Do you have trouble staying off of your smartphone or computer, especially when it comes to social media?

Then, listen up. This week is for you. It's Digital Detox week at WUSA9, and for the last few days we have examined what it means to be addicted, how to change our habits and heard from a 72-year-old man who has been on a detox his whole life because he has never owned a cell phone.


The series started at the University of Maryland where WUSA9's Mikea Turner challenged roughly 100 students, who take classes in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, to come off of social media for 48 hours. Before they accepted, they told WUSA9 they spend between four to six hours a day on social media. Many said they were drawn to pet and cooking videos, news articles, celebrity gossip, photos, posts and simply the ability to communicate with family and friends.

"I find myself looking down at my phone realizing, like wow it's just a nervous tick that I do to get throughout the day," said Jack Rogers, who opened up about his smartphone dependency. 

"I'm a military spouse. So, I use it to keep up with what everyone is doing," said Buffy Soens. "Also, a lot of cat videos."

Turner accepted the challenge too.

" It was pretty difficult," Turner said. " I wanted to check the mobile apps several times, but I didn't."

"I'm used to posting content about my stories on Facebook and pictures to share with viewers on other platforms, so that made it hard."

Results were self-reported and the honors system was used. To hold students accountable, their professor Dr. Nicole Coomber offered extra credit in exchange for doing the experiment and writing about it.

When the challenge was over, more than 50 percent of students in each class said they found themselves being more productive with their time. Some reported getting more sleep, finishing assignments faster, reading more and spending more time with  friends.

"I learned that I use social media to just stay connected and to know what's going on out in the world," said L.J. Scarpitto. " Without it. I felt kind of lost. "

Others admitted to finding other ways to procrastinate like one student who download games to his phone.

One young lady could not participate because she could only communicate with a friend, that would be visiting that week from Berlin, through Facebook Messenger. Others found it difficult to stay off because they promote small businesses on different platforms.


WUSA9 sat down with Dr. Coomber, a professor and researcher at the University of Maryland, who explained tips on how to balance time spent on social media and time to be productive. 

She said if you spend more than an hour to and hour-and-a-half  on social media, apps or text messages, it is too much. 

Her advice is as follows:

1. Pick A Platform:

"There are so many platforms out there; decide what works for you. You probably don't need to be on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook; that's a lot, that's a lot of time to spend. So, I say pick two or three platforms that really work for you."

2. What's Your Goal?:

"If you have a goal of just wanting to stay up with friends, then maybe you really enjoy Facebook. If you know that you love taking photographs and sharing them with people, then you want to use Instagram."  

3. Set a Timer:

"I think the third tip too is to set a timer, and this doesn't work for everyone. Some people do that 15 minutes on social media and they can't stop themselves. For me, I know if I hear a little buzz, it's going off, it's time for me to move on and do something else. It's a good reminder to think hmmm, do I really want to keep going on with this or have I had enough for today."

Free downloads are also available to help you stay focused. A Google Chrome download called "Work Mode" blocks all social media websites for as long as you want.  A mac-based app called "Self-Control" works the same way.

On smart devices, a free app called "Moment" tells you how much time you spend on your phone. There are additional features for purchase that send reminders about screen time, offers mental tools for you to break your habit, allows you to set limits for yourself and more. An app called "Checky" is also useful for showing you where you spend the most time on your phone. Location services must be turned on.


Richard Fuhr, 72, lives in northern Maryland with his wife of almost 50 years. He has never owned a cell phone and still does not want one.

"Never had a cell phone, do not want a cell phone, you couldn't give me a cell phone," said Fuhr, who is very calm and easy going by nature. "It's the biggest waste of time and energy and money that I've ever seen."

Fuhr recalled a time when he saw parents pushing a small child in a stroller. He said both of them were on their cell phones not paying attention to the child and he just could not understand why. He does not believe anything on a smartphone is more important than the person or task in front of them.

"I see people all the time;  I go to the mall, I go to the restaurants and they're always on their cell phones, and I wonder who are these people talking to," he said.

So how has he survived all these years without one?

"If I needed to get in touch with someone, I could call someone on my landline, or if I were home I could use the computer and send an email or I could borrow someone's phone," he said.

But, that was not the case several weeks ago when his wife had a hospital visit. His landline only makes local calls and the computer was down. He had to call one of his sons to contact family in Virginia, Florida and other places. He said he was not worried because he trusted his son to get the word out. Before he retired from accounting, his wife would reach him through his boss. He said he always left an itinerary at the job.

We sat down with the retired accountant to show him all the features of a smartphone, wondering if he would change his mind about having one.

We started with the ability to use a calculator. Fuhr's face lit up when he pressed the numbers slowly on the touch screen, which was next to a large handheld calculator.

"Walah, it works! " said Fuhr, after punching in an equation. "What do you think?" said Turner.

"I don't know if I would trust myself," Fuhr responded.

Next, we showed him how to pay bills though mobile apps.

"Oh wow," said Fuhr, after I unlocked my AT &T app to see the bill. He was fascinated, but could not see himself using it.

Then, we showed him Facetime. He was impressed, but not enough to buy a phone of his own.

"Get off the computer, spend time with your family and friends," said Fuhr, who encourages everyone to do this. "Get used to going one-one-one."

Fuhr does not have any social media accounts, but instead uses his wife's help to see photos of family and friends through her own.