You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet recently…
There’s been no daily Instapics, no humorous little Tweets, no Facebook funnies and absolutely zero blogposts, nope I have been completely and utterly virtual world free for a whole week…and it’s been AMAZING!
Taking a digital detox is hardly a new phenomenon, in fact pretty much as soon as social media really kicked off, there’s been an antithesis waiting in its shadow. But it’s got out of hand, with the average adult spending more time on screens than they do asleep and with teenagers spending an average of nine hours a day glued to a screen, it’s clear that what started out as fun, has now become a very addictive, and very unhealthy habit
A break from the norm is always a great way to break a habit, because let’s be honest here, spending hours and hours on end in front of screen is a particularly bad habit. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no position to get all holier-than-thou on your ass, because trust me I am as guilty as the rest of you, I totally understand the importance of using technology and social media, particularly doing the job that I do, so I am not saying we should stop using it altogether. However, I do recognise that I, like many others, have a problem – I am addicted to it.
There I said it…
“My name is Bex and I am addicted to social media!”
The thing is, I like knowing what other people are up to, I like seeing what people eat, I like seeing how far people have run, I like knowing other people’s business, I’m nosy and yes I probably have the makings of a stalker in me, but enough is enough. You know you’ve got a problem when your first thoughts upon waking are to reach out for the phone beside the bed and check how many new Instagram followers you’ve got, or the very last thing you do before going to bed each night is to scroll through your Facebook feed just to make sure you haven’t missed anything incredibly important from someone you went to primary school with 30 years ago…hmmmm OK so yeah that does sound bad when you say it out loud!
My point is that if you seriously can’t go an hour without looking at some form of social media, if you twitch every time you hear the ping of a notification, break out into a cold sweat if you haven’t used a Snapchat filter that day, or if you can’t help but sneak a peek at your inbox when the little envelope icon pops up, then you absolutely have a problem and it’s time for a digital detox.
It’s the Easter hols at the moment, my two kids have got another week off, and it’s always a bit of a struggle trying to fit work around entertaining them (preventing them from beating the crap out of each other!), so to help break it up a bit and to give us all a much needed break we booked a week away in the Forest of Dean with a bit of a mini stop off to visit my brother and family on the way up.
Holidays are the perfect time for a digital detox, because you’re much more likely to be busy doing things with friends and family, have activities booked, days out planned, or be away from your home, so this was my moment.
Would I be able to last a week without WiFi?
With all WiFi and mobile data switched off of my phone, I got into the car and felt positive; I could do this, it would be fine.
My brother has three teenage kids and a 7-year-old, and just like any other kids these ages, they of course love their devices. For the two teenage girls it’s all about their phones; messaging their mates, watching YouTube vids about creating the perfect eye brow, make up contouring tips, singing and any other funny stuff, and of course they love a good Snapchat filter (who doesn’t!?). These days it seems as though teenagers literally live their lives through their phones, I mean who needs to actually look at the real world when there’s the fear that you might be missing out on something that all your friends are involved with in the virtual world?
I’m proud to say that my phone remained in my bag, I didn’t check it once during my stay with them, but I may have been involved in a little Snapchat frivolity on my nieces phone (not my phone so it doesn’t count!) and I did watch a YouTube vid she’d posted of herself singing (well it would be rude not to, right?!). But that was it! A HUGE improvement on how often I would usually check these things, and I didn’t even feel the teensiest bit tempted.
Maybe I could do this after all…
I should also probably mention at this point that we’d decided to ban the kids from taking their beloved tablets away on holiday with them, as we knew full well that they (meaning my 8 year old son) would want to be on it all the time and I thought we could all benefit from some techno time out. It didn’t go down particularly well, as I am sure you can imagine, but just like banning biscuits from the house, if they’re not there you can’t be tempted!
Have I learnt my lesson?
Turns out I learnt quite a few, 7 in fact:
Lesson 1 – I sleep better.
It’s a well known fact that the blue light emitted from electronic devices is not conducive to good quality sleep; the light tricks the brain into thinking it’s time to get up and makes us feel more awake than we really are. And if you’re checking your social feeds before turning in for the night, your brain is likely to be way too active to even be thinking about drifting off to the land of nod. A week without my phone had me falling asleep the moment my head hit the pillow. I not only slept better and fell asleep quicker, but I also woke up naturally, feeling completely rested and full of energy for the day ahead.
Lesson 2 – My kids are so much nicer to be around.
Most of the time I like spending time with my kids, but when they’re hungry, emotional, have reached the end of the school term and are well and truly exhausted, I’m not sure I’d inflict them on even my worst enemies. The first few days of the school holidays are generally a nightmare; we’re all readjusting to spending more time with one another and it’s very easy when the boy is winding the girl up by just ‘being’ there to say “OK, OK yes you can play on the X-Box”…anything for an easy life!
So, I may have shot myself in the foot when I made the decision to ban all electronic childminders!
But no…what’s this?
They’re actually getting along. Why, they’re even forming their own ‘no adults allowed secret club’, they’re making dens under their beds, colouring together, hugging each other, talking to each other, making laptops out of cereal boxes (withdrawal symptoms?!?!), they’re using their imaginations…they are being KIDS!!
