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Switch off social media like Ed Sheeran and get a life

Should we be following in Ed Sheeran's footsteps and imposing a digital detox to escape tech-induced stress? Katie Wright looks at new research that says the world starts to look brighter when we turn off our screens

Published 06/02/2016

Offline sensation: Ed Sheeran signed himself out of Instagram and Twitter until autumn
Offline sensation: Ed Sheeran signed himself out of Instagram and Twitter until autumn

Back in December, at the end of his world tour, Ed Sheeran announced to his Twitter and Instagram followers - some 21 million of them - that he was ditching his phone, emails and social media accounts until next autumn.

"I find myself seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes," the singer wrote, in a statement that many of us can empathise with.

If you feel envious of Sheeran's self-imposed sabbatical, you're not alone.

A new survey of 1,000 adults by tech mapping firm Esri UK (www.esriuk.com) has found that 61% of the those questioned said the need to keep on top of the deluge of data that lands in their inboxes every day is a "major concern".

Nearly half (45%) admit digital overload has affected their relationships or sleep patterns, while 35% said it makes them feel anxious and unable to relax.

A similar number said that even if they get round to glancing at the mountains of content that heads their way, they struggle to absorb it, particularly if it's text-heavy, whereas visuals are easier to digest.

If it makes you feel any better, there is a scientific explanation for why this tech-based stress occurs.

"Paying attention to a vast amount of data requires multi-tasking, rapidly switching attention from one source to another, which has been found to increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol," explains Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, consumer and business psychologist at University College London.

Does that sounds like you? If the answer's yes, it's probably time to do something about it.

And, while a 10-month moratorium may not be realistic - unless you happen to be a multimillionaire award-winning performer - there are steps you can take to regain control of your cortisol levels.

In fact, Dr Tsivtrikos says going cold turkey isn't necessarily the answer.

"Rather than 'detox' and then revert back to being device-dependent the following day, it is more beneficial to permanently change the way devices are incorporated into our daily lives," he says, advising that turning off notifications is the first step.

"Allocate a small amount of time for internet browsing or checking your phone and stick to it. This eliminates constant interruptions and allows you to fully concentrate the rest of the time." And for those moments when you habitually resort to surfing social media out of boredom, try a book or listening to music - anything that doesn't involve staring at a screen.

Belfast Telegraph

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