With the advent of Ramadan every year, healthy adults among the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world begin fasting for 30 days until the end of the holy month. Fasting, according to the Islamic definition, is the abstinence from the things that the body desires from food, drink and sex for a limited period of time, extending from the time of sunrise to the time of sunset. One of the rulings behind this pillar of Islam is to partially prevent the body from absorbing material requirements, and to give the opportunity to refresh the spiritual aspects of every Muslim by increasing worship and doing good deeds.
Because the era we are currently living in is digital in nature, in which screens and smartphones have become the basis of the personal and professional lives of most people, the term "digital fasting" has emerged in recent years, which carries in its definition the usual principles of fasting: refraining from consuming digital devices for specific periods of time in order to relieve the mind and soul from digital addiction, and opening the door to reviving the social and innate aspects of everyone's life.
The question here is: Is there a more appropriate time than the blessed month of Ramadan to seize the opportunity and start applying digital fasting in conjunction with fasting the stomach and limbs, and to benefit from both fasts in developing your life spiritually, psychologically, mentally and physically?
Screens.. Lots of screens
Statistics say that the average person spends about two and a half hours a day exposed to various screens, especially following social media. (Shutterstock)
According to a 2015 study conducted by Deloitte, a global professional and social research giant, 59% of smartphone users browse social media five minutes before going to bed, and the same percentage browse social media within 30 minutes of waking up. What the study simply tells us is that most smartphone users around the world browse social media in their first and last activity during their normal day, along with the intensity of use throughout the day, indicating that it is very interesting to them. (1)
According to the statistical website Statista, the number of daily active users of social media in 2022 reached about 4.5 billion daily users, equivalent to about 60% of the world's population. Statistics also show that 84% of young people between the ages of 18-29 are active in following social media, and the rate of use decreases with age and generational change, however, the number of elderly social media users over the age of 65 has reached 45%, which is a significantly high percentage. (2)
The average user spends browsing social media on his mobile phone averages about 150 minutes a day, which is equivalent to two and a half hours a day, and about 80 hours a month. Well, if we track these accounts, we will find that the average number of hours a user spends browsing social media throughout his life is 5 full years and 4 months of each person's life, going browsing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. (3)
These large numbers indicate that most of the world's population is now different from any previous generations in spending much of their day browsing the virtual world, and that it is the generation that witnessed the emergence of the phenomenon of "digital addiction" for the first time in human history.
Studies have proven that digital addiction causes many problems, mainly sleep disorders, headaches, vision problems, and a sense of stress. (Shutterstock)
This excessive use of digital devices, browsing the Internet and social networking sites has consequently reflected on the physical and psychological health of large numbers of users, and came accompanied by frequent symptoms, including low sleep quality and vision problems, as well as a high incidence of migraines.
In an extensive research involving more than 7,70 participants who use digital devices on a daily basis, about 4% of the sample said that they suffer from vision disorders caused by constant looking at screens. The study also confirmed that the frequent use of digital devices, especially phones and computers, was clearly associated with the emergence of sleep disorders in users due to light emissions from these devices that affect the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which is necessary to regulate the sleep process and its duration. (<>)
As for the social impact, it is clear that digital addiction also violently affects real life patterns and interactions between people. In a 2016 study of 145 adults, the results concluded that married life is negatively affected if one partner behaves abusively, such as ignoring or delaying communication because of their interest in using the phone.
In a large-scale study conducted in China on large segments of high school students, it was found that digital addiction increased the risk of students developing psychological problems, mainly depression, by two and a half times more than students who were not exposed to digital addiction. The study also showed that addiction to digital devices led to disorders and chronic feelings of dissatisfaction with life, anxiety and sleep disorders, in a way that is closely related to the level of heavy use of these devices. (5)
The American Psychological Association, in turn, published an important research study in 2017, which found that one-fifth of the sample surveyed, or one in 5 people, said that technology of all kinds was a major reason for feeling stressed, with 43% of the sample admitting that they browse email, messages and social media profusely daily. This feeling of being "always available" made them feel bad physical and psychological symptoms, starting with neck pain and wrinkles, and not ending with high blood pressure levels. (6)
Digital devices and social media are among the highest centers of distractions that hinder the completion of business in quantity and quality. (Shutterstock)
With the growth of the phenomenon of digital addiction and its rise to dangerous rates, especially among adolescents and young people, two terms have emerged, the term "digital fast" and the term "digital detox". The two terms mean that the user, voluntarily and not compulsively, refrains from using digital devices such as smartphones, computers and social media for specific periods of time, periodically, and then gets out of the state of digital addiction.
