10 things you know if you have taken an unintentional digital detox

At the end of February some of the team members from The Modern Woman took a work trip to Barcelona. Although we didn’t see many of the touristy sites as we were working pretty long hours we did unfortunately fall foul to one thing that Barcelona is quite well known for, pick pockets. In the space of an hour I went from having two phones to none. As we were away on a busy work trip I had been getting hundreds of emails, WhatsApp, text messages and calls a day coordinating everything work wise and then on top of that the messages and Facetimes that come with being away from home. To make matters even worse my laptop had given up the ghost only hours earlier, not my best day! As you can imagine this led to an unintentional digital detox that I was completely unprepared for. In a normal day I would wake up to my phones, use them continually throughout the day and then they would be the last thing I looked at before I fell asleep at night and now they were gone!

Our “unhealthy relationship technology” is something that is talked about regularly in the media and now more and more we are being encouraged to have a digital detox but why? It used to be that people only complained of physical symptoms from staying connected, such as headaches, text neck and repetitive strain injury but now people are going as far as saying we are addicted to technology. The Telegraph reported some concerning statistics about mobile phone usage today;

– People on average check their phones 200 times a day, which equates to once every six and a half minutes!

– 73% of us Brits struggle to go a day without checking their phone or computer.

– One in four people spend more time online than they do asleep

– 70% of 16 to 24 year olds say they prefer texting to talking

– The average teenager sends 3,400 electronic messages a month from their bed

Being connected is great because it allows us to keep in touch with people who we might not be able to see regularly but new research in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, has found people that spend more than two hours per day on social media are twice as likely to feel social isolation than people who spend less than half an hour on social media. The social isolation was reported as feeling a decreased sense of social belonging, less engagements with others and less fulfilling relationships. So surely a digital detox, unintentional or not will be a good thing? It was certainly a shock to my system;

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1 – It was like losing a limb! I found myself repeatedly checking my pockets for my phones even though I knew they wouldn’t be there.

2 – I felt really lonely. I was used to being in constant contact with my friends, family and work colleagues and then there was nothing. I knew the reason I wasn’t hearing from anyone was because they had no way to contact me but it didn’t stop me feeling isolated.

3 – There were phantom vibrations in my pockets! It was so strange to swear I felt something move in an empty pocket.

4 – FOMO (Fear of missing out) in a massive way! Not knowing what was being said on WhatsApp groups, Facebook or Instagram made me feel really left out and wandering what I was missing out on. It was made even worse by my bestie Laura who reminded me of all the food pictures on Instagram that I was never going to see! Haha

5 – Maps, I missed you so much. All of a sudden I had to work out where I needed to go in advance. Getting lost and finding my way back became an arduous task, I even took to accosting strangers and asking them for directions (aka asking them to look it up on google maps).

6 – It really hit home how much time I spent on my phone, I didn’t know what to do with myself or with the extra time. Sat on the metro, waiting for a plane and standing in the immigration queue, all times when previously I would have been checking my emails, looking at Facebook or Instagram, I no longer had something to distract me. To begin with the activities felt like they took forever because everyone else was on their phones but I soon started distracting them. My poor boss had to put up with my endless ramblings to fill the space when she was probably desperate to do the latest Buzzfeed quiz instead!

7 – I started reading books again. When in the past I would be scrolling Facebook, Twitter and Instagram before bed, I now had 30 minutes with nothing to do. It made me finally pick up the book I have been meaning to read for ages and it was much more satisfying than sitting there on social media.

8 – It was so much easier to focus on a task. Without a phone and constant notifications to distract me I was able to actually sit down and complete a task much quicker.

9 – Contact numbers, I didn’t have any. Apart from the numbers for my partner and my mum, I didn’t know any other numbers off by heart (sorry Laura!) and I had never thought to write them down as they were safely stored in my phone. Being offered someone else’s phone to make a call and having no idea of the number was a real facepalm moment!

10 – Relief. When I was finally reunited with a replacement phone I cannot tell you how happy I was to have a phone back! Being disconnected definitely had some plus points that I wasn’t expecting and it made me realise that I don’t need to spend as much time on my phone but it did also make me appreciate the important things like being able to contact someone in an emergency, and some of the not so important things like internet banking and Uber!

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