(pretty impressive screen smash, right?)
6am, London, some form of weekday, and my alarm is gently sounding off with a delicately tinkling chime of bells (a subtle sound chosen to make me feel less miserable/angry/depressed to be pulled from joyous slumber, that surprisingly doesn’t seem to have the desired effect.) The first move: check Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, emails, and messages. Any more followers? Comments? Favourites? What news have I missed in the past 7 hours? Has that crazy girl Bethany from my hometown written another angry drunk Facebook status ranting about how her ex-boyfriend isn’t paying child support? No? That’s a shame, I love a bit of drama to get me going in the morning. Okay, everything checked, it’s now time to start the day.
According to the Deloitte mobile consumer report, a third of smartphone owners check their phone within five minutes of waking up. One in six also checks their mobiles more than 50 times a day. Our digital devices are dictating and defining how we spend our time: during the commute, just before work, tactfully scheduled coffee-and-phone-check breaks, the commute home, whilst cooking dinner, before bed, and probably a billion other times when your phone flashes up and distracts you from what you are doing. And we’re developing not only a dependence on them, but an obsession with them. Is it time for a digital detox? And more importantly, could you forgo your devices in favour of a little off-radar sanctuary?
As a digital influencer, a technology detox is especially hard. When your blog and business requires an online platform to promote and advertise (unless you fancy spending your day walking around wearing an A-board with your website link on it, old-school style) it becomes a little more difficult to pull yourself away from your smartphone. But despite the benefits of promotion, the digital world has a darker side that can pull us under. Instagram is constantly perpetuating a beautifully curated lifestyle that’s filtered to a hyper-real level, and thus totally unachievable, having the ability to play on on our self-confidence because our lives aren’t quite pulling in as many likes and followers as that instafamous Jessica with the three adorable puppies and professional footballer boyfriend *sigh*. Twitter is a breeding ground for trolls (my mum, who has tweeted about 7 times, became a slight victim to one as she put out an opinion and someone decided to tweet her some abuse) and can create anxiety about sharing when there are so many people willing to pull you down. Emails pile up. Facebook is full of people pushing their achievements that are oh-so better than yours. Oh, Emily Argar just got a promotion AND bought her own house. I’ll just sit here in my dingy rented London flat whilst I figure out whether tinned lentils or an out-of-date jar of pesto will make a better accompaniment to the mouldy cheese in my fridge. Does this sound a little bit like you? Well maybe it’s time to switch off.
So what are the benefits of a digital detox?
One of my exes was obsessed with his phone. We used to sit at dinner in a nice restaurant, and as soon as he’d ordered food, he’d sit and scroll through Twitter as if I wasn’t even there. I’d precede to complain. He’d then complain about me complaining. Then we’d sit in silence whilst he twittered away and I smashed through a bottle of wine, solo, to try and make the silence more tolerable along with numbing my disappointment in him (no wine or spirit, my friends, is quite strong enough for that). Think about the last time you went for dinner or drinks with your friends. How often were you or your friends checking your phones? Every time you pick up your phone when you are with people you’re signing out of your real-life current situation in order to sign in on a digital, virtual one. When my phone’s constantly going off I can never quite fully engross myself in conversations with friends and give them the full attention they deserve as I’m so distracted. Then I leave feeling like I’ve not really made the most out of seeing them.
Next time, make a rule of putting your phones on do not disturb, and actually fully engage with one another, or you might find your relationships failing as you can’t commit to giving someone the attention they deserve (and yes, for the record, the phone issue was a major contributor as to why I dumped my ex… I need attention okay)
The digital world allows for an influx of information to bombard our senses, the majority of it being total white noise that is no use to us and can cloud or judgement, opinions, and thoughts. Taking a step back and switching off can give you the clarity to refocus and realign what you want to do and achieve, leading to a greater level of productivity.
There’s no one-size-fits all approach. Some people prefer going cold turkey, whilst others are into babysteps, so here are a few tips on how to introduce some balance.
1. Once a month, take 24 hours to go tech-free. Switch it all off! For those digital influencers, this doesn’t mean your blog or business has to suffer. Schedule a few tweets before hand to make sure you’re still keeping yourself in the loop whilst staying off the grid.
2. Do something productive with your time off. Make a digital-free day plan. Exercise, cook something new (although the pull to Instagram it might be a little too much for some, like me…) read a book, explore a new part of the city sans Citymapper or Google maps, or go to a museum, visit your friends, go spend the day talking to your grandparents. Be productive in an old-school way.
3. Switch off notifications. Recently, I finally decided to switch off Instagram like notifications because whenever I posted I found that I was obsessing and stressing over how much my phone was flashing. It’d make me nervous and anxious for an hour or so after posting. “Am I getting enough likes? Do people like this photo? Maybe I should just delete it?!” Turning off the notifications has totally eradicated all of this stress. Without the phone flashing up, I just seem to forget I’ve posted and can continue to get on with other things minus the social media stress. The same goes for other social media sites. Switch off all notifications so that you’re in control, not your flashing phone.
4. Switch off an hour before bed or after you wake up. Just an hour digital detox before bed can do wonders for your wellbeing, and help stop you from doing that Instagram explore feed binge until oops, it’s 1am and where the hell did those 3 hours just go???