We’ve all been through the phase of internet/smartphone addiction, which isn’t going anywhere, even though we know that it invades our privacy. Recently, the news of the Roomba vacuum cleaner collecting data to sell surfaced, and I’ve had sleepless nights ever since.
Other negative aspects of the digital universe include, but aren’t limited to:
- An unhealthy obsession with social media
- Internet trolls
- Deteriorating health
- Incessant promotional gimmicks
- An overabundance of apps
Plagued by constant alerts, updates and notifications, and the urge to check and reply to them all, I finally decided that now is a good time for a technology time-out. And so began my ambitious, self-imposed ban on everything digital for a week.
Before I started my seven-day routine, I jotted down everything that I was tentatively going to do in my journal so that I’d stay true to my schedule.
On Day One, I went old-school.
At work, I turned off the WiFi and Bluetooth, and kept an analog clock on my desk to avoid peeking at my smartphone’s screen (barring a few furtive glances). For note taking and to-do lists, I used pen and paper and used the smartphone exactly twice for booking cabs.
I figured out that life could be very difficult without Siri, and as an alternative, I interacted with people to ask them for directions (hey, I was on a detox, not them!), used the Yellow Pages and read the newspaper to get by.
Instead of texting compulsively, I called people. To my surprise, this took me less time than I’d anticipated. However, I kept the conversations to a bare minimum and called only when it was urgent.
Sheryl Crow taught us that “the first cut is the deepest,” and I found out that the first day of a digital detox is the toughest!
I fidgeted a lot, feeling my wrist for my missing smartwatch while hearing my phone buzzing and beeping. Thanks to my support group of immediate family members and friends, there were no calls or texts that needed my immediate attention.
On Day Two, I began restricting my data usage with the My Data Manager app (you can also do this by changing your phone’s settings). Next, I made a list of important and not-so-important apps, which helped me remove or uninstall apps I didn’t really need. These included social media apps that I only used when taking and posting mindless selfies every few minutes.
In no time, I managed to declutter my phone by keeping only the bare minimum amount of apps necessary for survival. I also archived all my texts, hit the mute button and switched to flight mode at bedtime.
With my data usage reduced, I had more time to spend on my health, hobbies, friends and family. This was when I realized that the detox was working great for me!
On Day Three, I was to carry out the to-do list of activities I’d included in my journal before kick-starting my digital detox program.
The list included cooking an elaborate meal at least once a day; taking up long-lost hobbies like reading, music or the arts; organizing my work desk; starting do-it-yourself (DIY) projects; bullet journaling and rediscovering the joy of handwriting.
While enslaved to technology, our attention span goes for a toss. We constantly message, post, share and wait for people to respond within seconds. In the absence of this, everything runs at a snail’s pace. However, this slower pace helps us take charge and focus on the more important things in life.
By Day Four, the whole digital cleansing routine had become easier to follow, barring one very important factor—cutting down on my screen time.
After reducing my screen time considerably, I noticed that I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed.
Starting with my smartphone, I began cutting down on screen time by reducing the time I spent binge-watching Netflix on my laptop, as well as my television time, and took to physical books by ditching my e-book reader.
Additionally, I stopped looking at any screen at least two to three hours before I went off to sleep. In fact, I made my bedroom a gadget-free zone, using an alarm clock to see the time and wake myself up as I did in my yesteryears.
Research says that excessive cellphone use leads to disturbance in sleep patterns. After reducing my screen time considerably, I noticed that I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed. This was a first for me in many years.
Day Five fell on a weekend, and I decided to make the most of the free time I had. I called up my friend to go on a short trek with me.
While I was itching to take photos and post them on Instagram and Snapchat, I decided to preserve the memories in a different way by collecting stones and foliage and discovering the joy of being close to nature.
The absence of pictures was the sad part, maybe, but then I remembered this quote from The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri:
He heard his father cry out—they had left the camera with his mother. “All this way, and no picture,” he’d said, shaking his head. He reached into his pocket and began to throw the striped stones into the water. “We will have to remember it, then.”
And I captured the memories by remembering them.
Withdrawal symptoms are real and hit you when you least expect them. We go crazy for Likes, shares, retweets and an increasing follower count in the virtual world. But in reality, it’s the quality of life that matters, and it’s the time spent with people close to you that keeps you moving forward.
I started with a book and ended up playing with puzzles such as a Rubik’s Cube, Mini Crosswords, Sudoku and brainteasers. This was the day when I reread my collection of graphic novels and comics, which kept me engaged and prevented me from constantly checking my phone. It also helped me relax after a hectic week and prepared me for another hectic week ahead.
When the virtual world overtakes the real world, we tend to isolate ourselves and forget that there’s life outside of gadgets. My detox taught me to look beyond them and rediscover the joys of spending time doing (sort of) nothing.
By Day Seven, my detox routine had become part of my life. It would be a blatant lie if I told you that I didn’t miss my gadgets. However, I felt more at home without them than with them. On that day, I repeated what I did throughout the previous week and found that it was easier than ever.
I was well-settled into the routine and realized that gadgets needn’t be the centre of my universe.
A positive experience
I was able to work my way through a voluntary digital detox program for a week, and I’m glad I did it. Everyone should do something like this now and then, in order to beat monotony and rediscover their roots!
Have you ever tried a digital cleanse? How did you fare? Let us know in the Comments!