Three Reasons to Do an Internet Detox

Three Reasons to Do an Internet Detox

“not going online Sundays for any reason, whether it be for email, updates or inquiries.”

On January 1, 2017, I made a New Year’s resolution to make my Sundays Internet free. This involved not going online Sundays for any reason, whether it be for email, updates or inquiries. I did this because I realized just how much leisure time I was wasting on the Internet. I wanted to devote Sunday to its original purpose as a day of worship, rest and culture.

Since then, I have kept my resolution, surprisingly with little effort. Sunday is the easiest of days for most people to abstain from the Internet since many do not work. Thus, by staying away from my office computer and quashing any idea of getting a smart phone, my Sundays have been delightfully prayerful and restful.

Blissful Ignorance on Sunday

That is not to say there were not times when I was tempted to go online. Indeed, there were even some “emergencies,” in which it would have been very helpful to check information on flights, appointments or weather. However, I simply decided to skip going online, and everything worked out fine. It was just like times before the Internet when we survived in blissful ignorance of so many urgent things.

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Successful transition to Internet-free Sunday got me thinking about doing something more. This desire got me looking for the next step in controlling Internet use. Hopefully, this move will allow me to find a way to use the Internet without the frenetic intemperance of constantly checking for mail and notifications. It will enable me to make better use of the time when I must be on the Internet. It was not easy to find a strategy for this next step.

A Wakeup Email

Ironically, a suggestion about how to take this next step came from an email. It was not even a personal email but one of those “junk” emails from an online newsletter that one typically deletes. It was written by a lady who had become exasperated by the email and notifications that were taking so much time from her day.

It was as if she was reading my mind. She described my focusing problem because of Internet distractions. Her wake-up call to e-action was full of reasons that led me to take up the challenge of cutting down seriously.

Three More Good Reasons

There were three main reasons why she took measures that I found compelling.

The email rush. She noted that email can become an addiction like drugs or video games. Every time notifications sound, we get little shots of dopamine in the pre-frontal cortex that stimulate us and ask us for more.

Task switching. She mentioned how most people check their email almost without realizing it. This happens at several times every hour if not much more. Checking email and other notifications seem like an innocent break from work, but are actually great interruptions.

At the University of California-Irvine, Prof. Gloria Mark calls this interruptive process “task switching.” She found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back up to speed after an innocent e-interruption.

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Open loops. When one checks inboxes, it also creates open loops in the mind which demand resolution. These prevent the person from focusing on anything until it is in some way forgotten, postponed or answered.

All these things cloud the mind and prevent the person from efficiently reaching goals.

The Detox Solution

Her solution was what she called an email or notification detox. It does not entail getting rid of email since that is impossible given today’s work obligations. It does call for carving out a few hours each day, preferably in the morning, without checking email or any other notifications. It may involve taking off tempting apps from the devices we use that facilitate these distractions.

She takes four morning hours that she calls power hours. During this time, she concentrates on the most important tasks of the day without the 23 minute, 15 second re-concentrating periods. With all the most urgent matters out of the way, she then checks her email around lunchtime.

Of course, the intensity and practicality of the detox depend on the person and circumstances. However, most people can identify with the exasperation of email overload and realize the need to take measures. We should not be discouraged by the task at hand.

The important thing is to break the consensus that says such self-control cannot be done. We need to look around and realize that we are not alone in sensing the problem. There are plenty of other people who are implementing detox programs of their own. We need to break the myth that such self-control cannot be achieved.

My first goal will not be overambitious. I will seek to carve out one two-power-hour session per day when I might concentrate on more important tasks without emails or notifications. The important thing is to control technology since it becomes abusive when it starts controlling us. Thus, if email overload is causing concern, it is time to implement some version of detox. There is life beyond the Internet. Like restful Internet-free Sundays, it can be done.

