If you’re anything like me, you are probably reading this with five other tabs open, you’re listening to music, and your mobile is within easy reach, natch. We are digital natives, the iGeneration, and we are always plugged in, always connected, always on. You probably check your phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night (or is that just me?)
So when I read that the Internet could be rewiring our brains, rendering us unable to concentrate, making us less empathetic and more prone to depression, I started to wonder, why do I feel like I can’t switch on and off as I please? Enter the Digital Detox. The rules: No mobile phone. No computer. No TV. For two. days.
No big deal, right? But I’m not going to lie, I was pretty afraid the whole thing was going to be an embarrassingly Gen-Y failure that just proved how addicted I really am. However, wanting to prove that I could do it, I was up for the challenge. I frantically printed out pages of study, bid my Facebook friends farewell, and switched everything off…
I’m not going to lie, I was pretty afraid the whole thing was going to be an embarrassingly Gen-Y failure that just proved how addicted I really am.
It was a rainy Saturday morning, but I felt a distinct sense of possibility: nobody knew where I was, and nobody could contact me. How freeing! There was also quietness: constant checking of phones, and information overload creates a lot of noise. Without it, there is a lot of time to think. Switching off for the weekend actually wasn’t hard. It was wonderful, and important.
• What did you discover about your digital media use habits?
I am a compulsive woodpecker, always checking my messages, always reading or looking at something online. And most of the time it just is NOT necessary. I wrote down all the things I wanted to look up, and on Monday I did not look up a single one.
Am I addicted to my devices? I’m not sure about that. But I do use them for hours each day without thinking about it.
• Did you experience ‘withdrawal symptoms’?
Nothing hardcore. Just felt a bit anxious.
• What happened when it ended?
I didn’t want to turn my phone back on. When I did, I realised that one of my greatest barriers to reducing my digital media use, my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) had been proven ridiculous by cutting myself off for two days. I hadn’t missed a thing.
• Would you make this a regular event?
Definitely. But as a student, opting out of digital technology (even just on weekends) is not an option. However, I’m already planning a week-long digital detox when I get a chance…
• What advice would you give to others considering a Digital Detox?
Do it for real. Get outside, spend time with your friends, write something down for a change, and give yourself some “you” time.
It’s a break from digital technology, not a break from communication. (I used the home phone twice)
The reason you don’t normally play Scrabble with your family is probably not because of the TV. It’s because it makes you want to kill each other.
Photos from my Digital Detox weekend
All pictures taken with a disposable camera (yes, really)