I’m a big advocate for technology, leveraging it in the daily life. I love using it to become more educated, productive, creative and connected with the world. On the other hand, it’s a double-edged sword. The more you delve deeper into the online world, the more you lose being in the moment in the real (offline) world. I’ve read about and have friends who have gone on digital detoxes in order to stave off their online addiction and bring them back to the basics and details of the real world. It’s no easy act to juggle and most of the time requires a very conscious mindset of the online/offline war.
Personally, I know realistically that going on a complete no-Internet detox for a period of time is just not going to happen. Plus, it’s not sustainable in the long term even if I were to try. Throughout the past six months, I’ve been thinking about what little things I could practise to ‘detox’ in a more sustainable manner. And I think it’s working. I’m rather switched on during the week, particularly given I work at a tech company, it would hard not to be - and I’m okay with that. But on the weekend, it’s me and real world time. My weekends are much more relaxing than what they used to be. This is my version of a digital detox in a world consumed by all things tech.
Do you have similar wrangles with yourself and about becoming too much of an online addict? If you share the same sentiments, I strongly encourage you to be conscious of it and follow these five steps to detox realistically and live a healthier, stress-less life:
1. Unsubscribe and spam filter your inbox
In all seriousness, your email inbox is your digital enemy no.1. The number of times that I have woken up in the morning with an eagerness to check what possibly awesome stuff may have been delivered overnight? It’s an unhealthy addiction and most of the time, I’m disappointed and just spend the time going through and deleting crap.
Learn to be harsh with your inbox and unsubscribe from every single source that is not necessary and just producing clutter. Facebook notifications for mentions - do you really need an email for this every time it happens? Don’t you check Facebook regularly enough to catch such notifications? Unsubscribe. Twitter mentions? Unsubscribe. Linkedin messages? Unsubscribe. Newsletters to stores you no longer frequently shop at? Unsubscribe. The key here is to remove all unnecessary passive streams of information. If you really cared for Twitter, then you would be actively checking Twitter and catch everything there anyway.
For those sources that I would classify as “semi-necessary” (i.e. they’re not important all the time, but sometimes are quite useful to receive) or if you simply have a problem with unsubscribing from things, then mark them all as spam. I’ve done this to mostly shops that I enjoy shopping from. Mark them as spam and whenever something new comes in, it will go directly into the spam folder, bypassing your Inbox. That way, if you don’t actively check your spam folder, which you wouldn’t normally anyway, then you won’t even notice them!
2. Switch off desktop and mobile alerts
This is something I started doing from around August last year and I’ve not looked back since. I’ve found myself to be more productive and less easily distracted at home and at work.
On my iPhone, I don’t receive alerts for anything apart from phone calls, SMS and two apps that I make an exception for: Footy Tips and eBay. The footy because I like to be reminded when a game is about to start in case I want to watch it on TV (and have forgotten to tip) and eBay, in case I am bidding/watching an item and don’t remember when it ends. But with social networks, I have a personal mandate to switch off ALL alerts. No exceptions there! Go to your phone’s settings and there should be a notifications section where you can turn it off for every app there.
Similary for home and work computers, I’ve made sure that there are no Growl or widget alert notifications that appear - ever. And most definitely no notifications for chat applications (that’s digital enemy no. 2).
3. Consciously limit time spent online during your time off
If your day job normally involves use of a computer, it would be hard to consciously avoid using technology during that time. I’m the same, so I wouldn’t expect you to try and detox when it doesn’t make sense to logistically.
What you should try to do instead, is to avoid going online during the time of the week that is your time off. For me, that basically means from Friday night to Sunday night, I busy myself with other things and most of the time, either forget about my phone or don’t have it on or near me. If you find yourself spending minutes or hours checking Facebook, stop, ask yourself why and what else you could be doing!
4. Bring a proper camera with you instead of using your smartphone
When going out, it’s always handy to capture memories on your phone, via Instagram, Vscocam, Hipstamatic and the plethora of camera apps we have these days. But this tends to lead to people just being glued to their phone when really they should be enjoying the scene in front of them! Take the time to edit and share your photos when your home, not when you’re out having fun.
This is why I recommend bringing a proper camera with you instead. Whether it be a compact or DSLR, you’ll have more fun immersed in the moment with your camera, than with your phone. Seriously, try it and you’ll thank me for it. Your camera doesn’t have the ability for you to check your email and Twitter after all, plus your photos should turn out nicer too!
5. Find an offline hobby
Whatever it is, it should be something that takes a decent chunk of time and doesn’t involve anything requiring the use of the Internet. Lately, I’ve become a real hobby gardener and now it’s become a weekly habit that I spend half a day on the weekend tending to my balcony garden. It’s a fun and interesting hobby that I like to partake in and gives me a real sense of the earth.
I also enjoy crochet and watching the football on weekends, both ‘offline’ hobbies that are real joys. So I encourage you to get out there and find something offline that you learn to love to spend your time on. And don’t forget to consciously leave your phone somewhere out of arm’s reach!
Let me know if you plan to start a digital detox too, I’d love to hear how you go!
For those who have gone on a detox, have you got any great tips that I may have missed?
Detox feature image credit