We have all read about the benefits of switching off and disconnecting from technology for a while, and like most people, I rolled my eyes and shrugged off this emerging trend of the Digital Detox because; how?
Like a lot of people, most of my life is spent online, from first thing in the morning, turning on our beloved smartphones, using them as sat-nav, mp3 player, for being social and an all round life organiser, until sore-eyes-o'clock at night when we eventually turn them off and charge (next to the bed ~ brilliant, just brilliant) after just one more game of something we persuade ourselves helps get us off to sleep, before waking the next day and being reliant on them all over again. And that's just our phone, not even considering the desktop, laptop and tablets.
I've gradually built up to living this way since the launch of my first business in 2008 when I got my hands on my first Blackberry. Ohhh Blackberry. You changed me. You took me from the girl with the fashionable tiny flip phone *cough Motorola Razr*, in of course the latest colour (pink), to the fruity, sophisticated, sleek smartphone with the satisfyingly clicky buttons, so I could work from quite literally anywhere. And feel proud of it. (Me? Downtime? Who needs THAT when I'm building my empire? Right? RIGHT. Of course, I can reply to this important email from the restaurant while trying to have quality time with my friends. That's what business owners do! Of course, that's a healthy and wise choice for my clients, my own wellbeing and business).
Since then it's been an annual scramble to get my hands on the latest greatest bit of technology to ensure that I can be connected to anyone, anytime, anywhere ~ you know, because life is that important. And I do LOVE Apple products.
Fast forward to 2016 and all this connection is getting somewhat tiresome. Our sleep is affected, our real-life connections are dwindling and don't get me started on the loss of the art of conversation. We condense our sentences, enhanced by pictures because that's what people respond to best (hello engagement), and in turn have started to lose the ability to stretch our imaginations, in place of being validated by the level of reach we achieve. (I also have a huge problem with the use of hashtags. I agree there is a time and place for a few well placed searchable #'s but you know what I'm talking about - 30 hashtags and a casually tossed in emoji ~ now I don't want to accuse anyone of being desperate for attention, but, yeeeahhh).
Have we become lazy in our quest for meaningful relationships? Or is it that we can now have meaningful relationships with people we'd not ordinarily meet?
Do we need the validation of our circles giving us a resounding "Yes! I like this life you're showing me", or is it that we can be more open about how we live for our friends to see?
Can we be a better or more authentic person now we can update our virtual walls and timelines with what we do and how we feel, and as a result have more meaningful connections with people we may not so easily see in this increasingly busy world?
Would the world even be so busy we if weren't all so connected all the time? Gosh, where's the balance?
I can't remember the last time I chose to disconnect. We live in a world where it is normal to post daily images and updates about ourselves for all to see. Now, if we're having a particularly fabulous or rotten day, hell, even if we're about to eat some food, simply update our social media, that way ALL of our friends/acquaintances/distant relatives/colleagues/strangers get to know about it instead of the handful of close friends we may actually converse with.
Even writing this piece I am in turmoil over embarking on this challenge. I do all these things, and more ~ but the balance has gone. My FOMO is raging and my anxiety levels are rising at the thought of losing some of the connections I've enjoyed.
Two months is ages in the digital world. Just think about what I'll be missing! Gah!
I've been living a really happy online life for the last 8 years and I've made some most excellent friendships from doing so, but I'd really like to tip the balance back to using the internet to enhance my real-life rather than having real-life experiences to enhance my social media life. I'd love to have real-life experiences with those fabulous people, so I could update social media about it, rather than describing what I did without them in the hope they can appreciate what a great thing it was. It's like the modern-day version of sitting through someone else's holiday pictures.
I am so guilty of being constantly connected ~ using my phone to Google something about the film I'm streaming whilst doing a bit of something on my laptop and keeping an eye on notifications.
Oh that little red dot of attention. When it pops up it's so tempting to see what's going on and reply. The instant gratification of online conversation and witty exchange is fun! But when you can't ignore the little red dot of attention until the end of whatever it is we're doing - is that our new normal now? When did life become about knowing what our friends are doing so we can have an opinion?
The detrimental effects on our memory are well documented too. Having so many tabs open and devices on at any one time means we can skip between many tasks and this undoubtedly affects productivity. What we used to think of as multi-tasking, we now know is a cluttered and difficult way to work. How many important points do we miss from not concentrating on a single thing at once? Our poor brains!
