The Digital Detox
A digital detox sounds like something pretentious people do – like a juice cleanse, but for phones and stuff.
And no one needed one more than I did.
My routine is the same every morning. Wake up. Pick up the phone from where it’s buried in my bed. Read and return emails. Tweet. Facebook. Secret. WhatsApp. All before my feet hit the floor. I am extremely connected. There is no “off” button.
I also sleep with all manner of books, laptops, iPads, notebooks, and magazines crowding my bed. I’m a mess.
And I am not alone.
83% of Americans don’t dedicate any part of their day to just thinking.
A study by the University of Virginia found that people who were asked to sit in a room and spend 15 minutes doing nothing would rather give themselves a self-administered electric shock. Most people would prefer an unpleasant activity/experience than none at all.
Let that sink in.
I’d like to think that I’m not quite at the place where I’m willing to give myself an electric shock for entertainment, but it’s close.
So I jumped at the chance to disconnect and hang out with my friends at a private campsite outside Fall River Mills — a sleepy town 300 miles from San Francisco and a world away from the constant activity of a hyper-connected life. Okay, when my friend asked me how many pillows I would need, I realized it was more glamping, than camping, but I still had no cell phone service and intentionally left my laptop at home.
What do you do during a digital detox?
From a purely activity standpoint, I hiked, I boated, I laid out in the sun, I went to a thrift shop and bought a hipster typewriter (stop judging me).
But unplugging from the internet also gave me a huge creative boost.
I was able to read two books that I really wanted to finish and would have taken me weeks to finish had I been at home with all the responsibilities and YouTube Beyonce videos that internet access allows. I outlined future blog posts. And most importantly, I reconnected with friends and had the time and space to let my mind wander.
So do whatever makes you happy…that doesn’t involve the internet.
How can you do your own digital detox?
First: stop Tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking or whatever else you’re doing.
A digital detox is nothing but turning off everything that sucks you into media and the internet. Phones. Tablets. Televisions. All of it.
Being forced to disconnect is effective. There are plenty of yoga and meditation retreats and now an entire cottage industry has cropped up around helping the tech addicted let it all go.
Camp Grounded is the “summer camp for adults” in Anderson Valley, CA where you’ll pay $500 to disconnect for a weekend and do non-internety things like playing games, cooking without the aid of Epicurious.com, and singing campfire songs. It sounds a lot like the Girl Scout camp I went to when I was a kid and I’ve heard it’s awesome, so if you have the inclination and disposable income, go for it.
But a digital detox doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t even have to take you out of your city (although there’s something to be said for a forced disconnection and change of scenery). Take some time to wander around a bookstore, go for a walk, or sit in your apartment and just BE.
Digital detoxing should happen much more often than once a year. Try to plan an internet-free day once a month. I’m not even there yet, but what would it be like if you could completely disconnect for one day a week?
What did you bring back with you?
Even before I disconnected for a few days, I was starting to get worried about how being super-connected was affecting my health and wellness. I wasn’t sleeping well, my neck and back were sore all the time, and there wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t thinking about work or the next big thing.
A lot of people would say that the first thing you should do is remove your mobile phone from the bed. I still sleep with mine; but, I’ve started doing yoga more often and before I dive into the alerts on my phone, I hit the mat. Some people start the day with meditation. Whatever your kink is, find it.
I’ve also been carving out time to get massages, read actual physical books (from the library no less), and spend time connecting with my friends offline.
I’m never going to be the sort of person who regularly goes for days without checking their email or sending a Tweet, but I can find more daily balance and carve out time to hit the reset button with a complete digital detox every few months.