Amy Chan is the Chief Heart Hacker of Renew Breakup Bootcamp , a retreat that takes a scientific and spiritual approach to healing the heart. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of JustMyType.ca - an online magazine that focuses on the psychology behind love, lust, and desire. The Observer calls her "A relationship expert whose work is like that of a scientific Carrie Bradshaw" and she has been featured in The New York Times, Good Morning America, FORTUNE, The Guardian, NY Mag, Doctors TV, CNN, and more.
Most of our lives are spent engaging with technology in some form or another; for work, school, photographic editing, social media, and even dating. Dating has adapted to keep up with mankind’s evolving culture since the first personal advertisement in 1695. From pen and paper, to VHS tapes, and now mobile dating apps, the prospect of connecting with a potential love interest has become incredibly innovative.
When it comes to dating, breakups are as much a part of the human experience as breathing. It’s scientifically proven that going through a breakup has the same effect on your body as withdrawal from an addiction. The aftermath of a breakup activates the part of the brain associated with motivation, reward and cravings. Knowing how to distance yourself from those detriments through a digital detox is invaluable, as it will help you to avoid making harmful mistakes and move forward with your life.
Amy (wearing the Triple F.A.T. Goose Estelle Parka) is no stranger to our topic, nor the physical and psychological effects breakups can have on everyday life. Through Renew Breakup Bootcamp , Amy offers psychological assistance and guidance to those in dire need of ridding the body and mind of all negativity. When we came to her with the idea of a digital detox, she was delighted to share her expertise.
“It’s best to digitally detox from your ex,” she tells us straightaway. “Delete old messages, photos, unfollow accounts. Block their number if you have to, so you don’t obsess about them not contacting you.” Such precautions are vital to a successful digital detox after the break. But what other steps should you take to ensure a complete distancing from technology that will keep your from mind from straying? With the help of Amy, we can provide some insight.
Firstly, we’ll talk about how to recognize the effects technology has on you after a breakup. Next, we’ll cover how to go about digitally detoxing after coming to terms with things, and approaching the topic of how to use technology to start dating again after the detox will be our final discussion point.
Fresh from a breakup, the temptation of logging onto the internet to check your ex’s social media becomes almost an unconscious compulsion. “Our willpower is not a unlimited resource, it runs out,” Amy comments, and once you give into this urge, you are filled with regret. Memories surge into your mind and you become overwhelmed.
It is advisable to, until you are in a better place, take a break from all facets of internet activity. Especially social media. When you “stalk social media or send them late night texts, you are falling into a mental trap that keeps you addicted,” Amy says in agreeance. “To stop this self-sabotaging behavior, the first step is to recognize what is happening in your brain. At that point, when you understand that the urge is normal, you recognize you have the choice to either let that urge control you, or take control of it.”
Amy tells us, “your brain is primed for obsessive behavior and your motivation system is seeking dopamine .” This desire for dopamine becomes almost insatiable. During this time, you are more prone to turn to the internet or social media to fill the void. This may seem harmless. What could checking my Facebook possibly do to me? It is this mentality that sets one up for disaster, as the amount of dopamine required to feel satisfied is doubled once you lock eyes with that newsfeed.
According to a BBC study conducted in January of 2018, spending too much time on social media can lead to higher stress levels, irregular mood swings, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep and lowered self-esteem. In conjunction with the feelings you harbor after a breakup, this is most assuredly a recipe for failure when trying to move on. Once you feel as though it is time for you to let go of those emotions, you will be ready to start your digital detox.
To get the most out of a digital detox, you’ll have to relinquish your internet connectivity (figuratively, don’t go cancelling any subscriptions). Start the second step of the process off slowly by limiting your cell phone usage. Mobile internet access is a double-edged sword, as technology is intrinsic in our everyday lives but having it there as a temptation does no good for your mental health after a breakup.
Taking a call from work or chatting to friends and family is not going to be an end-all factor, however. Quite the opposite. Staying in communication with your support group can help quite a bit. What we mean is to go out and take a walk or read a book instead of incessantly grabbing your phone and clicking the social media icons when notifications pop up.
Doing so will have positive benefits for your general health. Decreasing screen-time has been proven to significantly lessen the chances that someone will “break down and check their ex’s social media or lose their sense of presence because they are wondering if the ex texted them,” says Amy. Then you’ll be back at square one.
Learning to wean yourself off mobile internet access helps by leaps and bounds, but truthfully it’s best to “take a break from social media altogether,” according to Amy. Disengaging yourself from social media is truthfully the best way to digitally detox, as it leads to more sleep, less stress/anxiety, promotes more face-to-face interaction and helps you focus.
According to HelpGuide.org “It generally takes a week or two to feel your brain rewiring after taking a break from the digital world, assuming you fill the void with concentration-based activities like reading, exercising, or watching older TV/movies designed for a focused audience.”
But don’t mark your calendar with a start and end point! “It’s not about becoming fixed and then you can finally be in a relationship,” Amy tells us. Putting a finite span of time on your digital detox will only make you desire it more as the end comes into view. “I feel” Amy continues, “there are some base issues that need awareness and healing before a healthy connection is possible such as learning how to emotionally regulate, communicating boundaries and needs in a healthy way, strengthening muscles of self-compassion and self-love, to name a few.”
Maintaining willpower is hard, make no mistake, but if you’re using your time wisely by engaging in mentally distracting and stimulating aspects of life, the detox will seem like a normal part of your daily routine, thus the memories of your breakup will begin dissipating bit by bit.
Once you’ve had a taste of what liberation from the internet feels like, our third and final step in the digital detox process is how to properly use the internet to get yourself back into the dating world. It is advisable not to reactivate old social media accounts straight away. This could lead to a flare-up of old feelings attributed to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. If you feel as though you’re ready to start dating again but insist on the innovative route, there are enumerable dating apps to try.
“Using apps to meet people is just expanding your methods of lead generation,” Amy shares thoughtfully, “but I wouldn’t rely on apps solely as a way to meet people.” Granted, just bumping into someone while walking down the street is a cinematically romantic idea, but making use of these applications facilitates that process, and can connect you with someone that is an “ideal match” once you enter in your criteria.
There are drawbacks to this sort of dating though, as we are merely seeing a picture of someone instead of being in front of them. Amy explains that ”there are so many other factors at play when it comes to attraction; pheromones, voice, energy… many of these factors don’t come across when people are rapidly swiping.” When using dating apps, stay reserved and don’t act on impulse. After all, fresh from a digital detox you’re bound to be filled with a yearning sense to connect with people.
Knowing the benefits of a digital detox after a breakup, you know have the information necessary to start anew. Loving yourself is the key to a happy life and successful relationship, and rediscovering yourself after unplugging from the internet sets you down the right path.
“Be proactive in loving yourself and loving your partner. Both are necessary,” Amy states as we begin powering down. “If you stop taking care of yourself, ignore your needs, stop your hobbies and independence, that will eventually wear on the relationship.” Remember, you’re more than just a list of subscribers or followers. You’re someone unique and ready to experience all life has to offer, once you lift your eyes from the screen.