I remember a time not so long ago that our computer (yes, one computer between us) was set up in the spare room and if we had a few internet based jobs we had to take care of, we'd rushed through them after getting in from work so we could get back to our real physical life. Now it is very firmly the other way around. We rush the real life so we can be absorbed in something online.
But the flip side of this is the luxury of being able to see the world live streamed from the comfort of our own home. We can have the experience of finding any information we want, any time we like without the need to make assumptions or get it wrong. Educating ourselves on world matters has never been so easy.
Earlier this month there was yet another terrorist attack in Europe, which I heard about through the Twitter trending list just as I was closing down for the night. A Periscope video was in the trending timeline, on auto-play, which showed people laying on the ground in the last moments of their life.
I was horrified.
There really are some things you cannot un-see. Live streaming is wonderful when used for the right reasons, but for me, this affirmed the power of social networking and how it can be the ugly truth. I agree people have the right to see what is happening uncensored on the ground in the world, but ultimately, I want to be able to choose. My fear is if uncensored images become the new normal in tragic situations, will we get desensitised to the severity and the shock of a situation?
Deep part over. That for me was the deciding factor for going on a digital detox.
I have been questioning my level of activity for some time and realised I need time to decompress and strike the right balance. I am very genuine when I say I treasure my online friendships and business relationships, but I also need to find a healthier way to have my digital life combine with real life.
It's time to live life-connected.
Now the irony of blogging about my experience is not lost on me ~ truly ~ it is making me laugh/roll my eyes at myself as I type, but online is where a lot of my connections are and the first place we look for information on a topic (thank you Google). It's the nature of how we live.
Even my Mother, in her mid-70's now asks my Father to "Look things up on The Screen" when she needs to know something. So apart from a bit of work research, this will be my only connection to the online world for two months.
So what will my digital detox involve? Well, I've given it plenty of thought and would like to think that this detox will have a decent impact, but not hinder my real working life so the rules I'll be following are these:
no social media at all
internet access for work only (emails and the odd bit of research) during office hours
checking this blog and responding to comments at certain intervals daily
paper based diary
mobile phone for calls and texts only
FaceTime & Skype for clients only
no online shopping
no online courses
My intention is to write an article here once a week by way of diarising the time, and I promise to be honest ~ I shall include any cheats I may give in to, if it's helping or hindering in any way and generally how I'm feeling about the process.
It's time to become present.
I crave the ability to enjoy watching a film, or reading a book, or go to the gym without reading emails on the cross trainer (guilty), or finding an answer online to the particular 'thing' that popped into my ever racing mind at any point in time and creating some mind space to relax into.
These are the tools I shall be using over the coming weeks
Remember when our phones were smaller than our lipgloss?! Hello, one-handed texting and time to journal with a real pen instead of typing!
During this experiment, I will be measuring factors such as:
- overall mood // feeling
- how I slept
- daily fatigue levels
- the rush factor in my day
- connection with friends & family
- quality of meditation
- inner peacefulness // balance
- creativity // inspiration
- anxiety levels
- sense of wellbeing
- feeling of validation
By being aware and noticing these factors, I am hoping to see how my pull to be online changes and how reliant I am on it. It is always my first port of call for everything. I will also be interested to see if there is a shift in my creativity, the way I promote my work and attract clients and ultimately my overall sense of health & wellbeing.
It would be great if you could leave comments on the articles and we can chat further at the bottom of the posts here on the blog. Are there any factors I've not thought of you'd like to explore when switching off?
If you like, you could even join in. Try it for a morning, a day or even a weekend. I'd love to know how you get on and if there was any benefit for you ~ I'd even love to know if you hated it! All real-life experiences of how it went will be so useful to hear about.
I am so torn about how this is going to feel but I hope to relax into it well and enjoy the process. You can sign up to the mailing list at the bottom so you don't miss out on the weekly update and I would also be thrilled if you felt like sharing this with your network.
We are also very lucky to have another excellent coach doing this detox with me. He will be writing an article which I will post up here once he's completed his detox. He's a hugely respected coach in his field and I am very excited to have his take on the project. I just know you'll enjoy what he has to say.
Also, if anyone reading this would like to give it a try and write a few words about your experience, I'd be very happy to include your thoughts here. Drop me a note through the contact page and I'll post it up!
My digital detox will last two months from 1st August to 30th September.
See you in there! Love,