Have you ever caught yourself staring at your phone for the hundredth time in a day, not even knowing what it is you’re looking for?

It’s not uncommon. Who hasn’t opened the Facebook app repeatedly, only to scroll through the news feed and refresh it over and over? It’s a rollercoaster with no end, but we can’t seem to get off the ride. Perhaps it’s boredom we’re feeling, and we’re looking for that sudden alluring tidbit to bring some excitement to the moment. Or, more likely, our brains are searching for that hit of dopamine, a result we’ve come to expect after years of interacting with the chemical-boosting wonder that is the Internet. Because those Likes, comments, memes, and videos all serve to deliver that delicious chemical directly to our brains. We want more, and we know exactly how to get it.

There’s a lot of chatter out there about how we’ve developed somewhat unhealthy addictions to our phones and other devices. And really, who can blame us? At your fingertips is the whole world of knowledge; an endless source of connection, entertainment, and pleasure.

Thirty years ago, our ubiquitous digital world would have been unfathomable. Is it any wonder we clutch our precious devices a bit too tightly? We’re all still in awe.

Yet, part of us knows that the nonstop barrage of screens cannot be good for us, and there’s science to back this up. Research shows that staring at the illuminated screens of our smartphones and computers has a negative effect on our quality of sleep. Further studies demonstrate the long-term effects of excessive screen time, and how it influences our behaviours and even our emotions.

Even the least addicted of us can admit that there’s a place for a digital detox; a need to take some time away from our devices and experience the world out from behind the screen.

Are you in desperate need of a digital detox? If you exhibit any of these 8 ‘signs’ it might be time to schedule a break.

You have developed Instagram thumb.

You know the affliction. It goes by many names, but ‘Instagram thumb’ and ‘texting thumb’ are perhaps the most accurate.

This issue begins when you start to notice a dull ache in your fingers, especially those that you use primarily when interacting with a touchscreen.

Most of us compose texts by gripping our smartphones in hands and then maneuvering our thumbs around the keyboard. This is effective---and a lot of us have become extremely fast and proficient texters---but what is the impact on our joints? The same potential problems could stem from another repetitive motion: double-tapping a photo to “Like” it on the Instagram app. If you follow even a few hundred people, just a couple of minutes of scrolling through the photos on your feed and liking each one demands a whole lot of thumb action.

Stiff digits or tired hands? This could be a sure sign it’s time for a technology break.

Signs You Might Be in Need of a Digital Detox
If your thumbs ache, take a break!

Netflix has stopped asking you if you’re “still watching.”

Netflix is everybody’s favourite video streaming service. There is so much great content available on the site, including Netflix’s own original movies and series. Basically, there’s enough there to keep you watching for a lifetime.

Netflix typically has multiple seasons of its television programmes. This has lead directly to the birth of the “binge-watching” culture. If you get really hooked on a series, you can keep watching...and watching...and watching. Some users report having burned through entire seasons in a day or less.

After you’ve watched a few episodes on Netflix, a message typically pops up, asking you whether or not you’re still watching. This ostensibly is in place so that you’re not accidentally leaving your TV or laptop playing to an empty room. If you happen to fall asleep while watching, Netflix won’t cycle through an entire season, either. Essentially, this tool helps you keep your place.

If you’re bingeing nonstop on Netflix content, the joke is that the warning will no longer pop up. But this is only in jest. Netflix always asks this question of its users, unless you try one of these hacks. If your brain is crying out for a digital detox, click ‘No’ when Netflix asks if you’re still watching and go for a walk in nature!

You’ve burned dinner while scrolling through Facebook.

You might be in need of a digital detox if…you’ve ever made an error doing a task because you were using a screen.

Burning dinner is a great example, but there are tons of little things that can go wrong due to distraction-by-device. Apparently, it’s not only when we’re using them either. The mere presence of a device can serve as a serious distraction to us. When those things start occurring regularly, it might be a signal for you to take time away from your smartphone.

You can’t watch television without also using your device.

Is multi-tasking a good thing? Yes and no.

For a busy professional, sometimes multi-tasking is necessary to get a project done by the deadline. For a parent, multi-tasking is essential to taking care of children and a home. There are certainly many advantages to being able to multi-task successfully.

Yet, we may be starting to multitask constantly, and without good reason. This type of multi-tasking weakens our efficacy, causing us to give a lower percentage of energy to each task. Sometimes, it’s simply better to devote 100% to one task at a time.

This issue of excessive and needless multi-tasking could very well be credited to our smartphones. The instantaneous nature of the Internet has taught us to expect things at lightning speed. It is no surprise then that we’ve begun to decrease our level of patience. Now we want things immediately and we’re moving at an increasingly fast pace. Multi-tasking now is essential because our brains are so fired up from our nonstop activity. We don’t know how not to multi-task! Unfortunately, this can create problems for us.

If you’ve ever noticed that you can’t watch a movie without also playing with your smartphone, for example, it could be that the multi-tasking craze has hit you full force. The solution? Start with a digital detox.

Signs You Might Be in Need of a Digital Detox
Digital devices contribute to us doing too much at once.

You use words like LOL in everyday life.

LOL. BRB. TTYL. SMH.

There’s not much to say about this except NERD ALERT.

If you’re taking Internet-derived acronyms or expressions and using them in everyday life, you need to step away from the web for a bit.

You routinely bring your smartphone (or laptop) with you to the toilet.

What may have once been seen as a taboo or embarrassing topic has recently become a running joke about our smartphone addiction. The crazy thing is...it’s true. There’s a shocking number of us who claim to have brought our smartphones with us into the toilet. About 14% of people in one survey reported engaging on social media while using the facilities. (And don’t forget, those are just those who admitted to it!)

While this practise may have become fairly common among us, it could be a good sign that we’re craving a digital detox. We can’t seem to leave our phones behind us even when nature is calling!

You look for your phone when it’s already in your hand.

A sure sign that you and your smartphone have grown a bit too close is when it practically becomes an extension of your arm.

Many of us can probably relate to looking around to locate our phone only to realise it is already in hand. This discovery makes us feel quite silly, but it also demonstrates, on a very basic level, that neurologically we’re extremely accustomed to having our phones in hand. Our brains don’t even necessarily register it anymore.

Being separated from your favourite device induces anxiety.

Finally, here’s one of the strongest indicators that a digital detox should be in your future.

Phone separation anxiety.

Forgot your phone at home?

How do you react to this occurrence? Hopefully, you shrug it off and go about your day happily---perhaps even enjoying the break from your screen. But if you start to feel a bit sick to your stomach, it may be time to rethink your relationship with your devices.

If even the mere thought of being without your phone for a length of time can cause the nervous twitches, you may have developed an unhealthy dependency on that device.

You know what the solution is: digital detox. Step away from the smartphone and go enjoy a tech-free weekend.

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