top of page

Digital Detoxes: Balancing Behavior and Regulating Brain Health

Amidst the bustling fall semester, your days overflow with endless tasks and assignments, intertwined with enriching extracurriculars. Exams and quizzes dominate your thoughts, but your screen beckons, drawing you into a world of blue-lit pixels. On LinkedIn, a connection secures a coveted job offer. Swipe. Instagram unveils a friend, already on vacation after an early semester end. Swipe. A TikToker who is around your age celebrates another brand deal, opting out of attending college classes. Pause. Gazing around at your cluttered desk and the tissues and dust bunnies strewn across the carpet, you retreat beneath your bed sheets, escaping into the digital world.

If you find yourself resonating with this, you're not alone in starting your day by reaching for your phone. Whether it's to check emails or dive into social media for entertainment, prolonged digital device usage can have its consequences. While not necessarily harmful, it's crucial to pause and reflect on how your online time might be impacting your offline life.

Small et al. (2020) highlight that excessive screen time can result in diminished cognitive performance, affecting your ability to focus and concentrate. It can also lead to reduced emotional and social intelligence, technology addiction, social isolation, and poor sleep quality. Failing to establish healthy boundaries puts your brain health at risk for degenerative diseases and can have a significant impact on your mental health, ultimately influencing your relationships with others. This, in turn, can exacerbate common college challenges like procrastination, negative moods, and exhaustion. At the same time, Small et al. (2020) also point out the positive aspects of screen time, such as improved reaction time and multitasking skills. This suggests that digital devices themselves aren't inherently problematic; it's the way we manage both the quality and quantity of time we spend with them that truly matters.

Humans often turn to digital devices as a means of distraction or a coping mechanism to escape the challenges of the real world. Whether it's through social media, gaming, or watching TV, these activities can provide a quick dopamine boost, offering temporary pleasure. However, once the device is set aside, it's not uncommon for feelings of social comparison and negative attitudes toward one's own life to creep in. According to psychiatry professor Dr. Lembke, engaging with digital content alters our brain's reward pathways, leading to the release of dopamine during these digital interactions (Weiss, 2023). This surge in dopamine can create a strong urge to return to our devices to rekindle that pleasure response. It becomes evident that incorporating digital detoxes into our routines is essential to maintain a healthy balance.

A digital detox, as defined by Buctoc et al. (2018), entails taking a break from electronic devices and actively working to curtail technology-dependent habits in order to nurture a healthier relationship between oneself and their devices. It's not about going completely cold turkey (as personal preferences vary), but rather about setting aside dedicated time to recalibrate your brain's reward pathways and allow yourself much-needed respite. The Cleveland Health Clinic (2021) recommends identifying the specific activities you wish to reduce or eliminate. In essence, you can create a personalized digital detox plan that suits your needs. This could involve cutting down on screen time used for gaming or social media scrolling. It might mean starting and ending your day without the habitual 10-minute phone check. Alternatively, you could opt to spend time reconnecting with friends or family in lieu of television. The key is to tailor your digital detox to align with your individual preferences and goals.

In the 21st-century, post-pandemic world, being a college student entails a constant digital presence, given that academics and industries have largely shifted online. Nevertheless, it's equally crucial to find moments for essential digital detoxes that can significantly enhance one's overall well-being. The frequency and timing of these detoxes can be tailored to your unique circumstances. You might opt for a weekly digital detox or reserve it for special occasions. Ultimately, the effectiveness of a digital detox becomes apparent when you customize the practice to suit your own capabilities, responsibilities, and lifestyle. Since not everyone shares the same demands and routines, personalization is key to optimize your digital detox.


Buctot, D. B., Kim, N., & Park, K. E. (2018). Development and evaluation of smartphone detox

program for university students. International Journal of Contents, 14(4), 1-9.

Cleveland Health Clinic. (2021). 4 reasons to do a Digital Detox.

Small, G. W., Lee, J., Kaufman, A., Jalil, J., Siddarth, P., Gaddipati, H., Moody, T. D., &

Bookheimer, S. Y. (2020). Brain health consequences of digital technology use
. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 22(2), 179–187.

Weiss, H. (2023). The “dopamine detox” is having a moment. Time.

bottom of page