Comedian and Master of None star Aziz Ansari recently decided to “unplug,” removing all social media apps, email, and even the internet browser from his phone. “Whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there's a new thing, it's not even about the content. It's just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling,” he explained in the cover story for the fall issue of GQ Style. “I wanted to stop that thing where I get home and look at websites for an hour and a half, checking to see if there's a new thing.”
The article created an avalanche of “new things” in response: “Aziz Ansari Deleted the Internet From His Phone, and It Makes Total Sense Why,” “How Aziz Ansari Changed His Life By Quitting the Internet,” “It Would Be Great If Celebrities Could Stop Talking About the Joys of Unplugging.”
The last piece, by Slate’s Heather Schwedel, noted that other celebrities (Selena Gomez, Ed Sheeran, Kerry Washington) have spoken about taking extended breaks from social media, but “the majority of people don’t have staffers on hand to help them show up where they need to be, keep them informed, and otherwise manage all the little things in life that smartphones now facilitate.” Plus, most of us are expected to remain connected for our jobs.
Still, product managers, marketers, and employers would be wise to speak to the increasing consumer need to find a balance between falling down a Twitter wormhole every night and completely divorcing themselves from modern technology.
The benefits are many—to your consumers and employees. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California, has extensively studied the brain’s need for mental downtime. “When the brain has space to roam freely, its default mode is engaged in reliving recent experiences, connecting emotionally relevant information, and constructing narratives that make sense out of life,” says Immordino-Yang. “This is why people often have big insights in the shower or doing the dishes.”
Heavy social media usage and screen time are also linked to unhappiness, so stepping away from devices may improve your mental health. For professionals, uninterrupted time off is linked to increased productivity.
As Americans become more addicted to their devices—the average American checks their phone 47 times per day—expect more people to embrace digital detoxes to regain a sense of balance in our “always on” culture. Not everyone can go completely off the grid, like Ansari, but a technology-free vacation, a hike in the woods, or even just an hour spent on a mindfulness activity can make a world of difference.
For more about the digital detox trend and how to leverage it, get our free 2017 consumer trends report.
Image: Patrick Marioné