Interventions Based on Usage

Interventions Based on Usage. An abstract picture representing a tornado of digitial devices, black and white polaroid

Life in the digital era

For many of us, life is largely experienced through digital technologies. We are living through the ‘Digital era’. A digital detox may appear as a rejection of fundamental tenets of the era we live in, but in reality it is a sound approach to building a healthier relationship with digital technologies.

The frenetic pace of modern life is a major factor influencing our approaches to digital technology use. We seamlessly move between work, family and social life, all of which are to some degree linked by digital technologies. We move our attention between screens and devices with our attention often fragmented. In short, we are busy and tech is weaved into our existence in various ways from the benign to the parasitic. It is hard to find time to reflect, and it is hard to know where to begin.

Reflections & interventions

I was reminded of this frenetic pace in week one of the one month Digital Declutter, juggling two screen-based jobs, making arrangements at distance for a friend’s wedding, attending various online appointments, etc. etc. The first reflection for me was ‘how much of our life fundamentally requires digital engagement?’ It certainly felt like a lot! Although not the purpose of the digital detox, what would not engaging look like? Can we imagine the life of a digital hermit?

Prompted by this and various discussions, I began to think of models for tech abstinence, or tech addiction therapy. How might this work? What are the key factors we need to consider when exploring possible options? Could something like the the table below be useful?

Interventions Based on Usage. A normal distribution graph showing a bell curve from one end 'balanced use / non-problematic' and the other end 'seriously problematic usage'. Below the bell curve are suggested interventions that are discussed in text

It is challenging to put numbers to it, but my assumption is that patterns of digital technology use, on a large enough population scale, will approximate a normal distribution (bell curve). This means that a few will have a perfectly balanced relationship with digital technology, existing in a stable equilibrium where they use tech and not the other way around. For these lucky few there is probably no need to take action. At the other extreme there will be people for whom digital technology usage has a seriously negative effect on their lives (e.g. health, relationships). Here interventions that are more drastic may be called for. There is a vast literature on addiction-based therapies ranging from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other talking therapies to abstinence-based approaches.

Pause for reflection

  • Where do you think you are on this scale?
  • Do you think you can last for a week without your phone?
  • What would you miss the most?

Most, including myself, will be somewhere in the middle, perhaps oscillating between periods where we feel we are genuinely being served by the digital tech we use and times where we feel their pull is negatively impacting the quality of our life. Here it makes sense to consider ‘softer’ techniques, from active self-monitoring and mindful usage to a principle informed Digital Detox (the one we embarked on). Even periodic abstinence from digital tech, using therapeutic retreat-based models found in wellness and meditation communities, could be advocated.

Here I think it is useful to consider combining periods of abstinence with an underlying set of principles (or philosophy) and to formulate those efforts as a strategy towards achieving a healthier relationship with tech – whereby we are using technology with intentionality.


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