  • Carole Pagels

    Wow, when I saw those words “Internet Detox”, I thought, that’s what I need! It would be easy for me on Sunday because I start my day with the Lord at 6:30am listening to all my favorite preachers…Dr. Charles Stanley, Joyce Meyer, Jentzen Franklin, Dr. Jeremiah, Walk in the Word, Dr Ed Young, and finally Jimmy Swaggart ending at 1pm. I am full for the day and loving it. I could never detox Sunday morning but would be willing to do it for the remainder of the day and catch up with some good reading. In fact, set aside time every afternoon (I’m retired so no problem) for a few hours listening to music or reading that good book. I know I will probably have withdrawals so that’s where I need to be determined to break the addiction. Thanks for writing on the subject.

    • Andy Korpisah

      and don’t forget. Holy Mass is the ultimate detox

  • Halina

    There’s truly life beyond the internet……like catching up with reading…..going for a walk and pray the Rosary…..listen to the birds chirping…..stop and talk to your neighbour…..look up at the beautiful sky and smile, for heaven’s sake…..tell God you love Him….tell Mary you love her…..

    Anxiety leaves…..meditation (the visions of bl. Ann Emmerich), is what saints prescribe for a good and happy life……to come.

    We need to break the myth that such self-control cannot be achieved…..

    • Tricia

      Agree wholeheartedly.

  • ~emily

    Great idea. Don’t you think you should give credit to the source of this idea; i.e. name the person and organization from whom you got the idea?

    • The idea of a weekly day of rest comes from the biblical book of Exodus. The first documented sermon explaining how to do a day of rest is credited to Isaiah. Jesus is usually credited with loosening what had become ridiculous restrictions on little casual things people might do on the Sabbath, but He never told people they didn’t need a weekly day of rest; He said “The Sabbath was made for humankind.”

      • ~emily

        Ha, ha! Too funny!
        Of course I was referring to this from the article:

        “A Wakeup Email

        Ironically, a suggestion about how to take this next step came from an email. It was not even a personal email but one of those “junk” emails from an online newsletter that one typically deletes. It was written by a lady who had become exasperated by the email and notifications that were taking so much time from her day.”

        The remainder of the article refers to this “junk” email that the author found so helpful. I think the right thing to do is to give credit by name to this woman from whom he gained such a valuable idea.

  • DaveRybarczyk

    I’m going for it. This is a great idea.

  • DavidMacko

    Your recommendation has much merit, as usual, but then I would miss The Alex Jones Show 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 Eastern Time http://www.infowars.com

  • Rock Krowe

    I was forced to detox from using the internet. I got hit by the flu virus.
    Even when I was having high fever, congestion sneezing, coughing and chills, I still had the compulsion to check my email, Facebook, and YouTube. But, I felt too physically weak to do so. Now that was pathetic.

  • jrj90620

    I believe that carrying a smartphone with you is going to tempt you to check email and do a lot of texting and internet browsing.Especially with all the aps available.Better if you carry a dumb phone,don’t do many phone calls and just check internet and email on a home computer,at a fixed time each day.

  • Ramon Martinez

    Very Nice !!!
    Well said, Thank you very much Mr. Horvat

  • Tricia

    I “detoxed” from the internet on Sundays years ago! Best thing I have ever done. If some “urgent” internet business comes to mind on Sunday, I simply write myself a note and get to it on Monday. My Sunday internet detox led me to “fast” from email on Fridays (the day of fasting, is it not?). Business duties do not allow me to stay away from the internet altogether on Fridays (banking duties, etc.), but being email-free for that day is very refreshing. Yes, it’s very do-able.

  • Carlos Mesa

    Absolutely that their exists life beyond the internet. It is truly a double edged sword since it provides a vast amount of useful knowledge and the speed accompanied by it. The issue is when it becomes an obsession. I find it amusing, as I too have fallen on these internet pitfalls. For as I write these passages, my short morning time is devoted into scanning and deleting e-mails. My work hours are thirteen to fourteen hour shifts, therefore upon my return home, usually I’m depleted of energy and internet browsing is at a minimum.

  • Another way is to have a Net-free home. If I think about anything online when I’m at home, I have to wait for business hours to *do* anything about it. My evenings and weekends are completely real!