You may not realize it, but tech-related distractions are likely negatively affecting your life—every day, if not on a constant, ongoing basis. Most of these distractions are innocuous, subtly decreasing your quality of life, while others can have devastating consequences.
To address the full spectrum of tech distractions, it’s important for you to acknowledge the sources of your distraction and work to eliminate them.
How Tech Distractions Affect Your Life
“Tech distractions” come in many forms. It could be a mobile device constantly notifying you of new messages and changes, or a source of entertainment like a gaming console or television constantly urging you to engage. Alerts and content browsing (via social media) tend to be the most common distractions, and since many devices are now portable, these distractions can follow you everywhere.
These are just some of the ways they can affect you:
· Increased risk of accidents. First, if you’re distracted by your technology while you’re doing something important and/or dangerous, you’ll be at a higher risk of an accident. Texting and driving, for example, has become a massive problem in the past decade. In 2019, distracted driving was a factor in 8.5 percent of fatal car accidents. And each year, more than 3,200 people are killed in distracted driving accidents. You aren’t exempt from these statistics; using a mobile device while driving, operating heavy machinery, or handling another important responsibility will objectively increase your risk of an accident.
· Less focus and productivity. In a more innocuous effect, tech distractions compromise your productivity. Every second you spend scrolling through content or checking alerts is a second you aren’t working; and once your focus is broken, it can take up to 23 minutes to fully recover it. The constant stream of new notifications makes it almost impossible to stay focused on what really matters.
· Less engagement. Tech distractions can also negatively interfere with your interactions with friends and loved ones, if you allow it. Instead of talking over a meal, you both watch a TV show. When you’re having a conversation, you glance down to check your phone. A notification pulls you away from an otherwise shared experience. These things add up, and can introduce strain into otherwise healthy relationships.
· Lower quality of life. There’s also an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that constantly consuming content and allowing ourselves to be subject to tech whims is bad for our mental and emotional health. For example, the infinite scrolling mechanics common in most modern social media platforms are designed to function like a slot machine, encouraging repetitive, or even addictive behavior.
How to Reduce Tech Distractions
The dangers are clear, so the question becomes, what can we do to reduce tech distractions in our lives?
· Turn off notifications. The quickest and possibly best step you can take is to turn off notifications, for all your apps. Check your messages and your social feeds only when you feel like it—not when those apps choose to demand your attention. The constant alerts are distracting you from more important things, and they’re typically not rewarding you with any additional value.
· Set time limits. If you’re going to entertain yourself or distract yourself with technology, set a firm time limit so you don’t end up losing yourself in the platform. For example, if you choose to scroll through social media, set a timer for just 15 minutes, and commit to leaving the platform when those 15 minutes are up.
· Delete problematic apps. If you’re like most people, you have one or a handful of apps that are responsible for the majority of your distractions and time loss; for many people, these are social media apps or mobile games. Consider deleting these apps, at least temporarily. You might be surprised to find how substantially your life can improve without them.
· Keep the mobile device in a different room. Did you know that most people are distracted by their phones if they’re nearby—even if they’re turned off? Nearby mobile devices decrease your cognitive abilities, objectively, so if you want to eliminate the distraction entirely, try keeping your mobile device in a location physically separated from you, like in a different room or in the glove box.
After years of indulging your desires for more tech interactions, it can be ridiculously difficult to establish new behavioral patterns and break old habits. But once you get used to living a life where technology takes a backseat, you’ll be much better off—and so will the people around you. You don’t have to go from living a life dominated by tech to living a life without it, either; any small changes you make can add up to yield a positive result.