Digital Detox: Taking a break from tech

Three years ago, Jess Davis was working as a digital brand strategist and feeling burned out.

"I had a lot of memory problems, focus problems, a general sense of 'unwellness,'" she said.

A family vacation to Hawaii turned out to be a major turning point for her, but it had nothing to do with the beach or the sunshine.

"My husband confiscated all of my technology when we landed in Hawaii and eight days later I woke up and my brain was back to the way that it was 10 years prior," she recounted. "It was like a fog had been lifted."

Davis said she came to realize her addiction to technology was making her sick.

"I was definitely on a computer or laptop, I'd say easily 10 hours, just in the office for work," she said. "My phone was always within one foot of me. I was using all the social media platforms."

We're all guilty of spending just a little bit too much time on our devices, but experts say that can have real impacts on how we sleep, interact with others and even how we think.

"We get these dopamine hits every time someone likes us or shares us or tweets us, and we get really excited," business consultant Holland Haiis said. "And what happens is with that chemical release, we really get addicted to having more and more and more of that. And we can't keep up with that addiction."

Haiis, the author of Consciously Connecting, has studied the effects of technology overload.

"What happens is we're becoming neurotic, we're becoming anxious, it spikes our cortisol," she said. Cortisol is a stress hormone.

Recently, awareness has been growing of how our relationship with technology can turn toxic. Even the people who helped create the social media platforms we obsessively check now say as much.

Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, for example, recently said the company is "ripping apart the social fabric of how society works."

After her involuntary initial digital detox, Davis made a conscious choice to step away from the digital immersion and get back in touch with the 3D tactile world.

She now runs a company called Folk Rebellion that teaches others how to go off the grid. She said that even little changes can make a difference. For one, get your cellphone out of your bedroom. She also advises keeping an "unplugged box," where you put devices so you're not tempted to constantly check them. 

Haiis suggested setting times to check social media, so we're not mindlessly and endlessly scrolling. Both women say being mindful of how and when and why we use technology can make all the difference.

"At the end of the day, the fear of missing out isn't helping to drive you towards more creativity and more productivity," Haiis said. "It's actually driving you away from it."