Digital addiction can be cured by talking to yourself

Susan, an excellent student, recently left school for a week. Why? "To find time to talk to myself and reflect," she said.

Susan, an excellent student, recently left school for a week. Why? “To find time to talk to myself and reflect,” she said. “I couldn't hear myself think anymore. I was totally addicted to digital life.”

She's not alone. Information overload is crushing us. It's probably worse for those who work in the communication industry. We are wired, linked, connected, Facebooked, iPoded, iPaded, iPhoned, Blackberried, PowerPointed, e-mailed, posted, tagged, RSS fed, blogged, tweeted, poked, bookmarked, and YouTubed into exhaustion, anxiety, and incivility. David Lew of the International Stress Management Association calls it “fatigue syndrome.” Writer Paul Hemp claims our IQ drops. But we are driven to keep it up and stay connected so that we can keep up. and other sources cite some chilling facts about digital addiction:

·         E-mails: 90 trillion annually and 247 billion daily worldwide

·         Websites: 234 million

·         Blogs: 126 million

·         Tweets: 27 million daily

·         Facebook: 400 million members (and 30 billion photos)

·         YouTube: 1 billion videos served up daily

·         PowerPoint: 1 million presentations daily

And these numbers are for 2009 – ancient history in digital time – and don't include video games, TV, phone calls, and other time-stealers. 

Susan sought time for reflection – talking to herself, listening, and thinking about things – which is a great source for insight, creativity, and energy. We all need to talk to ourselves, especially in a digital age.

So how did Susan do? “Total withdrawal,” she said. “Very painful. Long walks and self-talks.  Read three books and began a diary. I'm back in the digital world again as a student, of course. But a daily walk, some time for my diary, and three poems a day. And a severe online diet; my goal is a 25% reduction in digital time.”

I'd tell you my antidote for digital addiction, but I don't have time. I have 53 e-mails requiring attention, 16 voice-mails awaiting response, a PowerPoint due at 8 am tomorrow, and a 90-minute conference call with my boss in 10 minutes…

But for those who do have the time and have successfully reduced your digital addiction, please share your secrets with us.

Bruce Berger, Ph.D. is Reese Phifer Professor of Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Alabama and a member of the board of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Previously he was VP of PR at Whirlpool Corporation. His column focuses on PR students, young professionals, and education. He can be reached at

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