Thirty days ago, I embarked on a Digital Detox and started out on a journey to become more aware of how I use digital devices. I was catching myself mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds, or glossing over blog posts and not spending the time to really read the content that was before me. We’re all guilty of this, and as technology continues to advance, there are some startling statistics about how we are all consuming digital media and using our smart phones.
Research estimates that the average user checks their smartphone approximately 150 times per day. Guilty … I was doing this so often at work, tapping the home button on my iphone to see who had messaged me or what alerts had popped up, which was causing me to lose focus on what I was working on. But what’s even more troubling is how our dependence on these devices is impacting other aspects of our lives.
A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found a strong and significant association between social media use and depression, low self-esteem and increased anxiety. What’s more, as our tech habits deny our brains important downtime, our ability for deep-thinking and maintained focus is reducing. At the start of 2017, this is exactly how I was feeling … distracted, unfocused, uninspired and quite down.
I wasn’t sure why I was feeling this way, so I decided to take a break from my blog, Six Foot Style, for one month while pursuing a digital detox. It was my hope that a 30 day break would allow me to realign and find inspiration again, while helping me to make conscious and intentional boundaries about how I use technology.
I am the type of person that seems to stick to something much more when I have a group of people participating with me. So, I tapped my friends and asked if anyone would want to partake in a digital detox, and to my surprise, four of my fabulous friends were willing to try!*
Each day during the month of February, we all underwent a small challenge relating to our digital devices. From little things like turning our phones off for one hour, or eating dinner in a different room than our phones, to the larger challenges like turning off all emails for an entire day, or not using Google Maps and asking for directions instead.
There were some beautiful challenges along the way as well, like writing out birthday cards for friends rather than sending digital cards, or buying a new book (the physical kind) instead of downloading a digital copy. For a full list of daily challenges, check out the Time To Log Off YouTube page.
While we all had different experiences during the digital detox, my lovely friends and I were all thankful that we participated at the end of the 30 days. As we pulled away from our devices, many of us realised that our smartphones have become essential components of our lives, but that we can find a balance in how we use them throughout the day.
See what my friends had to say about the detox:
“What I’m finding is that, although I always think of my devices as the devil, they’re actually my friend … I do need to be more mindful of the time I spend scrolling aimlessly on social media, but overall, these challenges are actually showing me that I’m mostly responsible about the use of my devices. Specifically with my phone, I love my daycare app … I can check in on my girls, see pictures of what they’re doing, and get updates on food/bottles/etc. This is productive and the use of technology makes it far easier and allows me to use my time more efficiently.” – Kristen
“I intentionally didn’t find my phone while feeding my son today and he was more than thrilled with the nonstop eye contact. We’ve enacted a rule of no phones at the dinner table so I’m happy to stop being so distracted by this device I’ve grown so attached to the last 16 years.” – Joanna
“I expected to find at least some exercises hard, to feel torn being away from my phone, to feel some level of FOMO and to also experience the well-earned bliss of total engagement for my suffering, to be more alive and alert from having escaped the throes of this devious, attention seeking device … and that isn’t quite how it went. I was continually reminded and astonished by how much functionality my phone provides in my life. It is quite the little multitasking machine and I am grateful that in a few little inches of space I have the ability to take notes, photos, reference q’s….order pizza. Its absence made me more mindful of how much I take it for granted and I also realized that I have a bit of a built-in luddite juxtaposition. I enjoy physical things just as much as digital and they are an everyday part of my life. Being away from my phone didn’t make me feel as anxious as I thought it would.” -Christine
I loved that each day had a small challenge, and that this wasn’t a total purge of my digital devices from my life. Like my friends, I found that after starting the challenge and reflecting on how I use my phone, I wasn’t as addicted as I thought I was … in that when a challenge called for turning my phone off for a period of time, or eliminating notifications, or turning off email I not only survived, but I felt fine while doing that task. And this feeling has stuck with me.
When I venture out to dinner with friends now, I make a conscious effort to keep my phone in my bag, so that my friends have my full attention. Today, I don’t look at my social media several times throughout the day, but instead, I dedicate a period of time when I’m home and relaxed to look at my various pages. This is helping me focus on the content in my feed, rather than scrolling and double tapping in an effort to ‘keep up’.
I feel like I’ve hit refresh with my phone and how I use this device throughout my day, and I’m feeling more inspired and less down than before the detox. It is my hope that these new habits will stick with me, and I can continue to maintain the balance between my digital use and time without my devices.
*Sending a special thank you to Christine, Kristen, Ginna and Joanna … my four fabulous friends who were willing to take part in the 30 day detox with me, keep me encouraged along the way, and give their feedback when the detox was over. Love you all.