Digital detox: Here’s how to start

Editor’s Note: Listen now as the Chasing Life podcast lays out the nuts and bolts of how to break up with your phone.


It happens in our most intense relationships — the need to take a step back and whisper the words, “I need more space.”

Sometimes it’s said to a romantic partner, sometimes to a friend, and sometimes, the sentiment is directed at our smart phone.

With so much of our daily transactions and interactions happening on our phones, it can sometimes feel like the world is passing us by if we put them down, or log out, for even a minute — so we don’t.

Eighty-three percent 83% of US adults say they keep their smartphone near them almost all the time during their waking hours, and 64% admit to checking their smartphone as soon as they wake up in the morning, according to a 2022 Gallup poll.

But being constantly plugged in is not sustainable. There can come a time to say basta — enough!

For author and science journalist Catherine Price, that “aha” moment came shortly after the birth of her daughter.

“I had these moments where I would find myself up late at night … I’d have kind of an out-of-body experience, probably because of the sleep deprivation. And I would see her looking up at me and then I was looking down at my phone and that just devastated me,” she recounted.

She set about doing one of the things she knew best to tackle the issue — researching and writing. The result is the book, “How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life.”

Whether you call it breaking up with your phone or digital detoxing, it’s not easy but it is doable.

“I typically don’t use the word digital detox because to me it implies that you’re trying to totally take a break from technology for an extended period of time, which I don’t think really is realistic for most people,” Price said.

“The idea being that if you break up with a human being, you’re not saying I’m never going to date another human being again,” she said. “You’re just saying that relationship was not right for me. Hopefully, you have a moment of self-reflection to evaluate what was good and what was bad about it and what you would like in the new relationship.”

If you feel the need to take a breather from your phone, you’re in good company. That same Gallup poll found 58% of adults think they spend too much time on their smartphone; among those in the 18-29 age range, that number jumps to 81%.

There is even a day dedicated to cutting back on phone use. From sundown on Friday, March 3 through sundown on Saturday, March 4, has been designated the Global Day of Unplugging, a 24-hour period where phones and other screens are put away and people are encouraged to participate in real life.

What’s the best way to have the difficult conversation with your phone? CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks strategy with Catherine Price, and you can listen to the full podcast here.