Millions on a ‘digital detox’ because the internet is ruining everything

Millions of Britons have been going on a "digital detox" as attachment to connected devices has caused them to miss out on sleep, work and spending time with friends and family, according to a new report.

A study by British media and telecoms regulator Ofcom showed a third (34 percent) of U.K. interest users saying they had been on a digital detox, while one in 10 said they had done so in the last week.

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Digital detox refers to a period of time when a person makes a conscious decision not to go online or use connected devices. Ofcom's study surveyed 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers.

"The digital detox trend has been born out of a realization that being glued to smartphones or tablets is affecting peoples' everyday lives."

"Half of all mobile users make sure their phone is within reach when they go to bed, while a similar proportion say the last thing they do before they sleep and when they wake up is look at their device.

Bumping into people

Ofcom's research laid bare the effect being hooked on the internet had. Nearly half (48 percent) of internet users said they had neglected housework, 47 percent said they had missed out on sleep or were tired the next day, rising to 17 percent for 16 to 24 year olds. A third (31 percent) said they had missed out on spending time with friends and family, while 22 percent said they had been late for a meeting with friends or family.

Apparently, eyes being stuck on a phone could also cause injuries. Eight per cent of all adults say that they have been bumped into on a daily basis while walking on the street, because the other person was looking at their phone, while a quarter said that this happens at least once a week. But it's the 16 to 34 year old group that is most likely to bump into someone else.

Detox holidays

The trend in digital detoxing has also been echoed in other places around the world. In a survey by the Harris Poll of 2,193 American adults in January, over four in ten adults (45 percent) said they try to unplug at least once a week, while two thirds said they will make an attempt to do so during the year.

Ironically, technology companies have tried to jump on this digital detox trend to help people move away from their devices. U.K.-based Vinaya, for example, creates jewelry that tethers to your smartphone and alerts you of a notification. You can customize those notifications so you know when something is important or not. And the digital detox trend has also led to a rise in demand for internet-free holidays, such as those retreats provided by a company called Time To Log Off.

In Ofcom's survey, 25 percent of those who said they had ever spent a period of time without the internet said they had done it for between half a day and a full day, while one in five had done so for up to a week. A much smaller proportion of people had done it for longer than a week.

Some have taken even further steps. Around 4 percent have downgraded their mobile package, while 3 percent swapped a smartphone for a feature phone.