It’s the latest addition to the powering-down tourism trend: a treatment centre in Tuscany, Italy, with the sole mission of treating social media addiction.
With the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain all sitting in Hootsuite’s top 10 countries for global internet penetration, Vibe, the brainchild of a former investment banker, is targeting the 88 per cent of Middle East residents who can’t seem to stop engaging on social media. The centre, which opened late last year, combines approaches from the East and West to come up with an individualised treatment plan for the kinds of complex psychological issues created by device obsession, led by a recognised expert in addiction.
Dr Stephen Sideroff, the clinical director, warns: “At the very least, saturated users are at risk of damaging their circadian rhythm or succumbing to social anxiety disorders.”
There are a variety of treatments available for clients at Vibe, including cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR), neuro-feedback and biofeedback, nutrition, somatic experiencing, equine therapy, 12-step programmes, Ayurveda, acupuncture, mindfulness, gong and Sufi meditation, Buddhist chanting, yoga, Tai Qi, spiritual mentorship, massage and reiki.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But what if, like most of us, you can’t put your phone down, but you also can’t nip off to Tuscany right now?
Then all you can do is take one of the most successful approaches to implementing real change: vow to do better, make a plan and a goal, and break it down into concrete, achievable steps.
You know you want to able to tear yourself from that small glowing screen, whether it’s to stop feeling envious of everyone else, end FOMO, get better sleep or free up vast swaths of time for activities more important than “scrolling”.
So here are a few simple steps you can incorporate into your routine starting now. And take back some control of your life, no travel necessary.
01 No mobile for an hour before bed
There is a sizable body of research indicating that blue light smartphone glow cuts down on the body’s ability to produce melatonin, impacting the brain’s attempts to signal that it’s time to sleep. As the Vibe doctor warned, this is negatively impacting the body’s circadian rhythms and hurting the length and quality of sleep. Proactively turning the phone off or placing it out of reach on airplane mode puts you back in the driver’s seat before it’s way past anyone’s reasonable bedtime and your sleep is ruined. And for those people still waking and checking their phone in the night? Stop that first, then move on to the hour before bed rule.
02 Start the day phone-free
After you’ve successfully managed to go for a week without using your phone for an hour before bed, try to stay off it for the first hour of your morning. There’s no sugar-coating it: This one is going to be hard. You already sacrificed that hour last night, fresh content is waiting to be consumed, there will be messages, possibly missed calls – plus you are probably accustomed to using the phone to procrastinate the start of your day. Your brain will come up with a multitude of excuses why you need to check that phone. Just tell yourself that you can, once you’ve had a proper start to your day. Staying away from the phone until you are awake, showered and fed – and even had a conversation with another human – is one of the best ways to take back control of your digital life.
03 Remove all notifications
The author Blake Snow recommends this in his new book Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting. He talks about the “four burners” theory: family, friends, health and work. No social media notification falls into this category. And if you are worried about emergencies, Snow has a theory about that too: “Most emergencies are imagined”.
04 Turn off your wi-fi router
Not only is your router wasting energy and driving up your electricity bill while you sleep, there are also electromagnetic waves emitted everywhere we go these days. The human body absorbs energy all day long. In addition to any physical benefit, have you considered how relaxing it would be to know that at least for the time you are sleeping, you’ve done what you can to power down? Plus if you are tempted to break your new ‘no phone before bed’ rule, having the wifi off will create an extra step before you cheat.
06 Get a usage-monitoring app
One highly recommended app is Moment, available for free in iOs and Android. Kevin Holesh, the app’s creator, came up with the idea three years ago after realising that during the evening, after work, he had “stopped doing fun and productive things and chose the path of least resistance”. Moment is a little judgmental, listing usage of more than two hours in yellow and red shading – but you need that. Because at first, you will be shocked at the actual amount of time the phone is in your hand. Another option is Moment Family, which allows a main user to manage an entire family’s screen time from one phone as well as schedule family screen-free time.
07 Go on a digital fast every weekend
Aim for two hours at first, and as a family, too. Plan an activity that needs no digital communication to accomplish, not even Google Maps. Play a game, bake something elaborate, have a mini-scavenger hunt, a tea party, build a fort or just read, write and colour together. You don’t need to take a photo of it, or text anyone about it, either.