there is the social aspect. Some people are heavily dependent upon social networking sites such as Facebook. Others regularly use messaging apps such as WhatsApp or LINE. Stopping using these channels of communication, means losing touch with their circle of friends.
These kinds of technology are now so intertwined with our daily lives, they are almost impossible to give up, even for a short time.
But here is the kicker. For many people who lean heavily on technology to this extent, it is merely a substitute. Facebook and other social networks are a replacement for real friendships. Messaging apps are a convenient, almost anonymous way to communicate, with little emotional investment.
What can we read in to this? We could conclude that people are losing their social skills. They are basically hiding behind technology, rather than risking real-world interactions. For these people, the idea of a Digital Detox is an impossibility… unless they make a significant change.
Make A Paradigm Shift in Your Life
For those who are so dependent upon technology that life would become almost impossible were they to give it up, then a major change needs to be made. You may be in a job where you have to use technology constantly. Your social life might revolve around digital connections. You could even be an online gaming addict. Or you might simply find yourself sitting surfing the internet for hours out of sheer boredom. If these kinds of situations sound familiar to you, then in order to get a proper Digital Detox, you are going to need to change your life significantly.
But how do you make such a change? Simply changing jobs will probably result in the same reliance upon technology. Disconnecting from your friends and family at the very time you need their support, also seems contra to the goal of a Digital Detox.
This is where volunteering comes in to play. In order to go through a Digital Detox effortlessly, you need to fill your life with new experiences. You need to keep busy. You need to rely less upon interaction with your core friend group.
Volunteering fills all of these needs. You will be working in a completely different place. You will be undertaking tasks that will usually be entirely new to you. And you will be meeting a new group of friends and acquaintances in a real-world situation. Building new, healthy, face-to-face relationships.
Let’s assume for a moment you are prepared to change your life, and spend some time volunteering. What are the positive effects of undergoing a Digital Detox in this way?
The Tangible Benefits of a Digital Detox
There are many benefits that undertaking a digital detox can bring. First of all, there are physical benefits, and these include:
Better Posture - When we sit all day, hunched over a keyboard, staring at a screen, we damage our bodies. Our spine becomes curved, and pressure is applied to bones and muscles in a way our bodies are not designed for. Studies have shown, that if a person stops using a computer for as little as three days in a row, their posture begins to reset. The spine straightens, and muscle groups begin to correct the balance of the body.
Better Memory - As a species, the way we take in information has changed over the last 50 years. People who have grown up with technology as a constant influence, now read in a hyper textual way. We no longer read left to right, top to bottom. Instead, our eyes jump around the pages of a magazine, or a webpage, plucking out key information. Unfortunately, this type of reading does not promote long-term memory of facts. Put simply, we read it and we forget it. By unplugging, you will find that your memory starts to improve, as your brain rediscovers how to take in and store information naturally.
Better Sleep - Computer gaming addicts often experience what is called the “gamers’ dream”. This is a sleep state, where the brain has been so conditioned to seeing and hearing the same input for so long, that it continues within dream state. Anybody who uses a computer for many hours a day, has probably experienced this type of troubled sleep. Quite obviously, a Digital Detox helps people to sleep better and dream normally.
These are just a few of the positive physical benefits of completing a Digital Detox. And these are constants however you manage it. However, if you combine your Digital Detox with a period of volunteering, you receive some extra physical benefits. For example, you may have to do more physical work than you are used to, making you fitter. Your diet may change, removing junk food due to it not being available. You will also learn new physical skills. Now let’s take a look at some of the mental benefits:
Deeper Friendships - The friends you make volunteering, are not some vague, anonymous digital entity. They are real people that you will meet every day. You will work with them, eat with them, and spend down time with them. This results in an almost family like bond emerging.
Better Communication - How many of us have been involved in a debate socially, only to have it cut short due to somebody Googling up an answer? When this happens, we are losing the enjoyment and mental stimulation of the conversation itself. When you unplug, communication with others becomes a much more rewarding process.
New Ideas - What happens if you have no access to the Internet, and you need to learn how to do something you have not done before? Well, you have to work it out for yourself. This forces a person to use the twin tools of inventiveness and imagination to come up with actual solutions to problems. We have to re-learn how to solve problems using our brains, instead of a search engine.
Volunteering Helps Others as Well as Yourself
Now we come to the real hard sell for volunteering as a means to undertaking a proper Digital Detox. You are not just helping yourself improve your own life. You are also helping others to live better.
What this results in, is a more rewarding Digital Detox experience. Instead of just going cold turkey at home, only to slip back in to your digital habits afterwards. A stint as a volunteer changes life so much, that once you have finished, and your Digital Detox is complete, you are not the same person you were before you started. This makes it far less likely to go back to the same level of reliance upon technology.
And you will always carry the memories of your days as a volunteer. You will also know, that somewhere, there are people you helped to lead a better life.