Digital detoxing – Switch off and feel liberated
In our daily life we are connected at all times to everything and anything. It’s great. But wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from our digital device dependency, even just for a short while?
But how? Is there a place we can switch off and truly detox?
On our recent family holiday to the South Pacific on a beautiful cruise ship, I found there is, and it has some surprising effects.
I thought I would struggle not sharing every photo-opportunity moment (of which there are many when holidaying with your kids and close friends) but after a couple of days, to my surprise, I stopped automatically coming up with a cute tagline that would be perfect for this very moment on my FB/Instagram/Twitter feed, and (almost) completely forgot about using social media for the duration.
Now I say 'almost' as to be truthful, there were some moments that were completely worthy of an immediate Facebook or uTube post, such as my video of the huge throng of 35+s let loose from their children for the evening, bumping and grooving at the 70’s disco party. Not to mention the cruise director appearing in full leathers (a far cry from her daily attire of shorts and company-branded T-shirts) alongside a replica American Indian chief from the Village People! But... once that brief moment of disappointment had passed, the most amazing thing happened... I was living in the moment and enjoying it. And, apparently so was everyone else.
And there it is... The key ingredient for making the DDDD (digital device dependency detox!) work. Everyone else has to be doing it too. That way you don’t feel you’re missing out on anything. It was so refreshing to see hundreds of people sitting around, or dancing, or chatting, or laying by the pool, or at dinner not texting, checking emails, scrolling through their social media feeds or even playing Candy Crush. In fact, apart from the odd photo being taken rarely was a smartphone seen at all.
The true pleasure of travelling back to the early 90’s was that we enjoyed and were present in each actual moment and found we talked more and played with our children more and most of all, did not feel that ever-present pressure to check our emails every few minutes, take phone calls and be connected. It was a relief. I also noticed other people were looking up! Not continually glancing down at a device in their hand.
As a sideline, I was particularly surprised to learn that my smartphone has a considerably long standby time. On any normal day I burn through at least 80% of its battery power, and regularly much more. But, left on, with no other purpose than as a bedside clock, it went for eight days without needing to be charged, and still had 35% power remaining! Who knew??
Of course, upon returning home to our warm and cosy Wi-Fi, I did post up a large number of pics so that our family and friends could see why we were apparently MIA. But rather than posting up that 10-sequence photo set of my baby feeding herself chips for the first time, I was more circumspect in graphically documenting our holiday.
If, over the Christmas/ New Year period you were not as lucky as we were, and the sound of a DDDD appeals to you, then here are some ideas:
A quick Google search lists a number of providers offering "digital detox holidays". Try out one of those for your next holiday, or pick up your Sunday Escape and choose one of the many cruises leaving our shores weekly - do think about your potential for seasickness though... I’ll save that blog for another day!
If a holiday is out of the question. How about a weekend detoxing, pretending you’re out of the country? If you use a separate phone for work emails, then simply turn it off, or better yet, leave it in your desk at the office on Friday afternoon. If you use one phone for everything, suspend your work inbox from your email settings. Don't forget your 'out of office' message. Maybe something like "Thanks for your email, I'm taking a digital detox this weekend, but promise to get back to you when the working week begins"?? Who knows, maybe others will love the idea and do it too! Also, remove any apps that send you notifications about work tasks, calendar events or any kind of alert.
If you're hooked on social media, try deleting all the social networking apps from your phone. If this is not enough ask someone you trust to change your passwords to keep you from logging in from other devices.
If you habitually check news, surf the web and/or live stream shows from the internet, you may need to give up the internet altogether when at home! Turn off your mobile data package and disable your phone from connecting to Wi-Fi. Or even turn off your home Wi-Fi and disconnect your router and the whole household will detox with you. Some prior warning may be in order, otherwise your loved ones may turn on you!
- This may all be too much for you. Some practical measures may suit your better, such as: when at a client meeting or lunch keep your phone in your pocket (not on the table) on silent with NO vibrate. Usually any email arriving during this time can wait until afterwards. Lead by example in your workplace: as the boss/manager make sure you and all your team keep their phones off/on silent and in their pocket during meetings – or better yet, back at their desk. In this way you can ALL be truly present, and the meeting may actually go faster and be more effective. Start the herd mentality at your workplace! "No phones in meetings".
Extend this to your home life – don't have your phone at the dinner table or when talking with family and friends. Alternatively, regularly set aside time where your phone and all your other devices are off, say from 8 pm to 11 pm. In fact, don't read emails at all when at home! Advise your teams to SMS each other only if something is urgent and must be dealt with during home hours. Most other emails can wait.
- But if you really want to turn off... Go the whole hog. Do all the above: Lock away your devices; change as many passwords and delete as many apps as needed; disconnect your Wi-Fi home router; and, most importantly, don't look back until you return to work. It will require willpower and may cause initial anxiousness. But let that go, and live as though it's 1992 all over again, and you will feel liberated.
After my own experience cruising the internet wilderness, I believe that in taking away everything, you will find you are free to do anything. Good luck.
by Anitra Robertson
Intrepid (slightly seasick) ocean explorer
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