Turning To Airplane Mode: Surviving Digital Dementia

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Until the age of 11, the only screen I had to contend with at home was one television set. At that time, it was super exciting to have anything to watch Home and Away on after school and it was an even bigger treat that it was in color. For a couple of younger years, we had been told to make do with our grandfather’s black and white set with an aerial we needed to manoeuvre depending on which channel we wanted to watch. Fast-forward to my teenage years and a computer had became a normal fixture while the TV set continued to stay on in the background. It’s now 2016 and between my boyfriend and I, we can have as many as five screens on the go at once – two mobile phones, a tablet, television set and a laptop (Depending on the day). It’s no wonder our attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter while simple coloring books and board games are on the up in terms of sales.

Since graduating from University, I’ve been glued to a computer for the most part. It was last Summer when I decided to leave the ‘strapped to a desk’ job and move into the retail world so I could meet more people and not go insane from social media and other online distractions. I went from spending at least fifty hours per week in front of a computer to less than ten. These days, if the TV is on for more than two hours, I start reaching for my books. Moreover, the great outdoors means so much more to me than the digital stuff.

In a technology-focused age, it’s estimated that young people are spending an average of seven hours per day on technology. According to neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer, author of ‘Digital Dementia’, the impact of technology on our minds is affecting our cognitive abilities in a way that would traditionally be more likely seen as a result of head injury or psychiatric illness. It affects short-term memory and reactions in a worrying way.

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How then do we manage this? The key is to recognise the threats as we would any other. We need to exercise our minds the way we would our bodies at the gym or our voice as we learn to sing.

  1. Use your brain organically. Instead of rushing to Google for something you don’t know the answer to, sit with it for a bit longer and try to recall the answer yourself. It’s so rewarding and will become a habit that is super rewarding for you and your memory.
  2. Read some books. Yes, the real ones. Forget those screens for a few hours. Instead of having your phone out on the bus, grab a book. While the soaps are on in other people’s houses, restrict yours to a couple of hours per week. Opt for a physical book instead of a screen if you can.
  3. Practice mindfulness with some coloring or board games. I have two coloring books, Connect Four and lots of playing cards which I bring out when I feel like getting away from technology. When screens don’t suit, there is always an alternative that will keep your mind occupied.
  4. Turn the phone off! So, you need your alarm? Why not switch your mobile to airplane mode? No Wifi, no phone calls or texts coming through – just peace and quiet and some head space for you. Sounds great, right?
  5. Exercise it all. Working out increases blood flow and sends vital nutrients to your brain therefore helping with all that thinking and memory-retention. #winwin

Striking the balance when it comes to technology is the hard part. After all, our lives are more convenient, we can run errands much faster than before and the strength of our fingers is mighty from all that texting. The key is to ensure we’re looking after our brains rather than waiting for them to look after us.