As a millennial and ‘digital native’, the idea of purposely going without my digital devices, also known as a ‘digital detox’, is daunting. I grew up in a world of endless hashtagging, drones and digital at my fingertips. Who wouldn’t want to live in a world where BuzzFeed quizzes can tell you what type of Disney mermaid you are, based on your favourite ice cream?
I was surprised to learn that a third of internet users in the U.K are choosing to participate in a digital detox. A digital detox encourages people to disconnect from their devices and reconnect to the physical world for a period of time. The concept has inspired digital detox events around the world, such as retreats hosted by organisations ‘Digital Detox’ and ‘Time To Log Off’. These organisations encourage their retreat attendees to ditch digital devices and take part in holistic activities for the duration of the event.
So, should we all consider doing a digital detox, or is it just another ‘wellbeing’ fad? The word ‘detox’ itself is reminiscent of the many times I’ve convinced myself I would go on a juice cleanse, only to immediately cave into junk food – trust me, it’s hard!
Despite my apprehension to a digital detox, the emerging disconcerting statistics are hard to ignore. According to an Ofcom report, the average adult spends more than 20 hours a week online . France has even introduced a ‘right to disconnect’ law, which aims to stop employees from reading or responding to their work email during period of rest (such as evenings or holidays). It is this constant need to be ‘switched on’ that is causing employees to ‘burn out’. This makes me wonder, does this stem from our need to disconnect from the digital world, or from the need to step away from the pressures of work?
It’s clear why people are pro-digital detox, but is it time to rethink our relationship with our digital devices altogether, instead of trying to find a quick-fix? After all, older generations have filled their evenings with television for decades; did they ever feel the need for a digital detox?
I appreciate that for some people, a digital detox is liberating. However, there is no refuting the benefits of digital if used correctly. In the past, the use of technology was synonymous with the idea of being stuck in front of the TV, subsequently missing out on what the world has to offer. Digital is now more accessible and mobile than ever. Not only can it go anywhere with you, but it can also be instrumental in getting people out of the house and seeing more of the world. It’s also a great way to communicate via video call with loved ones, who you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see.
Whether it be fitness tracking devices, geolocation apps such as Pokemon Go, or social platforms that alert you to upcoming events in your area, there is no doubt that digital offers a sense of freedom, rather than the entrapment that it seems to hold a reputation for.
If you’re like me and can’t see yourself ditching digital altogether but still want to practice digital mindfulness, here are some helpful tips:
It’s been said that the blue light emitted from smartphone screens affects your natural sleep cycle. If you think the bright blue hue on your screen could be affecting your sleep, try turning on the Night Shift setting – which is available on most smartphones. This changes the hue of your screen to a warmer setting when the sun goes down, minimising the impact of the bright light and allowing you to get a good night’s rest.
Do Not Disturb
The ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature is the crescent moon on your phone’s control panel that you’ve probably never used (or the ‘Do Not Disturb’ logo on an Android’s control panel). This setting is great if you want to carry on using your phone to interact with apps and social media, without the constant distraction of pop-ups, such as texts, calls, e-mails and push notifications.
No Phones At The Table
My mum used to say this to me when I was a teenager, to which I probably rolled my eyes. However, now I’m in my twenties, I understand why she banned digital devices at the table. Not only is it terrible table manners, but checking your phone can also distract you from your food, which could lead you to consume more than you intended (hence the aforementioned juice cleanse), or ignore those sitting around you. One London restaurant offers diners the opportunity to lock their phones away while they dine on the premises. The Tea Terrace Restaurants and Tea Rooms said their so-called “phonetentiary” is a small box fitted with a combination lock so customers can ditch their mobile devices at the table. You can read more about why they decided to offer this service here.
Switch Up Your Morning Routine
According to an IDC report, 80% of us have the bad habit of checking our phone as soon as we’ve stopped (or snoozed) our morning alarm. Instead of procrastinating on your phone in the morning, you could use your time to meditate, do some yoga stretches or make a healthy breakfast. If your mobile is just too much of a temptation, I recommend investing in a good old fashioned alarm clock.
Declutter Your Digital
Are you still receiving e-mails and push notifications from apps you haven’t used since 2015? If so, it’s time to declutter your digital. Take a look through your e-mail subscriptions and apps and delete the clutter. This will reduce unnecessary distractions and allow you to concentrate on apps and e-mail subscriptions you enjoy.
You could argue I’m biased, working in a digital agency, but for me, smartphones and apps are brilliant. If used correctly, they can influence positive change, inspire creativity, increase productivity and enable communication.
Would you consider a digital detox? Join in the conversation on Twitter.