Live well: Digital detox

Are you spending too much time online and not enough time in the real world? Cora Lydon explores the dangers of too much Facebook and not enough ‘face-to-face’ time

You might be up to date with your brother’s career news – but think back to the last time you saw him. Perhaps you’ve been substituting roars of laughter with LOLs tapped in to your keyboard – and your relationship may be suffering for it.

Addiction to the Internet is a growing problem across Africa and the impact on our lives is vast. Dr Maymunah Kadiri, President of the Association of Resident Doctors, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, warned that IT addiction can lead to marital discord, lack of personal hygiene and social interaction and loss of good eating habits. While eschewing all technology isn’t necessary, rebalancing how you use the Internet may be necessary.

The first indication that you may have a problem is that panicked feeling when you realise you don’t have your phone with you. The TIME Mobility Poll questioned nearly 5000 people across eight countries including South Africa and found that 84 per cent of people can’t go a single day without their mobile phone – and a quarter said they check their phone every thirty minutes. In order to engage properly with friends it’s important you can focus on them – so if you’ve made dinner plans take your phone with you but leave it in your pocket or bag unless you really need it.

And while technology (and all it offers) has made our working days easier, there are few people that would argue that it erases the need for traditional face-to-face networking. Mary Beth McEuen, Vice-President of the Maritz Institute, argues that face-to-face meetings can capture attention, inspire a positive climate and build human networks and relationships. Additionally there are social, psychological and emotional benefits to seeing people in person – such as the opportunity to share and respond to body language and greater opportunities for bonding. There’s nothing like following up a meeting with an informal drink where you can put aside business discussions to add texture and trust to important relationships.

Often one of the reasons that we become so reliant on the Internet is that it’s cheap and accessible: the average price of a beer in Kenya is Ksh161, compared to around Ksh1 per minute for Internet access. So you need to break the habit of filling your time with your smartphone or laptop. Read a book, take a walk or pick up the phone and actually speak to someone. And if you do feel the urge to go online, set yourself a task to stick to, for example, spending just 15 minutes on Facebook, or only checking emails between certain times.

Facetime is needed when…
You want to catch up with an old friend
• You want advice from a business mentor
• To thank somebody
Facebook’s okay…
• To keep in contact
• To share news with friends and family who’ve moved away
• If you spend an equal amount of time with loved ones