Last week we concluded that it’s indeed very hard to imagine our day without our smartphones. And no wonder, right? My phone is my encyclopaedia, Kindle, mp3, camera, TV and a way to stay in touch with my family and friends merged into one little device I carry everywhere with me.
It’s very hard to give up on the device that solves that many problems for you and makes you life easier. But our growing digital dependence and health and productivity problems caused by it, raised a lot of questions, and answers as well. One answer leads the race though – digital detox movement!
The term “digital detox” was even added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013 with its official definition being:
digital detox (n): a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world: break free of your devices and go on a digital detox
The movement has garnered a lot of media attention and is publicly supported by many influential people that feel the stress of being expected to be present and active at all times. Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post founder, is one the most passionate and most vocal advocates of digital detox movement. And she walks the talk – last year she took a seven day trip to Hawaii with her family that was void of TV and social media except for two prescheduled appointments a day to check her e-mail and respond only to the most urgent ones.
Another digital detox advocate and founder of theAudience, Oliver Luckett, writes about his digital detox weekend experience: “If someone really needs to reach me, they’ll know how. And if I really, desperately need to connect with someone, for 24 hours I can make it the real, live person next to me, not the virtual person who’s also furiously tapping on a little glass screen.”
Digital Detox – Industry On The Rise
Slowly, the whole new industry emerged with businesses competing to capitalize on our digital dependence by offering specialized everything from holiday and weekend packages to hygiene products. All with the purpose of providing their overwhelmed and digitally dependent customers with ways to unplug, connect with nature and inner self, and even release the body of ‘man-made electromagnetic radiation that gets absorbed over time after long-term use of electronic devices’, in a case of a Digital Detox Bath and energyDOTs.
There are even apps that block Internet access on your device. If you need up to 8 hours of uninterrupted productivity, Freedom can block Internet access on your Mac or PC. For social media addicts, Anti-Social is here to restrict your access to any site you deem time-wasting or distracting. Even if you are in need of more drastic measures, such as irrevocably disabling your phone for a set period of time, there is an app that does that! And of course, none of this is free.
More and more hotels and retreats are offering to organize our days around activities that will put our mind off the location of nearest Wi-Fi hotspot and hold us accountable for our digital habits by distributing penalties in form of mandatory massage or dance class. Program prices range from couple of hundred to thousands of dollars per night, depending on customer’s preferences.
But are these kind of services really the answer to all of our problems?
While stepping out of daily routine and having relaxation and yoga classes as lone things on you schedule is certainly relaxing, do you really think that a two week, or even a month long, abstinence from all things digital will counteract the effects of year-long unhealthy habits and stress?
Trying To Escape Technology Is Trying To Escape Reality
Despite our problems with it, technology is not going away. And it should not – people are using technology to make the world a better place and to improve their professional and personal lives.
If you look at the following map provided by International Telecommunication Union that shows the number of Internet users worldwide in 2012, you will see that even back then most of the US territory was covered in dark blue, signaling broadband access everywhere but in most secluded places.
The rest of the world is quickly catching upwith the help of satellites and various initiatives such as Google’s “Project Loon”. Broadband coverage is continuously expanding.
Due to technology we have at our disposal, we are able to stay in touch with friends and family from all over the world. World’s knowledge is only a few clicks away and quality education is available to those who previously were not able to afford it.
We Do Not Need Digital Detox Weekends But Healthier Habits
I believe that the solution doesn’t lie in cutting technology out of our lives for a short period of time. Rather, for long-term changes we need to learn how to set boundaries and control the way technology permeates our lives.
Why should I leave my phone home when I go on a vacation when it can help me enjoy my surroundings more?
If you are into stargazing there is an app that can help you identify stars and constellation just by pointing your phone at the sky. If you want to travel and explore new countries, there are apps that can help you discover places you probably would not be able to discover on your own. Why give up on that?
Instead on taking occasional and temporary breaks from technology we must develop discipline to live with it all the time.
With further technological development, there will be only more distractions. It is up to us to learn how to deal with them. This is how you can start:
1. Start small
Small but consistent changes are the only way to change our habits long-term.
If you find it difficult not to reach for your mobile phone every few minutes, you can start by keeping it out of your sight. Keep your phone or tablet at home when going for a coffee with your friends. That will keep you from interrupting the conversation just to check it out of habit.
2. Get organized better
Start by turning off email notification on your phone and computer that keep distracting you. That way you will decrease distractions and filter information better.
After all, the most difficult thing when writing an article is filtering information that readers find interesting and relevant. Especially if you are on the curious side like I am, and everything seems very relevant and equally interesting.
Then, schedule time for responding to e-mail. For example, 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. The most important thing is to set the time for dealing with each e-mail. Do not leave them for later. In two minute time decide whether to delete, respond or archive. That will save your time and prevent analysis paralysis.
3. Stop being apologetic
Don’t apologize for not responding to an e-mail or random message right away. Accustom people to the fact that you will respond as soon as you find the time, but not sooner, unless it’s something really urgent.
There is nothing to apologize for. The world won’t end if we wait for the family dinner to end before responding to a call.
4. Find a hobby
Find something that will completely occupy your mind. You don’t need to go a detox weekend for someone to arrange pottery or yoga classes for you. Find something interesting you can get involved in in your community.
How about the slow reading movement?
5. To begin, begin
Don’t over think it! Just start.
Buy an alarm clock and leave your phone outside the bedroom.
My good friend swears on sleeping better now that she has a new ritual of reading a book before going to sleep instead of browsing the net by habit. She reports sleeping more soundly in absence of beeps and has gradual waking process that allows her to mentally prepare for the day before being bombarded by information and various assignments.
You turn! What are your tips for getting the down time we need? Have you tried something similar? How did it go? What was the hardest part?
The goal of this blog post is to spread the values of self-appreciation and importance of taking care of ourselves, and give you a place where you can feature who you are and celebrate your achievements. All of these values are going to be embodied in “ME Day” celebration on March 16th, 2015.