Confession: I’m a pretty tech-obsessed millennial.
Over the past few years, the digital world has emerged into a portal for me to realize exciting opportunities, expand my network, and connect with inspiring individuals around the globe.
Maintaining a fairly consistent presence on a variety of social apps, e-mail, and my blog has evolved as one of my favorite expressions; however, digital saturation can have its drawbacks – like when I start to think “in tweets” or am unable to sleep due to an obsessive tendency to monitor a well-performing Instagram post.
Left unchecked, the technological advances that make our lives easier can become major hindrances to our well-being.
Recent surveys show I’m not the only tech-dependent professional: a 2015 Deloitte survey revealed that the average American checks their phone 46 times a day.
In his latest book, IRRESISTIBLE: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, Adam Alter reveals that 46 percent of people say they could not bear to live without their phone, and some would rather suffer physical injury.
Such overt dependence upon one’s digital devices can cause a garden variety of problems, such as increased anxiety and decreased sleep quality.
As a digital marketing consultant, the idea that I could go a full three days not monitoring social media conversation seemed somewhat ludicrous; however, I scheduled the detox on a holiday weekend to best accommodate for my respite without neglecting client work.
I wish I could tell you that the digital detox was easy, but it wasn’t. The level at which the technological world has evaded my daily routine is quite embarrassing. Taking a break from near-incessant streaming, posting, and tweeting, turned out to be quite the challenge.
Here are a few field notes from my first digital detox experiment:
Within the first hour of waking, hot cup of tea in hand, the urge to check Instagram was almost overwhelming. I read another chapter in Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: the American Dream in Crisis. I was certain the entire world was coming to an end while I postponed swiping through my favorite news feed – VICE. I believe self-appointed Twitter psychologists would call this #FOMO (fear of missing out).
Twitter…yeah…I “accidentally” hit the Twitter button on my laptop three times today. Old habits die hard. I exited the screen before it loaded. I’m glad I didn’t cave to the urge to check social; but, boy, was it tough!
I received some pretty big career news and my first instinct was to put it on social (I didn’t).
Second instinct was to tell the people I ran past at the park…they looked thoroughly confused.
If this was 1990, I’d just pick up my glow-in-the-dark landline phone, make a few calls, get a few “Congratulations”, and that would be that; however, it’s 2017 and social broadcasting is pretty much the only way to go. I stayed strong – no digital – and accepted that the world would not end if I have to wait 48 more hours to update my status.
Also, I really, really, really started missing my online support groups. I’m active in a few: caregiver, feminist, entrepreneur, veteran, and writer; I didn’t realize how much these social connections meant in regards to encouragement and support until I was unplugged.
Last day of the digital-free life and you know what? I’m kinda sad.
I feel incredibly recharged and reconnected, even though my phone’s dead and I haven’t “connected” via social in three days. It’s been so very nice, that I’m actually planning on doing this – a three day digital detox during the workweek – on a regular basis. We’ll see how often I can pull this off.
While I was initially afraid I couldn’t pull it off, or would miss something BIG, life went on (without my constant tweeting) and that is an awesome feeling. Sure, my inbox is probably brimming over with unread messages and maybe a few people who themselves are anxiously chained to their devices 24/7 maybe pissed that I didn’t respond to their inquiry immediately, but that’s their problem, not mine.
Would I do it again?
Would I do a digital detox again? You betcha. In fact, I’m scheduling one on my calendar for every four weeks.
Maybe with a little more business automation and productive practices, I’ll be able to increase the detox frequency to every two weeks, and eventually every week.
During the detox period, I realized that without my mobile devices, I read a lot more (books), could focus easier, and even experienced less anxiety. Acknowledging that my world, both personal and professional, will not “fall apart” without me incessantly checking notifications has been a humbling – and enlightening – experience. Turns out, the devices I felt bound by weren’t binding me at all.
My goal with future digital detoxes isn’t to eliminate technology from my life; instead, I hope to add more balance to my own well-being. 24/7 Connectivity offers many positives –if it wasn’t for social media I wouldn’t even have a business – but staying connected 24/7 present a variety of negatives. My objective is to maintain a happy medium between being over and under connected, and improve my quality of life in the process.
Have you tried a digital detox? Share your experience in the comments below!