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This past weekend I tried a “digital detox”. If you don’t know what this is, it’s where you designate a certain amount of time without screen time. With some digital detoxes, people cut out screens entirely. For me, I wanted to reduce my phone time in particular, so I limited my screen time to 2 hours per day – computer and phone included. (Note: I don’t spend that much time on my computer anyway, and when I do, it’s mostly to look up recipes, so I allowed myself my computer for this purpose.) Social media is the most addictive part for me, so that’s what I focused on.
Social media is a double-edged sword. It’s wonderful because it allows us to expand our reach to a much larger audience (probably how you’re reading this blog!) and connect with people much more quickly and conveniently. However, when unmanaged, can lead to false gratification (by focusing on the number of “likes” and “followers” you have), and compulsive behaviour (instinctively checking those likes and followers numerous times per day). Social media reminds me of sugar sometimes: it’s exciting and fun and I love it, but it’s definitely addictive and can lead to an inevitable crash.
When this crash happens, I know I need a break. Just like when I have too much sugar, my body tells me to take a step back (I’m talkin’ bout you, canker sores). I like to think of a social media overload the same way. When I can’t go 5 minutes without checking my phone, I know I need a break. Enter a digital detox. After some research, here’s how I attempted this.
How To Do A Digital Detox:
Step 1: write down a list of things you want to accomplish during your “detox”. For me, I wanted to read more of my book, bake, spend more time outside, and take a lot of baths. Carve out a certain amount of time for your detox (mine was one weekend).
Step 2: plan to go somewhere where you aren’t surrounded by screens. I went to my cottage with my mum. It’s quiet, serene, and in the middle of the forest. It’s the ideal place to recluse for a few days. If you don’t have access to a cabin, try going camping or even just try it in the comfort of your own home.
Step 3: when you begin the detox, delete apps that take up most of your time. Ironically, there’s an app that tells you which apps take up each amount of time, but I didn’t download this app because I already know my kryptonite: Instagram. I deleted that, Words With Friends (my other source of weakness), and limited my Facebook use. Deleting those apps helped me realize how often I automatically opened my phone, and immediately went straight to that app. It was almost instinctive. This was slightly eye-opening.
Step 4: keep your phone on airplane mode. Try cutting off contact from everyone else who you aren’t physically with. This means texting and emailing, specifically.
Step 5: do your detox with a buddy. That way you’re accountable for following through with it.
Step 6: be prepared to feel a sense of loneliness. I felt oddly lonely (even though I was not alone), but when doing my research beforehand about the detox, no one mentioned this. This might be because I went from constant phone stimulation/contact with friends to none. So here’s my warning: you might feel lonely, and that’s ok.
Step 7: reflect. Yay – you’re done! Check in to see if you accomplished everything on your list beforehand, and reflect on how the detox went overall. Enjoyed it? Great. Hated it? That’s cool too. Would you do it again? Maybe. If so, what would you change? More buddies.
To be honest, I can’t tell if this whole digital detox trend is good or bad. In some ways it’s good because our culture is noticing a decline in attention spans, is clearly craving a break from screens, and it seems is seeking authentic connection. However, it’s odd that we even have to “digital detox” in the first place, no? Either way, getting “back to nature” and sourcing authentic connection is A-OK in my books. If you feel like you’re addicted to your phone, or simply want a break, give a digital detox a go. And let us know your thoughts!