Learning From A Two Week Digital Detox

Originally published in October 2015.

Sure it’s only two weeks I said to myself as I mailed my essential contacts to let them know that I wouldn’t be available for a fortnight. I set up a blogpost so that readers would know what I was up to. Then I deleted social media applications from my smart phone. Yes. I deleted them so that I wouldn’t be tempted to use them. I turned off every single notification I could, after I’d made sure to take a note of all-important passwords. Yep I was ready to become disconnected.

In August 2014 I did something similar, but this time it was for a whole fortnight. It wasn’t just me though, my husband had agreed to go on a digital detox with me. When I think about it we are constantly connected to the online world. When I’m in the kitchen working I have podcasts running in the background, when I’m out and about I have the phone with me in case somebody needs to contact me and it’s irresistible not to check the phone on a busy day, particularly when I spend so much of my day outdoors. In the evening we sit down for a while to watch TV and often end up dual-browsing/observing what’s on the telly without actually taking it in. Don’t think that this is unusual, in my experience it’s a fairly normal description of an average household.

I’ve had enough with this always-on lifestyle though. It bugs me when I don’t feel present, parenting mindfully and being in the moment means that I shouldn’t have a blinking phone or camera in my hand to document it or discuss it online. Watching TV is fun with Twitter open on the phone but it’s intrusive and resting at night was becoming more difficult as the phone was in my hand until I went to bed and again first thing in the morning.

Anyway, we shut down for two weeks. It was difficult and I did have to go online more than once, to do a couple of work-related bits, but I resisted the lure of staying connected. What did I do? I read books, a lot of books. As a family we did stuff together (and I’ll explain more about what we got up to in the weeks ahead). As a couple we physically looked at one another an awful lot more, we talked about things without feeling that there was a third (or fourth) person in the room.

What has changed since?

I’ll be very honest here and tell you that as soon as we went back to our normal lives being constantly connected became the norm again. However, 6 or so weeks on and I’ve decided it’s not for me. I’ve taken back up my evening hobby of knitting so that my hands are occupied and I don’t pick up the mobile. I do schedule a couple of social media updates throughout the day, and I limit checking my social media to a certain amount of time in each hour. In the morning when I’m responding to messages/email/social media stuff I set a timer on my phone. I have to get it all done before the timer goes off.

I’ve found that I’m becoming more productive. My time is limited enough as it is, I was getting bogged down in a time-suck of social media. I’m sure it’ll happen again but at least I’m more aware of it now and I have tools to manage it with.

Have you tried a digital detox? Would you be able to? Really?

From today (5th August) until 23rd of August 2017 I’ll be on a digital detox once again. The majority of updates you see from me on social media are prescheduled! I’ll be back soon!

12 thoughts on “Learning From A Two Week Digital Detox

  1. Yes to everything and well done. A few months ago I went and bought a non-smart phone. €20 or something like that, it just does calls and texts. I love it. I don’t hear a single beep! I tried turning things off on my old (smart) phone but sometimes they reconnected themselves…freaky and annoying. My husband keeps suggesting new phones to me but I love my new stupid phone.

  2. Great idea. And fair play. My brother gave me a book ages ago called The Power of Less and he talks in it about scheduling time for checking emails and online stuff and the idea that knowing you only have a limited time focuses you on the task.
    I don’t know if I could do a full detox but definitely need to forget the phone some days. I hate seeing people sitting in a restaurant with heads buried in their phones.

    1. Yes I agree. Having less time really focusses you on the task at hand. Forgetting the phone may make you anxious though! If you haven’t already I recommend turning off all push notifications on your phone. It’s amazing.

  3. I love your posts. I just love em. I’ll write some more about why, perhaps tomorrow. I’ve got to get my two kids ready for a birthday party ( we’re going to attempt the baking of a cake). Single Dad

  4. I haven’t done a detox Caitriona, it would be a good idea for me to be honest! But in an effort to cut down on social media time I deleted the FB and Twitter apps from my phone. I have to go to chrome or whatever to access them. It is working, I can only check in when I have the rest of the day out of the way. I don’t get any notification noises either which is actually great.

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