Addiction Recovery

How to Break Tech Addiction Using Digital Detox?

We’ve came to depend greatly on the internet and digital devices.

While technology can improve our lives, it can also become problematic if used poorly or thoughtlessly.

If you’re a tech addict, this article will help you reduce your dependency to technology and reconnect with yourself again.

Ready? Let’s get started!

How Do We Become Addicted?

All addictions are based on the same fundamental principle: the brain’s expectation of the reward that engaging in a particular activity will produce.

The addict might not be aware of this reward and it may even seem counterintuitive since it poses potential harm. But the brain interprets it as a positive experience.

When it comes to technology addiction, studies show that the act of checking texts and social media, for example, stimulates the release of dopamine, which in turn keeps you hooked, wanting to experience it again and again.

Examples of technology addiction include:

  • video games
  • social media
  • texting
  • online shopping
  • online gambling
  • online auctions
  • pornography

10 Signs You May Be Addicted To Technology

Technology addiction can be hard to recognize if you don’t know what to look for.

While the symptoms of addiction varie depending on the device you’re addicted to, there are many signs of technology addiction that are similar across the board.

  1. Inability to abstain from a specific digital device or control how much time you spend using digital devices.
  2. Experiencing cravings and urges to use digital devices.
  3. Preoccupation with thinking about using your devices.
  4. Experiencing unwanted mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, stress or irritability as a result of technology addiction.
  5. Using digital devices to experience gratification or induce pleasure.
  6. Using digital devices in dangerous situations such as while driving a car or walking across a city street.
  7. Lying about or hiding digital usage from family or friends as a result of shame.
  8. Neglecting important life areas such as work, school or relationships as a result of technology addiction.
  9. Losing interest in social and leisure activities that you used to enjoy as a result of technology addiction.
  10. Continuing to use digital devices despite its negative consequences on your life.

10 Factors That Increase Your Susceptibility to Technology Addiction

Becoming aware of the factors that contribute to the development and persistence of technology addiction can help you avoid them and reduce your dependency.

1. Mental health

Studies show that individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are more likely to develop addictions than individuals not suffering from these conditions. (*)

If you suffer from mental illness, consider seeking therapy.

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2. Negative Self-Image and Low Self-Esteem

If you suffer from low self-esteem and have a negative self-image, you’ll be more likely to isolate yourself from others, which leads to using addictions to escape the negative thoughts and seek validation.

While an addiction may offer momentary relief, it only serves to reinforce feelings of low self-worth and shame.

This is why changing the way you see and think of yourself is also important when recovering from an addiction.

Related: Raising low self-esteem: 18 Ways to Build High Self-Esteem

3. Feelings of Loneliness

When we feel separated and disconnected from others, we feel empty inside.

That can lead to compulsive behavior and other mental illnesses that contribute to the onset of addiction.

4. Ease Of Access

What makes technology addiction especially challenging to break is the availability of the gadgets. They’re inescapable. Nearly everyone has a smartphone.

Using gadgets becomes a habit and each time you give in to the temptation you feed the addiction.

5. Anonymity

The anonymity blogs, forums, and social media offer has enabled people to express their ideas safely.

It’s unsurprising that people would say things online they would never say in the physical presence of others.

Anonymity also encourages voyeurism or stalking. That can easily become addictive.

6. Fear of Missing Out

The fear of missing out is probably the greatest factor in technology addiction.

People checks their social media feeds and texts and read the latest news headlines because they don’t want to miss something.

7. Techniques Employed by The Tech Industry

Tech industry employs techniques and practices to encourage compulsive behavior in consumers.

One practice is called “intermittent reinforcement.”

This practice uses sporadic rewards to reinforce a particular behavior.

For example, each time you log onto Facebook, you are hoping to discover something new and interesting, such as a new photo posted or a funny video shared by a friend. But there is no guarantee you’ll find new, interesting content every time you visit Facebook.

That’s “intermittent reinforcement” at work.

According to psychologist and behaviorist B.F. Skinner, who first coined the term, by keeping you engaged with rewards delivered at irregular intervals these industries ensures you’ll keep coming back, hoping the replicate the experience.

8 Things to Do Before Unplugging

#1. Challenge Your Limiting Beliefs

1. “I need my gadgets to get things done every day.”

While technology does make our lives easier, the intention behind doing digital detox is to re-balance the role of technology in your life by keeping what you genuinely need and reduce what is ultimately a waste of your time.

2. “I need my phone to check in with people in my life.”

Technology has definitely helped us meet and connect with others.

However, most of our technology use has little to do with connecting with other people. A digital detox can help you re-prioritize your time spent on your phone.

You may want to let people know that you’re going offline for a digital detox so they will know what to expect around your availability.

3. “I have to know the day’s headlines or else I’m afraid I’ll miss out on something important.”

It’s true that going offline would mean that you will “miss” some things. You won’t see every post, photo, or trending headline in the endless newsfeed stream.

But ask yourself, what are you missing that really matters?

