5 Things I Learned From My 2-Week Digital Detox
January 12, 2020
Before beginning our trip back home to visit our families for the holiday season, I decided that I would do the biggest digital detox I’ve done to date: 2 weeks.
My definition (different to others) of a digital detox encompasses turning my phone off and trying to avoid my laptop where possible. I don’t avoid the TV but my usage naturally drops off as I’m striving to do non-technological activities and be more present.
If you’re unfamiliar, I’ve been trying to do the #48HourChallenge where I shut my phone off Friday evenings and turn it back on again on Monday morning. I’ve found it to be wonderful for my mental health and typically look forward to doing them (although, not every weekend like the couple who started the challenge). Knowing that emails weren’t going to be rampant (not the important ones anyway – my spam inbox was ridiculously full once we returned home) and that I’d fulfilled my Simply Saffy duties prior to our trip, I felt confident that this detox was perfectly timed.
Now that I’m back home in Denver and have access to my phone and computer again, I decided I’d do a little reflection and share my experience with you because I can confidently say that it truly was an eye-opening experience. I’d heard all of the devastating stats (listed at the bottom of this post in case you’re curious) about phone/social media usage and whilst they shocked me, they clearly hadn’t made me change my habits enough to make a difference. Well, this detox was that pivotal moment.
Here are my takeaways:
1. It’s An Actual Addiction
On the (very very long) road trip from Denver to Florida I initially found myself wanting to reach for my phone whenever there was a lull in conversation or hint of potential boredom creeping in. This happened for the first few hours and then slowly started to fade away as I occupied my mind with different thoughts. Instead of getting lost in my phone like I previously would’ve, I decided to engage in conversations with my husband (& eventually family once we arrived) and truly be present.
Just like any habit/addiction, they’re breakable. It takes a concerted effort and a little bit of self restraint but it’s wonderfully rewarding when you come out the other side.
2. Observation of Others
Imagine the feeling of being in a room full of people all on their phones and you without yours. There is silence in the air, no one is communicating with one another and you’re patiently waiting for someone else to realize just how sucked into their devices they are so they’ll snap out of it start a conversation with you. That’s the problem, though. You don’t realize just how lost you are in your mobile until you’ve sat there and watched it happen. To be frank, it was quite a sad moment for me the first time it happened on this trip (& it happened several times…). I was genuinely upset at how dependent we’ve become on our devices and how much we’ve lost the ability to connect with one another.
I don’t want to be that pushy vegan or “hippie” that has to speak her mind constantly when someone does something against my beliefs, but it did get to a point where I may have hidden a few phones whilst playing board games or pointed out that someone had been on their phone constantly whilst in the same room with myself and others. I felt the need to make others aware of just how attached they were and no-one fought me tooth and nail! Most realized that we had limited time together and that they were perfectly fine putting it down right that instant (because, they really weren’t doing anything that important on it to begin with!).
We took our puppy, Toulouse, with us on this trip and I can proudly say he is the most observant and present dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He sits, listens, watches, tries to comprehend, and has such a fascination with the world around him. We’d leave him outside for ages to just sit in the garden (never running away or chasing anything!) and watch birds in the trees, squirrels scampering on the fences, cars passing by and anything else that would peak his interest. I admired his mindfulness and found it a reminder to look around and take in the world as it’s happening around us.
Gratitude comes from practicing mindfulness. Living in the present and being grateful for what we already have right now is key to living a happier life. Instead of striving for an end goal in the future, comparing our current state to others’ and constantly wanting more, we should slow things down and appreciate how far we’ve come and what we’ve already got.
4. Anxiety Inducing
I had to turn my phone on twice this whole trip: once for a FaceTime with my friend in Australia and once to meet up with a friend in Miami (I needed Google Maps because I’m absolutely useless without directions!). Besides that, my phone was either off or in airplane mode. Both times I turned it on, I was instantly hit with a waive of anxiety. It was most likely the overwhelming bombardment of email / WhatsApp / text / Instagram / Snapchat / etc. messages that came through at once and I immediately wanted to be a hermit and hide under a rock away from the online world.
If we’re exposing ourselves to constant push notifications from all our apps, this anxiety builds and creates a stress on our minds that is not healthy! It’s not necessary to be that up-to-date on news and people’s lives as frequently as we are. These two moments made me realize just how much my phone is a source of stress and I find power in being able to remain offline as much as I feel comfortable now.
Prior to switching my phone off, I didn’t text any of my close friends to let them know I was turning my phone off. I simply uploaded a post to Instagram and called it a day – assuming everyone would read that and be fine with my disappearance. This also meant I didn’t send any early Christmas or New Year’s Eve wishes to anyone prior to the events and selfishly kept that day to myself and the people I was surrounded by. I felt guilt at first for not sending out the annual “Merry Christmas” text but then thought: “Does anyone really care whether I sent a text out on Christmas day?” Surely they’re busier with their own families and aren’t tallying our friendship via a text message. However, I will be better about letting those close to me know when I’m planning on doing a detox for any *knock on wood* emergency that might happen whilst I’m offline. Putting one’s mental health first should be a priority but not at the expense of important relationships. This was my biggest “improvement” takeaway of the detox.
Overall, the 2-week detox brought my mind clarity, reduced my anxiety, allowed me to soak up every precious moment with my family and was a rewarding challenge that I suggest everyone experience. Starting with just weekends is a great way to ease yourself into longer stretches of no technology.
What are your thoughts on digital detoxes? Have you tried them before? Any takeaways that were different to mine?
Phone/Social Media Usage & Mental Health:
New Studies Show Just How Bad Social Media Is For Mental Health – Forbes (studies linked in article)
Social Media Is Giving Kids Anxiety – Joe Rogan & Jonathan Haidt (social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business)