SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — Are you a digital addict?

Mary Wiggins of Santa Monica says she was constantly anxious.

“I was just noticing, you know, panic if I didn’t have my charger for my iPhone,” she said. “It was anxiety over thinking I didn’t return that email or I still have five texts to return,” she said.

It’s a new and common anxiety caused by the gadgets that were supposed to help us in our everyday lives.

“I felt sort of like a prisoner to my digital world,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins, a massage therapist and yoga instructor, teaches people to be “present,” so her dependence on digital devices became troubling.

“I realized I was digitally addicted when I was leaving present moments with my friends to go filter a photo so I could go put it on Instagram,” she said.

So, Wiggins underwent a “digital detox.”

“Digital detox is the process of taking a break from your digital activities,” said Karen North, director of USC’s Annenberg program on digital social media. She specializes in social media and psychology.

Most people take a break from social media to get a little perspective, she said.

North says you might be a digital addict and in need of your own digital detox if you have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • You think your social media behavior is negatively impacting your life.
  • You feel anxiety or distress when separated from digital devices, or activities.
  • You use social media to capture experiences instead of enjoying them in the moment.
  • You find yourself transferring digital activity behavior like driving fast in the real world, as you would in a video game.
  • You get too caught up in your avatar, emoji or emoticons.

 

”My goal was just to reconnect to myself, not this digital self that I had sort of created, you know. Get back to my roots,” Wiggins said.

Her first step was to resist her digital devices at a friend’s weekend birthday party in Lake Arrowhead.

“I learned though, from doing the detox, that it’s something I need to do more often,” she said. “My goal is to do it every three months.”

After detoxing, Wiggins made changes in her life to manage her digital usage.

“I switched from using my iPhone to using a traditional digital alarm clock, which has helped me not to pick up my phone right away in the morning,” she said.

“I found myself first overly apologizing. Now, I just respond when I respond.”

Wiggins also doesn’t wear headphones anymore – she unplugs when she walks her dog. It’s a freeing feeling she wants everyone to try, even for just half a day.

She says she’s “such an advocate for social media, but also for reconnecting, or connecting to your world right around you.”

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