This summer, I tried the famous Digital Detox. No, I was not super radical but I definitely did a severe reduction of how much my mobile phone was around me and, more importantly, how much I engaged with it. Did I miss it? For the practical things no doubt. But for the mindless browsing or constant interruptions, I definitely found replacements.
When people think of a digital detox, they often think of a wellness resort, phone off, going into a box, saying goodbye to it for the week. I wasn’t prepared to do that, mostly because it was not practical, but I was willing to do a few things:
- Avoid my phone first thing in the morning – made possible by the absence of an alarm clock (that is why holidays are the best time to do this)
- Leave my phone in the bedroom or around but with no sound – again, made possible because I really did not expect any urgent calls from work or school
- Not wear my apple watch to ensure I got no notifications or connectivity to the phone
- Accept a reduction in photographic moments – also something good to try and detox from, trying to live our live in 3-D rather than through a lens
- Do no social media posting for the week – which included no writing either
- Have dedicated hours for email checking for work in case there were any team needs – but really none of that outside those hours
- Avoid any social media browsing for the week, especially before bed time
How did it go?
I was quite strict with my digital detox for a week and really found space in those moments that the phone occupies in our hand and minds. Whilst I am actually not that addicted, the phone is just an easy distraction that sits so close and gives us all the reasons to engage. So it was refreshing to know how much I could indeed live with a much scaled down version of my phone. The good habits continued through the second week, even though I had less strict limits and had to engage with work more, but I still felt much less attached to my phone than usual. The outcome is that even when I returned to the base case, I have been spending much less time on it. So the effects can be lasting.
What worked well?
Connecting to a real person
Not having my phone wake me up meant that my first connection was not with a remote world. In fact, my first connection was with real live human beings or even with myself in the days that I went straight to yoga (and yes, I allowed myself yoga videos on the phone). By not having the phone immediately showing you the unread messages, there was less of a draw on my attention to it. And guess what? I still read those when it was time to do so, rather than when the phone pinged me. I already have a low number of notifications on my phone (and there is always a way to reduce more), but this was about not even caring about the few I had.
Less time taking photos
The decision not to post about the holidays was tricky, especially as I had just come out of my photo stories of our trip down from London to Lisbon. But given how much I posted the week before (even above my usual), I convinced myself to stay away. One of the things this decision helps is that you are less drawn to take photos. I do love a good photo for memories, as I am always in a panic that my memory continues to deteriorate from its old days. But knowing you will not engage in social media does reduce a good amount of photos, or at the least, it is a click and go, you don’t click and then stay stuck on your phone.
See the world in its true colours
Which takes me to the other benefit – living life in 3-d. It’s like in the school show, where everyone is so busy making a video of the performance, they don’t even see it with their bare eyes, but rather through a tiny lens. Whilst it takes some training, if you are not always taking photos, you are likely observing more and staying with each thing more, not constantly trying to move to the next frameable moment.
All the other things
And finally, all the other things that come up when you are not on your phone – books, sudoku or any sort of crossword. Or go crazy – have a conversation. I am still astonished by the groups of younger people I see at restaurants sitting at the table and each looking at their phones, not really talking to each other. Not having the phone at the table, next to you in the sofa or the beach means you are more likely to raise your head and speak to the person next to you. And the wonders that can bring.
What I could not live without
I admit it, there were things I missed and did not do digital detox. Up to you to judge if they were really that necessary, or for me to enquire what non digital alternatives I could have had.
- Yoga and Fitness Videos: especially important as I was just rebuilding my habits around these 2 aspects of my life and youtube helped me be more guided about it. Don’t worry, I was doing the exercises, not just watching the videos
- Google Maps: it’s true, I can no longer reconcile how we used to go anywhere following signs, asking around or printing via michelin!
- Headspace: particularly for my sleep time. The less tired I am (which the holiday helped with), the harder it was for my brain to fall asleep with no thought. Headspeace for sleep definitely helps with that
- Limited Whatsapp: mostly to keep in touch on more immediate things, but at a much lower rate than day-to-day (naturally, especially as I did not have the phone with me most of the time)
Digital Detox: The Balance
Overall, it was not that difficult. It was rather weird at points, when you have your hand used to go there and you stop as you are half-way with a reminder that there is nothing really there that you have to see or do with the phone that one moment. As the first days go by, you quickly become accustomed to it and your eyes stop constantly looking for it across the floor. Whilst not perfect, I think I will do my version of a digital detox more often. Make space for me. For others. But not for it.