Technology dominates our lives. We own multiple devices and rely on them more and more.
Digital technology is great. It improves our quality of life and keeps things moving. Yet too much of a good thing can easily become a bad thing. Research suggests that we’re getting stressed, feeling overwhelmed and becoming addicted to our devices.
I want to enjoy the benefits of technology, without becoming addicted.
That’s why I detox from digital devices for 24 hours, once a week.
The Ancient Virtue Of A Day Off
A day off from work in order to rest.
This isn’t a new idea. It’s a very old idea that’s worth recycling.
In 1951, Abraham Heschel wrote about Sabbath and the addictive nature of technology:
Sabbath is a day of independence of external obligation, a day on which we stop worshipping the idols of technological civilisation … It is not renouncing technological civilisation, but gives some independence from it.
Times have changed since this was written — few of us are concerned about the destructive nature of black and white TV anymore!
But Heschel was on to something.
As a Jewish Rabbi and specialist in spirituality, he knew the propensity of people to become addicted to the things they love. To counter this, he suggested we keep a day separate from technology once a week (among other things) to rest, re-create and remain fully human.
This is why I keep a weekly digital detox. It helps me to stay in love with technology, yet remain independent from it.
My Digital Detox Routine
It’s not complex. Here’s what I do for my weekly (Saturday) detox:
- I turn my iPhone and iPad off the night before and keep them off all day
- I turn my laptop off the night before and put it away
- I don’t watch television – sometimes I cover it up to avoid temptation
- I don’t check my calendar, to-do lists or social media accounts
- I don’t check the internet, not even the weather
Did you say “turn off my phone for a full 24 hours?” Are you crazy?
What if I was to miss an urgent call? I might have a friend who needs urgent help! Or miss a spontaneous BBQ invitation! Or even news about an impending earthquake in Sumatra!!
Fifteen years ago no one had a mobile phone. Today, 58% of smart phone users don’t go 1 hour without checking their phone. And get this. When people misplace their phones, 73% report feeling the emotion of “panic.”
From my experience, nothing terrible happens when I disconnect for a day. At worst, I’ve missed a few social invites (but hey, I’m an introvert and don’t generally mind!) The trade off is a better quality of time with those people I do socialise with on that day.
That said, if you can’t imagine turning off your phone, try this as a compromise.
Use it only as a telephone. Turn your phone to silent, keep it hidden and check it just a few times during the day for missed calls or text messages.
In other words, go back in time and use it like a 1998 Nokia 5110!
Experiment On Yourself For A Day
How will I know if I need a digital detox? Here’s the test.
Turn off all devices for a day and reflect on how you respond.
Consider it a heart check — an experiment on yourself.
If it’s easy to do, then no sweat — you probably don’t have a problem. Pat yourself on the back and move on.
But if it is hard… or bloody hard? If you feel anxious or sick without your devices; or unhappy at the lack of stimulation; or lost without the web in your pocket — then maybe, like me, you’d benefit from a digital detox every week.
Disconnect To Get Reconnected
I can’t promise that it’ll be easy. I’ve been doing this for 2 years and still find it challenging.Yet the benefits are enormous.
By disconnecting from technology I find that I reconnect with life. I reconnect with my wife and 3 kids. I reconnect with friends (not on Facebook!), I reconnect with God, with nature and with myself.
I become less task oriented and more people oriented. I sit and drink coffee. I do things that energise me — such as read, exercise or garden. I lie on the couch and do nothing. I slow down and allow myself to get bored.
You might ask: “Why can’t you still do these things if you’re digitally connected?”
Well, you can. But the quality is somehow different.
By removing the distraction, I become a bit more present. I switch off from the work in my head and live out a full day in an undistracted, unstimulated and unmediated type of way.
Are you addicted to technology and would you benefit from a digital detox?
- 34% of workers feel “stressed” by the sheer number of emails they receive, according to Hair, M., Renaud, K. and Ramsay, J. (2007). The influence of self-esteem and locus of control on perceived email-related stress. Computers in Human Behaviour, 23: 2791-2803.↵
- 60% of people don’t go an hour without checking their phone – with 39% checking on the toilet and 30% during a meal with others, according to Harris Interactive (2012). Mobile Mindset Study. Retrieved from: https://www.lookout.com/resources/reports/mobile-mindset↵
- Heschel, A. J. (1951). The Sabbath: Its Meaning For Modern Man. Straus and Young, New York.↵
- Harris Interactive (2012). Mobile Mindset Study. Retrieved from: https://www.lookout.com/resources/reports/mobile-mindset↵