Why We Need to Digital Detox
Our Irrepressible Need to Be Connected
From the moment we adopted the smart phone—a tiny, life-altering portable computer—the need to stay connected intensified.
Our devices provided us with instant connectivity. And with the introduction of social media, the time we spent connecting practically doubled as we kept up with daily news of not just real life, but also virtual friends.
It’s extraordinary how technology enables us to have our family and friends as close as our pockets. But our devices can be like a spoiled pet—needy and demanding.
In September I posted a tweet about Jake Knapp's year, free of digital distraction from the iPhone.
A Twitter friend, Adrian Lee, saw it and tweeted me to say he was going to give it a try for 24 hours. I didn’t think about it too much until he wrote about it.
He did it! I was so impressed!
Social media relationships, as those in real life, thrive when you are present and wither when you are gone. I wanted to give it a shot but felt anxious about it. It sounds lame, but I wondered if I could I last for 24 hours? And I wondered if there would there be any negative fallout?
Obviously I’d never find out unless I tried.
Entering the No-Phone-Zone
Following Adrian’s lead, I chose a day to turn off my phone, and leave it off. It’s a lot harder to back out of something when someone is expecting you to follow through, so I told a few people about my plan ahead of time.
Turning off the phone was not a big deal. But leaving it off, turned out to be fascinating for me.
Almost immediately I felt like I was given a “get out of jail free” card. Feelings of freedom and happiness enveloped me like a warm hug. I wasn’t enslaved to answer text notifications or phone calls, or subconsciously “tune in” to the hums, lights and beeps emitted by my phone.
Turning off my iPhone felt like time traveling back to a simpler time. I realized how much we have given up by partitioning our brains to constantly pay attention to our devices.
Not only could I do it — it was one of the most blissful days I’d enjoyed in years.
And as for negative consequences — there was one: I missed my friends on Twitter. I almost always answer every tweet directed to me, and I think people have come to expect that of me. And I regret, I didn’t. But did the world blow up? No.
Digital Detox—a Virtual Gift
Afterward, a friend, Chiaki Fujita, and I tweeted about it. Chiaki and I have a lot in common. We like talking about our families, and love some of the same authors, films, books, cooking and music. (We also love the HBO show, House of Cards!) Following Adrian’s and my experiences, Chiaki also took a digital break. And since that first time, we’ve both revisited it again. I’m writing this blog post on my fourth “digital day-cation.”
From a single tweet, at least three people came to experience a day free of digital distractions.
Participating in digital detox puts you back in touch with the real people in your life. It demonstrates how being tethered to your device is self-regulated. By encouraging others to take a break, you give a gift that costs nothing, but has great value.
What Did I Learn?
I learned it’s important to give time back to yourself. I learned the social media world keeps revolving no matter what. I learned it’s okay to eschew “good manners” temporarily—most people can forgive you for that.
When you have a business as I do, it’s necessary to be consistently and reliably available to clients and colleagues. I knew if something important happened, they always had ways to reach me. And I learned, in spite of how important we think it is to maintain a daily presence on social media, it isn’t.
Holidays are stressful. This season, give yourself a gift of peace by taking a “Digital Detox” day. And let me know how it went!
My recent digital day-cation was spent two hours away from Seattle, near Mount Rainier. I came back to find a notice from Fedex, alerting me of the arrival of a new Verizon Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to test. And so it began again.
For an insightful journey exploring our connections with one another, please enjoy watching a wonderful TED talk by Sherry Turkle, called "Connected, but Alone." She discusses how technology has altered the connections we have with one another. You might find it resonates with you, as much as it did with me.
Illustrations by © Whitney Sherman, licensed to Terri Nakamura