Digital burnout: 80 percent suggest unplugging from social media

Seven out of 10 people agree that it is unhealthy to be plugged into digital media all the time, according to new research from the Paper and Packaging Board. The research reveals that 80 percent of respondents agree that it’s important to take a break and unplug from digital devices in favor of printed materials.

In the office and at home, the research revealed, 76 percent of consumers believe that sitting down with a printed copy of a magazine is a “rewarding experience.”

“Digital overload, digital burnout, digital dementia, digital distraction — whatever you might call how social media and device notifications are changing the way we behave – if you’re like the average American who checks their phone 52 times a day, you’ve suffered its effects,” the Paper and Packaging Board argues in a new article. “But the most recent development in digital overload isn’t its prevalence, but our growing understanding that it’s not simply fatiguing us—it’s preventing a productive work environment. According to the Workplace Productivity Report from Kelton Global and the Paper and Packaging Board, more than half of office professionals are suffering from digital overload, 62 percent of workers think digital tools are making their teams inefficient in meetings and 49 percent say screen overload is making them less productive.”

The results are from a survey of 1,057 Americans who work in offices.

According to Holland Haiis, a digital detox and human connection expert who appears CNN, CBS, NBC and other media outlets, people were resisting the concept of “digital discipline” four to five years ago.

“But now, ‘digital burnout’ is this term that we’ve accepted,” she said. “We have the Mayo Clinic and other trusted advisers weighing in, which has opened corporate America’s neural pathways that maybe there’s something to this.”

Recent research conducted by Isobar measuring consumer attitudes and use on behalf of the Paper and Packaging Board in 2019 indicates that consumer attitudes remain strong when it comes to paper’s value in their lives as well as their concerns about digital.

The research reports that 80 percent agree that it is important to take a break and unplug from digital devices. Fully 7 in 10 agree that being plugged in all the time is unhealthy. A survey of consumers who are aware of the Paper and Packaging Board’s four-year-old How Life Unfolds campaign revealed the following.

In learning:

  • 75 percent agree that taking notes by hand helps them retain information better;
  • 74 percent report they concentrate better when reading a printed book; and
  • 62 percent wish their school or company did not discourage or restrict printing (a statistically significant increase of 14 percent since the start of the campaign).

In the office or at home:

  • 76 percent say that sitting down with a printed copy of a magazine is a rewarding experience;
  • 67 percent agree that printed catalogs inspire more ideas than browsing an e-commerce site;
  • 69 percent agree they enjoy receiving direct mail and find it a good source of information/ideas; and
  • 67 percent prefer to distribute printed agendas and documents at meetings.

Importantly, 79 percent agree that even as technology becomes more advanced, paper continues to play an important role in their lives, the Paper and Packaging Board said.

“We’re in an always-on culture, even when we think we have breaks,” Haiis said. “Even when you’re out for a walk, we’re still on our devices. We’re in work mode at 7:30 at night in the grocery store, and our brains are never having any quiet time. That’s digital overload. With digital overload, we go into a brain fog where it takes us longer to accomplish a task than it normally would have in the past—or more than it really should, because we’re strung out. It’s not that you can’t work on a project; it’s that you’re not at your best because your brain is overloaded. Our brain needs stillness.”

One way to cultivate that stillness and tune out distractions at work is paper, suggests the Paper and Packaging Board.

“Workers are already flexing paper’s benefits—60 percent of office professionals report already intentionally using paper to be more productive,” the Board said. “That productivity takes a variety of forms, including improved focus (42 percent of professionals use paper to stay focused and avoid distractions at work), time management (more than half prefer paper for calendars and to-do lists) and idea generation (63 percent prefer paper for collaborating with colleagues and sparking creativity).

Haiis doesn’t suggest eliminating helpful digital tools.

“I love technology for the ease and simplicity that it gives to our lives, when we stay within the parameters of what we are using technology for,” Haiis said. “But digitalization can’t replicate the human connection that drives workplace innovation.”

Paper has the ability to deepen creativity and collaboration in meetings, a place where many workplaces misstep—71 percent of senior managers say meetings are inefficient. As one of her ideas to improve productivity in the workplace, Haiis suggests that offices strive for device-free meetings where participants come in with paper and write down their ideas for solving an issue, then circle their best idea and share with the group.

“That’s when you get things like, ‘Oh, I was thinking that too—let’s take that a little further,’” she said. “Then someone else jumps in, and the next thing you know we’re building camaraderie, we’re building trust and we’re spending time together in a way that boosts everybody’s productivity and creativity. We’ve got all these brain chemicals exploding and from there you’re increasing enthusiasm and excitement.”

The Paper and Packaging Board promotes the use of paper products and paper-based packaging by highlighting the value they bring to our daily lives.

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