An Experiment in DISconnection

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.

Digital Day-cation

In September I posted a tweet about Jake Knapp's year, free of digital distraction from the iPhone.
post graphic

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.
screenshot adrian lee post
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.

monopoly card

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.

ted talks
Sherry Turkle

Illustrations by © Whitney Sherman, licensed to Terri Nakamura


  1. Anonymous10:28 PM

    Hi Terri!
    I'm so happy to read the post. Thank you for mentioning of me. Actually this is my third time to comment Hope this will come out..
    It was an awesome experience for me to try one day digital detox for the first time. Thank you for the opportunity and the kind support, Terri and Adrian.
    Since then, Saturdays or Sundays have been my 'iPhone free day'. It's funny, though, because it's just going back to the time when we didn't have iPhones. I'm amazed how much influence iPhone has given to us.
    I love technology, and I love iPhone. But it's important to take good balance, as all things has good points and bad points.

    PS. In 'House Of Cards', they text a lot, don't they? ;)

    1. Dear Chiaki,

      Thank you sincerely for taking the time to read, comment, and contribute to this post through trying "digital detox."

      Prior to taking these little breaks, I felt like my phone was an actual extension of my body! Now I really don't think about it when it's turned off.

      Regarding technology and the iPhone, I couldn't agree more! All things in moderation!

      Many thanks again from your friend across the Pacific!

      ((HUGS)) Terri

      PS. I like the visual treatment of "texting" on House of Cards! And yes, they text a lot!

  2. It's odd reading these sorts of things for me. I live and travel in parts of the world where connectivity (wifi and 3G) are not givens, but spottily available. I'm sometimes out of contact for days, not because I choose, but because I can't get online.

    So, for me, I can't say this is a challenge I care to take or means much to me. Instead, I prefer the challenge of going to places and seeing just how much back-door dealing, bribery and cajoling it might take to get me a sim that allows me a 3G connection.

    Want a break from connectivity, try Burma.

    1. RG, Many thanks for your comment here. I really appreciate it! It's nice to converse beyond 140 characters!

      Seattle isn't as wired as other major cities, but there is good accessibility to wi-fi in in coffee shops, libraries and public buildings. Reading your comment about how spotty it is in Burma makes me realize how much I've taken it for granted.

      Thanks for putting things into perspective for me, and again, for taking the time to comment here.

      Looking forward to continuing our connection,

      Terri :)

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  5. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Great insight. One of the few articles I actually enjoyed reading from EA @dnaimagery

    1. Hi, DNA, and thank you for the comment. I'm really grateful that you took the time to read and respond, and super glad you identified yourself so I could leave another "thank you" on your wall!

      All the best!


  6. It is shocking to see the level of phone attachment. I do social media, but do not allow it to come before real life. I just never got into the phone as a constant companion...too intrusive. This is not a challenge since I have no built up addiction.

    1. Current,

      You sound like you've done something right — you've achieved balance in your life! Congratulations :)

      When I started social media (Twitter & FB in 2008?) it was pretty manageable. But with the advent of things like Instagram, Googleplus, Tumblr, and Empire Avenue, there are so many more things to maintain now.

      Since I started taking breaks, I'm feeling like there is hope for me to find balance.

      Thanks for reading and for the comment!


  7. Terri, in January two years ago, I went on a road trip for almost a week without my with friends and nature. It was a bit harsh as the weather was 49 below but very refreshing and enlightening. Now, each week, I do 24 hour digital holiday to recapture those moments.

    1. Dear MHF,

      Forty-nine BELOW? Um. Mary Helen, that is unimaginably cold!

      But hang-time with friends and enjoying nature is soul replenishing, and it's cool that you take a break each week. My goal is to get there, too!

      Thanks so much for your amazing support and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!



  8. MaryHelen Ferris — and


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i'm a graphic designer who loves words. - terri nakamura