Although both terms have the same meaning, which is to move away from digital devices for a certain period of time, the difference between them is the length of that period. The term "digital detox" refers to reducing the rates of daily use of technology, through various practices ranging from disabling alerts, turning off the phone while working, or downloading apps to schedule appointments on social media. While the term "digital fast" refers to the complete abstinence from using technology for a certain period, such as permanently disrupting the presence in social media for weeks or months.
The main benefits of entering the state of digital fasting revolve in their entirety around returning to real life and ending the tyranny of digital life in the consciousness and course of people's lives, while moving away from digital devices and social media, a person will return to a real lifestyle and revive his healthy social and psychological life. Also, digital fasting will return its owner back to sound sleep and rid him of excessive anxiety attacks caused by the use of devices.
Digital fasting also helps to return the person to the embrace of nature and practice the usual tasks of life, in a way that reflects positively on him in facing the symptoms of depression of immersion in the digital world, and facing the symptoms of withdrawal from social life, as well as raising business productivity due to avoiding digital devices and social media, which are among the highest distractions that hinder the completion of work quantitatively and qualitatively. (7)
Freedom from the grip of screens
The first and perhaps most important measure to break free from the grip of digital addiction is to disable Notifications at least for a certain time in the day. (Shutterstock)
Based on the above, digital addiction, like other types of addiction, such as drug or alcohol addiction or food addiction, is basically based on the most famous psychological rule, "Everything that brings pleasure is prone to addiction." Therefore, the sudden cessation of the use of technology is an impractical solution for many, especially since exposure to screens in our time is an essential part of the pace of daily life that cannot be avoided all at once.
So what's the solution to this dilemma? The first and perhaps most important measure to break free from the grip of digital addiction, according to Jesse Fox, chair of the Department of Digital Ecology at Ohio University, is to disable the Notifications feature at least for a certain time in the day. "If you allow yourself to be interrupted 5 times in half an hour, it's impossible to describe yourself as focused on doing something useful during that time!" says Fox.
In his book "The Rise of Digital Addiction and the Trade of Attracting Users", author Adam Attler mentions in his solutions to get rid of digital addiction that one of the best effective means is to allocate a "technology free" daily time, meaning allocating a certain period of time, say 3 hours before bed, in which your relationship with any digital device, especially a computer screen or smartphone, ends. During those specific hours, they are replaced by real-life daily activities, such as cooking, reading paper books, taking a walk, or spending time with family.
Adam Ghazali, a neuroscientist and co-author of The Distracted Mind: Old Minds in the World of Technology, says the most important way to get rid of digital addiction is to create a schedule for all the tasks we perform every day, including scheduling an appointment to browse the Internet and follow up on messages, no matter how small the exact time. In other words, to set a system for yourself that you will browse the news for 10 minutes at 20 in the morning, and you will walk through your Facebook account for 6 minutes at a specific time. This organization is inevitable, otherwise, according to the book, it will be difficult for you to get out of this digital maze. (8، <>)
Fighting technical addiction with technology
Many apps allow you to trap notifications and reduce phone usage for several hours a day. (Shutterstock)
In addition to making the decision to confront digital addiction by reducing the look at screens, taking phones away from our source of vision, and engaging more in real life such as exercise and family gatherings, more solutions have emerged that help users, especially those who can be described as "technical nerds" who find it very difficult to make decisions voluntarily away from phones and computer screens.
One of the most prominent of these solutions is the spread of applications on smartphones that help the user reduce the use of the phone itself, as well as trapping browsing applications that cause digital addiction to the user, such as social media applications. Apple devices have a tool known as "Screen Time", which records the time used in certain apps and allows limits on its use across settings. It also allows the possibility of disabling various applications for certain periods of time and allows the phone to receive and issue calls only.
As for phones equipped with the Android system, there are many applications that help the user in digital fasting, most notably the "Digital Wellbeing" application, which allows the user to know his behaviors in using the phone and its applications, and then adjust the phone settings to hide some notifications from applications during certain periods of time that allow the user to break free from the continuous look at the phone screen, and then gradually return to the real world and get rid of digital addiction. (9)
In the end, the blessed month of Ramadan remains an excellent opportunity to break free from all harmful habits, from eating and drinking uncontrollably, not ending with digital addiction, monitoring notifications over the phone, and feeling constantly missed not checking the news or looking at the screens. The principle of "fasting" remains the first step out of the bondage of desires, real or virtual!
1 – Smartphone owners increasingly obsessed with their devices: Deloitte Study
2 – Social Media Statistics You Need to Know in 2022
3 – How Much Time Do People Spend on Social Media?
4 – The Real Effects of Technology on Your Health
5 – Effect of Pathological Use of the Internet on Adolescent Mental Health
6 – Digital Detox: Your 10-Step Guide
7 – The 7 Benefits of a Digital Fast
8 – It's time for digital weaning. Rules and ways of experts to free ourselves from the grip of technology
9 – Our Digital Health. These tools help you "digital fasting"