Yes, that’s what having no electronic devices does to kids, it teaches them to play, to have fun and to enjoy the kind of childhood we would have had. And dare I say it, they’ve been an absolute delight to have around, maybe I’ll throw that receipt away after all 😉
Lesson 3 – I relax more without it.
When I’m not thinking about getting my next social hit, I feel so much more relaxed, and that doesn’t happen very often. I find it increasingly difficult to switch off and I’m sure it’s got worse the more involved I’ve become with social media. But it’s tricky, because social media is a key element of the job I do – name me a blogger who doesn’t use it? – and I find it hard separating work social media use with personal social media use, as they intertwine so much. Last week taught me that for the sake of my own wellbeing, it’s important for me to try harder at switching off and to set myself some ground rules. I enjoyed the peace that it bought; it allowed me to be less twitchy, less fidgety and my mind felt less cluttered because of it. Everything in moderation, right?
Lesson 4 – The world doesn’t stop because I haven’t checked Facebook!
I don’t for one minute think that I’m that important that if I don’t post a status update on Facebook every day the world is going to come crashing down and my massive entourage of fans are all going to desert me. Come on, I’m seriously way more level headed than that! But when you’re caught up in the world of mindless musings that social media hypnotises you into believing is the be all and end all, it can become incredibly consuming and start to take over from real life. This lesson is one that I knew the answer to already, but I sure as hell need a reminder every now and again!
Lesson 5 – Live in the moment.
I am so guilty of not being present. I spend so much of my time pre-planning, organising and looking forward to things, that when it actually comes around, I’ve already moved onto the next thing. It drives me crazy and I’m fully aware that I’m doing it, yet the control freak inside me is incapable of chilling out and living in the moment. Life without a phone taught me that social media is very much to blame for this, because last week I had moments of experiencing, enjoying and noticing things that were happening as they happened. I became more mindful of things, like the meal I was eating, what the weather was like, the noise the birds were making and the small facial expressions my children were making as they interacted with one another. And it made me smile. I felt happy, I felt content and most of all I felt present.
Lesson 6 – Remember the enjoyable things.
When I’m at home the first thing I do after the kids have gone to bed is reach for my phone and scroll through my social feeds, and before I know it countless, mindless minutes have passed and it’s late, time for bed and it’s another evening wasted on…doing nothing. I dread to think how much time I waste online, but not last week, oh no! Last week was filled with all the things I, and the family, love to do.
I read 2 entire books, went for a run and watched as the kids put on shows for us. As a family we had evening discos in our PJ’s, played football, tennis and horses. We coloured in, made potions, played board games and hide and seek. We fed the birds, made a birds nest and went on wild boar hunts. We had good old fashioned fun of the very best kind, and not one of you can convince me that time on social media is better than any of that.
Lesson 7 – I have an addictive personality.
OK, so I’ve known this for some time, I’m one of those all or nothing people, and the beast that is social media loves people like us. Offer me a biscuit, I can’t just have one. Invite me out for a drink, gonna get trolleyed. Tell me to run up a hill, I’m getting up there no matter what. Give me free WiFi and a phone, that’s my evening planned out.
So when I turned my mobile data back on to use Strava and the whole phone went absolutely mental catching up with a million different social media notifications, like a heroin addict being presented with a fresh needle and a free bag of smack, my eyes lit up and my fingers started twitching. Temptation was right there.
Surely a little peek wouldn’t harm would it?
Just a little one…?
But I didn’t, because being an all or nothing I knew that one peek would be the end of cold turkey, I’d be right back on it, checking every ten minutes. Because to peek would be failure and if nothing else, I am definitely NOT a failure!
Crisis averted, temptation controlled, run done, mobile data off, all is well in the world again.
I guess you’re all wondering whether I actually managed to go the whole week without WiFi?
OK, so there was the odd occasion when I used my phone to look up the directions to a restaurant – when you’ve been looking for somewhere decent to eat for the past 20 minutes, the whole family’s completely starving, the hanger levels are rising and the car ends up in the back of beyond driving round a scrap metal industrial estate, it is more than OK to whack on the WiFi.
And I also turned it on to use Strava to record my run one morning – I felt so chuffed for dragging myself out of bed on holiday that I felt the least I deserved was some concrete proof – you can’t deny a girl that, can you?
But other than that I didn’t use social media at all, I didn’t check emails, I didn’t check my messages and I didn’t sneak a peek at what runs my friends had recorded on Strava.
I did it!
And it felt good.
I know it’s not the BIGGEST achievement in the world – I haven’t run a marathon, I haven’t discovered a cure for cancer and I haven’t invented a calorie free bar of chocolate (a girl can dream!), but I felt as though I’d achieved my own, small victory. I felt liberated, enriched, switched on, re-energised and more…well…more like me again.
It would be very naive of me to think that a week without a device was going to be enough to break a bad habit entirely, and it’s not really what I set out to achieve. Above all else, what I can take away from my digital detox is that it’s not an all the time thing, just as much as it’s not a never ever thing. It, like everything else in life, is about balance. Balance the real with the virtual, recognise when the balance is starting to tip more to the virtual and then do something about it, and learn to love the life you were born to lead.
How long do you spend on social media? Do you think you have a problem? Could you do with a digital detox?
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