My 10-day Digital Detox
My phone normally is with me everywhere—yes, even in the bathroom (75 percent of Americans do this) at times. My iPad greets me in the morning with news and some fairly competitive games of Words With Friends. My email greets me with problems to solve. At stoplights, my phone keeps my mind busy so that, God forbid, I just relax.
One Friday at 5 p.m., I turned off work email and deleted it from my mobile devices. I moved Facebook, Words with Friends and other applications off my home screen. I stopped reading the news. In essence, I paused my addiction to instant gratification through digital devices.
My vacation began that Friday night, and I had nothing planned other than hanging out with family, both at home and on a short trip to Georgia. With nothing to do and no electronics to distract me, how would I spend my time?
The first morning I woke up, I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxed I felt drinking coffee and not reading the latest news and playing Words With Friends. As the day went on, I left my phone in the room most of the day. By the end of the day, I realized I was going to like this vacation.
Each day I awoke more fully present with my family. Watching my kids more intently than normal because I was free of most distractions. My phone often rang or received text messages that I did not see for hours.
On Tuesday, we were in the car all day driving around from 8 a.m. to about 8 p.m. This was the first time I really wanted to check my phone. Fortunately, a few people were texting me and I had not put texting on my detox list (I, in fact, told people they could call or text me but for the most part no one did). Driving around that day (and stopping and waiting often) made me realize how much I like Facebook and other distractions when I’m extremely bored.
By Wednesday, I was back to not missing electronics. We spent the weekend in Georgia with my family and I continued my detox. Weirdly, when I was with the family doing activities (they were posting on Facebook), I felt out of the loop. There I was enjoying the activities with them, but unable to enjoy the extension of the activities on Facebook.
On Sunday night, we drove home. Other than listening to an audiobook ("The Dragon" by Stephen King if you must know) while driving (audiobooks while driving on long trips is a requirement for sanity), my phone was nothing more than a glorified GPS.
Arriving at home Sunday night, I cleaned up my personal email and caught up on Facebook. On Monday morning, my work mailbox greeted me with a vengeance. I was able to get it under control by the end of the day.
For me, the most valuable part of the detox was not being connected to work email. Not seeing every little issue as it occurred reduced my stress level significantly. Knowing people could still reach me in case of emergency allowed me to know that nothing really needed my attention. I’m now in a better, healthier place to collaborate with my colleagues.
Dropping the daily dose of news (from newser.com primarily) was another big benefit. Just not thinking about all the crazy issues in our world further reduced my stress. Oddly, dropping Words With Friends was a benefit too, but I can’t really put my finger on why.
The most surprising thing to me is that dropping Facebook made me feel less connected to my friends and family despite being around them. Overall, not checking Facebook was better for me, but I was still surprised how much I missed knowing things that were going on. I did de-friend a few people and muted a few others who posted so much junk it ruined my feed when consuming it all in one sitting (instead of my normal bite-sized routine).
For me, the digital detox was a good 10-day experience that I will likely repeat every year or two. The biggest change for me has been that I’ve already reduced my consumption of Facebook and other digital tools. Work email for some reason just won’t slow down. Fortunately, I genuinely like my colleagues and my work, so I’m happy to have lots to do.