Was there a post or an update that was so important it changed your life? Or does it seem like you wasted so much time with nothing to show for it?

A digital detox can help you re-prioritizing your time and discover what truly matters to you.

#2. Schedule a Digital Detox

Determine how long your digital detox will last and when it’s best to schedule it.

When you are addicted to technology, deciding to unplug for an entire week, for example, might not be realistic.

Start with a 24h digital detox and schedule a day on your calendar to prompt your brain to prepare for it. Most people find the weekends to be the best option.

#3. Remove Social Media Apps From Your Phone

Even when you set your phone aside, it can be difficult to resist the cravings you may experience and reach out to your phone.

Getting rid of your social media apps will help make it less tempting to onto Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Deleting these apps will also eliminate their respective push notifications, especially if you needed to use your phone in the event of an emergency, to make sure that a loved one is okay, for example.

You may choose to reinstall the apps after completing your digital detox. You may also choose to turn off notifications from these apps. Or you may also choose not to reinstall them after all.

#4. Create An Out-of-Office Email Message

When you’re usually reachable via email, your friends, family members, and coworkers will notice that you’re not responding to their emails as quickly as they have come to expect and wonder where you are during your detox.

Creating an out-of-office email message that will be sent out automatically and immediately each time you receive an email, can help.

You may choose to keep the message simple and brief or choose a humorous one.

For example,

Thank you for your email. I’ll be out of the office from March 7th through March 9th and have limited access to my phone and computer. I’ll reply when I return back to my office.

#5. Prepare Important Resources Beforehand

The internet has come to play a prominent role in our daily experiences. This dependency can sabotage your digital detox.

Before you unplug, make sure you have any information you need.

If you’re going to need a recipe, print it or write it down. If you’re planning to travel to a destination for which you’ll need driving directions, write down the address.

If you’re using your phone as an alarm, buy an alarm clock to use during your detox.

#6. Let Your Friends and Family Know About Your Digital Detox

Telling the people in your life that you’re planning to do a digital detox will help reset their expectations around your availability but can also create accountability.

Behavioral psychologists suggest that telling others about our plans makes us more likely to follow through on them.

#7. Create a List of Activities to Do While You’re Unplugged

It’s important to give yourself alternative activities to focus your attention on and help you resist the urge to retrieve your devices.

Create a list of activities to do while you’re unplugged. These may include tasks you’ve been putting off, or interests you want to pursue.

You may also choose to spend the day outdoors away from any temptation to use your devices, such as planning a lunch date, or exercising outdoors.

Don’t wait until you’re without your devices to brainstorm activities. Make sure you have your list ready beforehand.


#8. Anticipate Potential Challenges

It’s important to anticipate and address any potential obstacles.

If you’re addicted to your phone, you may experience an effect known as phantom phone syndrome. This is the perception that your phone is vibrating or ringing.

Acknowledging that this may be one challenge you may encounter while unplugged can help you be more accepting and less frustrated.

Completing Your Digital Detox

#1. Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Turning off the internet on your devices or turning your devices off is not enough. Willpower alone won’t be enough to help you resist the temptations.

When you’re addicted to something, your mind will do everything to get you to act on your compulsions.

You will begin to rationalize taking a look at your phone or your social media, then soon enough you find yourself making defeatist thoughts, such as “If I’m going to fail I might as well take a look.”

You need to put them somewhere out of sight. Place them at the back of your closet, or give them to your spouse.

#2. Disconnect Your Office Computer From The Internet

The weekend is ideal for a digital detox because you won’t have to worry about using your devices for tasks related to your job.

But if you’re doing your digital detox on a working day or you have work to finish on a weekend, at least disconnect from the internet.

Get as much done as possible without internet access. If you need to send email, reconnect then sever the connection again.

#3. Wear a Watch

One of the main reasons why people check their phones is to check the time. But usually lead us to check out other time-wasting activities, such as checking out the latest posts on social medias.

To avoid any temptations, start wearing a watch during your digital detox.

If you can’t wear a watch because it will clash with your outfit or for any other reason, consider removing the wristband and putting the digital display in your pocket or purse.

#4. Invest In A Paper Notebook

Get a paper notebook and use it as your personal journal during your digital detox and maybe on a daily basis.

Journaling will help you stay away from your gadgets but also will help you release any pent-up frustration.

You may even use journaling to understand your technology dependence better, you may ask yourself questions like:

  • What are my fears and worried around cutting back of my technology use?
  • How are my face-to-face relations with loved ones?


It’s important to keep in mind that breaking your addiction requires the removal of your gadgets, at least temporarily.

Cutting off your access to technology is bound to trigger withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to resist the temptation of checking your digital gadgets.

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How to Break Tech Addiction Using Digital Detox


  • Portions of this article were adapted from the book Digital Detox, © 2018 by Damon Zahariades. All rights reserved.
  • Portions of this article were adapted from the book Conscious Digital Detox, © 2016 by Molly McCord. All rights reserved.

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