When was the last time you were offline for a whole day?
When was the last time you were offline for a whole day? Or even an hour, non-stop, besides from the obvious of being asleep at night or during a flight? Although the latter might not even be obvious anymore, hence now already eight airlines offer free inflight Wi-Fi.
These days they say that being offline, having tech-free hours, is the new luxury. From your work life, to your personal life. Have you ever tried, or denied, to change your digital habits?
I am talking about the so called digital detox, better known as “a period during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world”.
Since the beginning of 2018 every week – or two weeks, I decide to digitally disconnect for a day from the hyper-connectivity to be able to real-life reconnect. Last week, when I had my “offline day”, it was so busy on the digital highway on my iPhone I decided to stay offline for a little bit longer.
Why, you might ask yourself.
“…once she stopped running through life, she was amazed how much more life she had time for.”
In really paying attention, I believe you will probably or at least potentially run into beautiful things that might have been there all along, but escaped your eye because there were enough distractions happening in the same moment. Sometimes you hear that “standing still is going backwards”; I think that we don’t stand still often enough, because everybody always seems in a rush. If you ask someone how they are, answers will often begin with “busy” or “tired” (…but good). Just out of curiosity: what were your last three answers to that question?
I know: to get where we want to be, must be determined, persistent and continuously experiment (and to add the obvious: have fun). But I’d like to believe that I don’t have the time to rush nor hurry and that strength shows not only the ability to persist, but also the ability to stop and/or start over. Think about it: nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. So, I think it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.
Mindful, not Mindfull
Because for me, this exercise was about being mindful (instead of mindfull) and having a growing sense of curiosity towards my surroundings. For example, at an airport, where I was earlier today. It is one of my favourite places to look around as a spectator of life, to simply enjoy what’s happening around me. Wondering where everybody’s going, what I would find in the suitcases of my fellow travellers, things they can’t cross the border without. So many people, so many story’s… Where traveling can leave you speechless, it then turns you into a storyteller – right?
But I also noticed once again, that our daily interaction is mostly via a screen. We wake up to them, we come home to them, and we carry them around in our pockets all day. Even people traveling together aren’t holding hands – they’re holding their phones. And while having a quick bite before take-off, the devices are on the dinner table, screens facing up. Instead of making eye-contact to interact, they are looking down on their screens that lights up asking for their attention. It’s probably next to their pillows when they go to sleep tonight too… with the excuse they need it to wake up in the morning, like actual alarm clocks don’t exist anymore. And as soon as they reach to turn it off in the morning, they’re just one swipe away from checking messages… What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
And in a way, we can’t help it. Every new notification or text triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that drives us to seek rewards; so, you keep coming back for more. And of course, technology may be incredibly useful – it allows us enjoyment and connectivity, it can help us learn new things, save time and work smarter – but it can also be detrimental to our wellbeing in unhealthy doses. Did you know the pressure to be constantly connected has been linked to burnout? It’s time to break free from this constant exposure of digital overload.
The right to disconnect
Probably that is why the past few years several organizations and even countries worked on ways to avoid the compulsive lure of technology. As of 2011, Volkswagen’s servers don’t send or receive emails from company-owned smartphones between 6:15 pm and 7 am on weekdays and weekends. In 2014 Daimler introduced an ‘out-of-office’ auto-delete option, whereby all emails that are received while on holiday are automatically deleted. Or as Adam Atler described their message in his TedTalk “Why our screens make us less happy“: “This person’s on vacation, so we’ve deleted your email. This person will never see the email you just sent. You can email back in a couple of weeks, or you can email someone else.”
And since 2017, French companies with more than 50 employees are even required by law to guarantee workers the “right to disconnect” from technology when they leave the office at night.During my own five days of being “disconnected”, I found myself drinking a nice latte macchiato in a cafe downtown. On the coffee table a magazine, Flow; a magazine of unhurried time, all about doing things differently and making new choices. Small happiness, daily life and the beauty of not always managing to be perfect. Staring at the cover, I tried to remember the last time I sat down to read something else than my work e-mail or a textbook about HR to prepare for a lecture… Then my phone rings. It’s my mom, wondering if I am still alive. Because although she knows I sometimes have my DDD (digital detox day), she was getting worried now because this was ‘next level’ online absence. Talking about disconnect to reconnect.
One of the things I learned was that the more that you slow down your life, the more you fall in love with it each day. That besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a (maybe even) nobler art of leaving things undone. Like one of my favourite proverbs writes: there is a time to run and there is a time to rest. It’s the true test of the runner to get them both right.
Try digital detoxing!
Now you’re about to finish reading this article – ironically via a screen – I invite you to try some digital detoxification for yourself. You don’t have to say goodbye to the digital world altogether or quit using your device, but try to use it less and more conscious by unplugging periodically to start with. For example, take 10 minutes and get away from all screens every 90 minutes to two hours during the workday. Charge your battery to only 50% and leave your charger and power banks at home when you go out. Leave your phone in your bag or pocket during business meetings, meals with other people, or conversations. Keep your phone out of sight while commuting. Don’t take your phone with you into the toilet, or when you go to the supermarket. Turn off all pop-up/banner-like/sound alerts and push notifications. Maybe even delete social media and other time-wasting apps from your phone. Leave your phone outside your bedroom overnight or start with simply putting your smartphone on airplane mode – from an hour before you go to sleep, till an hour after you wake up. Find a detox buddy and tell everyone what you’re doing. And don’t give yourself a hard time if you fail at first or when you experience nomophobia (short for no-mobile phobia).
Have you successfully completed your digital detox? Noticed effects on your sleep rhythm, concentration, energy and stress levels? What benefits of your digital detox are you going to introduce into your everyday life? Let us know what you did and how you felt afterwards.
Good luck – and don’t forget to have fun!