Technology dominates our lives. We own multiple devices and rely on them more and more.
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Digital technology is great. It improves our quality of life and keeps things moving. Yet too much of a good thing can easily become a bad thing. Research suggests that we're getting stressed, feeling overwhelmed and becoming addicted to our devices.
I want to enjoy the benefits of technology, without becoming addicted.
That's why I detox from digital devices for 24 hours, once a week.
The Ancient Virtue Of A Day Off
A day off from work in order to rest.
This isn't a new idea. It's a very old idea that's worth recycling.
In 1951, Abraham Heschel wrote about Sabbath and the addictive nature of technology:
Sabbath is a day of independence of external obligation, a day on which we stop worshipping the idols of technological civilisation … It is not renouncing technological civilisation, but gives some independence from it.
Times have changed since this was written — few of us are concerned about the destructive nature of black and white TV anymore!
But Heschel was on to something.
As a Jewish Rabbi and specialist in spirituality, he knew the propensity of people to become addicted to the things they love. To counter this, he suggested we keep a day separate from technology once a week (among other things) to rest, re-create and remain fully human.
This is why I keep a weekly digital detox. It helps me to stay in love with technology, yet remain independent from it.
My Digital Detox Routine
It's not complex. Here's what I do for my weekly (Saturday) detox:
- I turn my iPhone and iPad off the night before and keep them off all day
- I turn my laptop off the night before and put it away
- I don't watch television – sometimes I cover it up to avoid temptation
- I don't check my calendar, to-do lists or social media accounts
- I don't check the internet, not even the weather
Did you say "turn off my phone for a full 24 hours?" Are you crazy?
What if I was to miss an urgent call? I might have a friend who needs urgent help! Or miss a spontaneous BBQ invitation! Or even news about an impending earthquake in Sumatra!!
Fifteen years ago no one had a mobile phone. Today, 58% of smart phone users don't go 1 hour without checking their phone. And get this. When people misplace their phones, 73% report feeling the emotion of "panic."
From my experience, nothing terrible happens when I disconnect for a day. At worst, I've missed a few social invites (but hey, I'm an introvert and don't generally mind!) The trade off is a better quality of time with those people I do socialise with on that day.
That said, if you can't imagine turning off your phone, try this as a compromise.
Use it only as a telephone. Turn your phone to silent, keep it hidden and check it just a few times during the day for missed calls or text messages.
In other words, go back in time and use it like a 1998 Nokia 5110!
Experiment On Yourself For A Day
How will I know if I need a digital detox? Here's the test.
Turn off all devices for a day and reflect on how you respond. Consider it a heart check — an experiment on yourself.
If it's easy to do, then no sweat — you probably don't have a problem. Pat yourself on the back and move on.
But if it is hard… or bloody hard? If you feel anxious or sick without your devices; or unhappy at the lack of stimulation; or lost without the web in your pocket — then maybe, like me, you'd benefit from a digital detox every week.
Disconnect To Get Reconnected
I can't promise that it'll be easy. I've been doing this for 2 years and still find it challenging. Yet the benefits are enormous.
By disconnecting from technology I find that I reconnect with life. I reconnect with my wife and 3 kids. I reconnect with friends (not on Facebook!) I reconnect with God, with nature and with myself.
I become less task oriented and more people oriented. I sit and drink coffee. I do things that energise me — such as read, exercise or garden. I lie on the couch and do nothing. I slow down and allow myself to get bored.
You might ask: "Why can't you still do these things if you're digitally connected?"
Well, you can. But the quality is somehow different.
By removing the distraction, I become a bit more present. I switch off from the work in my head and live out a full day in an undistracted, unstimulated and unmediated type of way.
Daniel Sih is a founding partner at productivity training, coaching and consulting organisation Spacemakers.