Offline and anxious? It′s time to digital detox | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 04.08.2016
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Science

Offline and anxious? It's time to digital detox

Average internet users in the UK are dumping their digital devices - they are getting desperate to detox. But a third couldn't live without it. Sound like you? Are you nervous when offline? Then read this.

You know the mantra: the internet and digital devices have changed our lives. They have made things - everything - easier and faster. Keeping in touch with family and friends, education, travel, shopping, dating, sharing cat videos, and... spreading hate speech.

It can get addictive having everything at your fingertips, all the time - you may even think it's impossible to live without being online.

A new report from the UK says "the average internet user" spends about a day a week online. Some aged between 16 and 24 say they spend up to 29 hours a week online.

The report from Ofcom, the UK's government-approved telecommunications regulator, starts with the positives, however.

It says three-quarters of those asked said the internet was "important" for their daily lives. Teens and the 16-24s were more likely to be in this group, possibly because they "have grown up with constant connectivity and have not known life without the internet," Ofcom wrote.

But the report suggests there are growing signs people are finding it hard to cope with life constantly online, with significant numbers described as "hooked."

How do I know I need help?

If you're hooked on the internet, you are more likely to make sure your phone is within reach when you go to bed. About 50 percent of average internet users do this in the UK. You're also hooked if the last thing you do before sleep is check your phone (45 percent) and it's the first thing you do when you wake (44 percent).

More than 30 percent of average internet users said they found it difficult to logoff, and 15 percent said they felt nervous or anxious when they were offline.

It's clear we need to keep our "screen time" in check, because we spend too much time online.

Ofcom says people are neglecting day-to-day activities, such as housework (48 percent) and our jobs (20 percent). Almost half of average internet users miss out on sleep (47 percent) - 72 percent of 16-24 year olds are walking around tired. We're missing out on spending time with friends and family, and we're late for meetings too.

Time for a digital detox

Luckily, we are still human, and humans are surprisingly good at breaking habits, given enough will power.

People are starting to wake up and taking time out from their devices. The numbers for teens and the 16-24s are especially encouraging.

Among these younger age groups, almost 15 percent said they had done a digital detox in the last week, and about 10 percent said they had "gotten clean" in the last year.

About 40 percent of people said they felt more productive after having detoxed, 26 percent "found it liberating" and 31 percent said they "enjoyed life more." However, 10 percent said they "felt lost without it" and 7 percent said they felt "cut off." One percent said they "found it stressful" being offline.

So what about you? Would you try a digital detox?

About a third of people asked by Ofcom said they would not even consider it.

And who can blame them? August 6 marks yet another significant date in the history of the World Wide Web, and you've got to be online for that.

So would you try a digital detox? Let us know in the comments section below. Comments close 24 hours after publication.

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