I recently had an interesting and serious conversation with a judge named “Dave” who told me that he was having trouble getting his work done because he felt he was addicted to technology, specifically social media. When he wakes up in the morning, the first thing he does is scroll through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When he cannot sleep, he reaches for his tablet to read the news. He went on to explain how he feels like he is constantly attached to a device: his phone, his laptop, his tablet, the TV. Whether he is checking his email or checking out what his friends are doing on social media, he feels like he has to be up to date on the most recent news, his email, the weather, and whatever else is happening at that moment.
As we were having this conversation, his phone buzzed and interrupted him at least 20 times with different notifications, news stories, emails, and texts. I asked him why he feels he has to frequently reach for his device, and he said that he has a really bad case of FOMO. I, not being up to date on the current acronyms, emojis, memes, social media, or whatever, had to ask: What is FOMO? He told me that it stands for “fear of missing out.” He feels as if he will miss out on something if he is not up to date on what is happening around him. The FOMO was causing him so much anxiety and stress, it was affecting and interfering with his responsibilities. I told him it was time for a digital detox.
What is a digital detox?
A digital detox is when you commit to refraining from technology for a specific amount of time. It does not mean that you have to totally disengage from your devices — that would be impossible. We all have work to do, and we most likely need technology to do it. A digital detox could be for a weekend, a couple of days or even a couple of hours a day. Some people who detox create schedules or timeframes for when they will use technology. This might seem impossible to do for some people, but it can and should be done, especially if your technology time is getting in the way of your other responsibilities.
Why do you need it?
Although technology addiction is not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM—5), the book that clinicians and psychiatrists in the United States use to diagnose disorders and mental illnesses), many experts believe that spending too much time online can lead to problems, such as stress, anxiety, sleep disorders, and depression.
Signs you need a digital detox
Not sure if you are spending too much time on technology? Here are some signs you might need a break.
You feel like you never have time.
Using technology sucks up time. Apps such as Moment will track the amount of time you spend on devices and social media. According to the reviews of the app, users are surprised by how much time they spent doing non-work-related searching during one day. Some picked up their phones more than 40 times, and spent more than six hours on time-sucking apps such as social media, news and games. Imagine the other more productive tasks you can achieve in six hours! The app also helps users decrease their time on their devices. No surprise here, but once users limited their time on social media, news and games, they were shocked at how much more productive time they had during the day.
You feel like you are missing out.
As my young colleague Dave told me, FOMO can rule your life. If you feel like you constantly have to check your device for the latest email, news story, or to see what your ex or friends are doing, you probably need to start limiting your time.
Your productivity decreases.
Has this ever happened to you? You are working and you hear a ding on your phone. You immediately pick up the phone, see a text, you immediately respond, then you think you might as well check your email while you have the phone in your hand. When you check your email, you click on a link, you start reading an article or are directed to a social media site. All of a sudden an entire hour has gone by, just because you picked up your phone to look at one text. Be aware of going down the rabbit hole!
You get defensive and/or angry if someone questions your device use or interrupts you.
When Dave’s wife made a comment about how much time he was spending on Instagram, he became defensive and told her it was not a waste of time, that he was relaxing. Then he got angry at her for interrupting his me-time. He noticed that he was snapping at his children if they were too loud or bothered him while he was surfing the web. If a similar scenario has happened to you, you should consider reducing your screen time.
You compare yourself to others.
When you open up Facebook and you see your law school friend is working for a large firm and you think how nice it would be to make his salary; when you see pictures of your cousin’s family trip to Aruba and wish you could take your loved ones on a nice trip; when you see a high school friend’s relationship status and wonder when you will find a partner—these are all “exciting and fun” things you will see on social media. Before you start comparing yourself to what seems to be others’ fulfilling and exciting lives, think about the long hours and stress of working for a large firm, the whining and tired children on the Aruba trip, the arguments that can happen in a relationship. Everything is not always as it seems on social media.
How to detox
Turn off notifications
Do you really need to be interrupted with a notification every time someone likes or shares one of your social media posts? Do you have to be the first to know the breaking news of what celebrity went under the knife for plastic surgery? Turn off unnecessary notifications, or turn them all off.
Remove unnecessary apps
Consider removing social media apps. Facebook hires experts to figure out ways to make you stay on the app longer than you intend! If removing them is too much for you to handle, make a schedule or timeframe for when and how long you will use the apps.
If you want to reduce stress, improve your sleep, have more time and maintain work-life balance, you should consider a digital detox. This does not mean you have to abstain from technology completely. It means that you set boundaries that ensure you are using your devices in ways that benefit your emotional health. The only FOMO on you should be concerned about is your time!
The Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP) helps lawyers, judges and law students cope with the stresses of the legal profession. We have saved hundreds of lives and families. We treat depression, mental health disorders, burnout, substance use disorders, anxiety, gambling disorders, and more. We know that it is difficult to ask for help when you are struggling, but asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. We also understand your concerns about privacy, which is why OLAP is governed by strong rules of confidentiality. For more information, go to www.ohiolap.org or call (800) 348-4343.
Scott R. Mote, Esq. is the Executive Director of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP). If you are an attorney who is stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, OLAP can help. OLAP has saved lives, careers, marriages and families. He can be reached at (800) 348-4343 or ohiolap.org.