There’s no doubt that the internet and how we access it has changed the way we think, do business, communicate and innovate.
But it’s also changing us.
Most people now feel the need to be constantly connected, whether it be through social media, email, calls or texts.
We want to be the first to comment, like, share or acknowledge tidbits on social media so we appear well informed and well educated to our peers.
The same goes for small business owners.
The fear of missing out on some valuable piece of information that can transform their business, an email about a big contract or job, or a call about an order update often means small business owners are spending too many hours plugged in, and taking little time out to recharge or have a conversation with an actual human.
While digital connection has become a necessary part of our day-to-day lives, for some, it can take over.
Just ask Catriona Pollard, CEO of public relations company CP Communications.
When she started spending more time online than she did sleeping, she realised she needed a digital detox.
“I’m one of those people who do a million things at once, and being in PR, you have to have that ability to multi-task and have a million balls in the air all the time,” Pollard told The Huffington Post Australia.
“Even though I’m a very social person, I was starting to want to take a step back and not be available all the time, so I started to think ‘What’s going on?!’
“I wasn’t enjoying my work and I was constantly tired and I was finding it hard to do a million things at once. And I realised that a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was constantly connected.
“It jumped up and surprised me because I am so used to doing a million things at once.”
Pollard said being a small business owner added to the pressure she was feeling to be constantly connected.
“We are online more than we are asleep,” she said. “There’s no time to reset and I think it’s really changing how we perceive the world and how we socialise and the way we make decisions.
“I know I couldn’t run my small business without email or social media -- it’s a really critical part, but what happens is that we feel like we have to be ‘on’ all the time.
“What happens then is that we go into this comparison mode -- we’ve got to tell people how amazing our lives are every single day and we look at other people running small businesses and go, ‘gosh they’re doing so well and I’m not really doing as well’, and start to feel bad about ourselves, which is a real issue.
"We do need to understand that Facebook is not life; not many people share that they’re had a really crappy day or that they’re struggling with their business.”
Pollard said she was concerned that spending time on devices was becoming the norm with the average Australian owning three devices with laptops (75 percent), smartphones (70 percent) and tablets (55 percent) most prevalent.
More than 60 percent of people admitted to being addicted to the internet and their devices. The average Australian checks 40 websites a day, switching activities 37 times an hour, changing tasks every two minutes.
“Digital has become an extension of our lives; people are no longer questioning it, it’s becoming an everyday thing,” she said.
“Our connection with people who are not in front of us is becoming the norm, and it’s shaping the way that we perceive the world.”
Pollard said she makes time every year to completely disconnect.
“I have done yoga for a long time, when I was finding it hard to step away from the computer and take time away from my phone -- I made the decision go to a yoga retreat.
“I decided to turn my phone off, and not do anything digitally at all. I felt like I was starting to lead a life that was a centimetre deep and a kilometre wide because of digital.
“That time and space away enables me to really go back to that concept of doing one thing at a time. And now I crave that time away -- when I get back I have significantly more clarity.
“Once that digital clutter starts to disperse what happens is that in its place comes brilliant ideas. It allows space for other things.”
She said the worst thing that can happen by being disconnected is also the best thing.
“The great thing is you get bored!” she said.
“The idea of being bored is so far from the way we are in the world now. We always have our phones and we can Facebook or play games. The beautiful thing that happens when you’re bored is that your brain is forced to discover other ways to look at the world around you, or find other stimulation.
“From that comes great ideas, and innovation. Daydream instead of seeing what your friends are doing on Facebook. You won’t look back.”
Here Pollard gives us her four tips to conquer digital addiction:
- Ditch cognitive overload and be more productive by focusing on one task. Enjoy the process of diving deep into a single task rather than being multitasking junkie.
- Incorporate a form of slowing down into your life. Having a hobby where you can sit down for a few hours and block out the constant noise of society can work wonders for your mental health and bring down stress levels.
- Be brave, and feel the sensation of being bored. Don’t pick up your digital device. Just daydream instead. Even try meditation. Amazing things happen to your brain when you are not constantly digitally stimulated.
- Build in digital free periods into your life. Take a break from digital -- an hour a day, a day a week, a week a year. Make it a priority for your wellbeing and productivity.