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Is Being A Reality TV Contestant The Only Way To Escape Your Smartphone?

In a world that’s addicted to endless scrolling, compulsive googling and social media scanning, we found the one place that provides temporary respite from the world wide web.

And bizarrely enough, it’s right in the middle of an environment that thrives because of the internet -- reality television. 

Contestants on ‘MasterChef’, ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘Survivor’ don’t just have to make it through gruelling recipes, disastrous dates and physical challenges -- they have to kiss their smartphones goodbye and remember what life was like before the world wide web existed.

Which sounds like an impossible task, especially for millennial contestants who have spent most of their life online, right? 

“Weirdly enough, I thought it would be a struggle and it probably was for the first month or so but actually it was a huge detox, it was actually nice to be away from it all,” 22-year-old ‘MasterChef’ contestant Larissa Takchi told 10 daily. 

“To be able to engage with everyone without the interruption of phones, I just felt like we all really connected on a really raw level,” she said of forming a bond with her fellow contestants without iPhones around. 

Larissa's studying paid off when she won her first immunity pin. Photo: Network 10.

Larissa told us that not only did the internet free-zone of the ‘MasterChef’ house help her form lifelong friendships, it also meant that she was forced to pore over cookbooks instead of consulting the web. 

“Reading cookbooks I feel like you take in more information better if you’re reading about it rather than doing a quick Google search of ‘Oh how do you do this?’ and then you just forget about it straight away. 

READ MORE: 'It's Old Fashioned But It's The Best': How 'MasterChef' Contestants Keep In Touch With Their Families

“And then in a cookbook, you’re constantly seeing the same advice about how to prepare an artichoke, for example. It’s constantly being fed through your brain, because it's slower to read it and take your time, it kinda sinks in a lot better. I think I was learning more without it [the internet] weirdly enough.”

So, could we all learn more and form tighter bonds with our loved ones if we followed the lead of the ‘MasterChef’ house? 

Dr Brad Ridout from the University of Sydney is a cyberpsychology and digital health researcher and told 10 daily that our endlessly entertaining but seriously distracting smartphones have increasingly crept their way into every facet of our lives. 

“We check our phones an average of 85 times a day, and although the intention may be to just quickly google the answer to something, many people will check emails or social media while they have their phone in their hands and spend many more minutes on their phone than they intended to,” Dr Ridout said. 

'MasterChef' contestant Dee Williams was a big fan of cookbook study. Photo: Network 10.

He explained that it’s been suggested that our over-reliance on technology “may have an impact on our ability to retain information, simply through reducing the need to exercise our memory muscles, as we know the information is always just a google away”. 

“Smartphones also tend to remove the social aspect of memory formation -- you’re much more likely to remember information in the long-term if you hear it from someone, even if from a Masterchef contestant on TV, rather than read it off your phone,” he told 10 daily. 

Photo: Network 10.
Should We All Be Signing Up To Reality Shows Just To Escape Our Phones?

Dr Ridout explained that digital detoxes can be a "good circuit breaker from a technology-saturated life, but only if it encourages you to rethink your relationship with technology”. 

“It’s like a fad diet -- it may give you some short-term benefits, but it’s not going to make any difference in the long run if you simply go back to your unhealthy ways afterwards,” Dr Ridout told 10 daily. 

And in the delicious spirit of ‘MasterChef’, Dr Ridout suggested that rather than a full-on digital detox, we should be aiming for “digital nutrition” which is all about cultivating a more “mindful relationship with technology”. 

“Where we consider what we are spending our ‘digital calories’ on, rather than simply tallying our ‘screentime’ which is a crude and outdated measure anyway," said Dr Ridout. 

READ MORE: 'MasterChef: Larissa Told Us Derek Was 'So Bummed' When He Found Out About WA Week

The no-phone zone of the 'MasterChef' house. Photo: Network 10.
Tips For Mindful Smartphone Use

While you might not want to actually sign up to 'MasterChef' just for the benefits of unplugging, there are a few simple ways you can try to use your smartphone more mindfully, according to Dr Riddout.

He recommends using either Apple's 'screen time' or Android’s ActionDash app to "take an audit of how you spend your time on your phone and decide what areas you’d like to cut back on". 

Having tech-free zones in your home, setting a digital curfew at night, turning off as many app notifications as you can, and setting your screen to greyscale mode can also help you focus on your phone's "functionality rather than its distractibility". 

Main Photo: Network 10.