Digital technology has totally changed how we communicate, work, live and think – but is too much of a good thing, bad?
We spend our days continually scrolling through social media to stay in the loop, replying to endless emails, texts, WhatsApp messages, Twitter DMs, Instagram comments and Facebook posts.
Because of this, we carry around something known as ‘digital baggage’, which unfortunately cannot be switched off. This baggage comes from the constant pressure to ‘get far in life’ and ‘be more successful’, which social media helps fuel.
Within the last decade, digital technology has developed immensely – so much so that we actually mould our lives around it. Is it any surprise that the current generation of Millennials are stereotyped as having their faces constantly glued to their phones?
We’ve never been more connected, yet ironically, the reality is we’re becoming both mentally and physically disconnected. Technology is starting to create a society that spends more time staring at a screen than communicating with their friends and family IRL.
Technology even controls our emotions. Think about how you feel the next time there’s no signal, your fire Instagram post flops, or the dreaded ‘10 per cent of battery remaining’ appears when you’re far from a power source.
This got me thinking – are we so reliant on digital technology that the modern human can’t function without it? Can someone living in the Western world go a whole 72 hours without using any form of digital technology?
Having a three day holiday from work, I decided to find out by going on my own digital detox.
I set myself some guidelines: if I used my smart phone, laptop, computer or television for any reason, I would fail. I also made a few allowances: I could have a single shower a day, use the electric cooker or oven once a day, and would be allowed to use a cash point if needed, but only once during the 72 hours.
On the first day of the detox I took the train home from Manchester to Glossop, and instantly noticed the entire carriage – young and old – were face down in their phones.
As a result of not watching my daily dose of the news, I went a day unscathed by the nauseating bullshit of the U.S. election, and the constant nonsense spouted by both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – a very pleasant change.
I began to notice that I was my own personal demon, telling myself that checking my phone wouldn’t make a difference – in hindsight, I may have been getting slight anxiety as part of my social media withdrawal symptoms.
After finding myself with an abundance of free time, I finally gave in to my girlfriend’s wishes and finished the day with a spot of yoga. And you know what, it was actually pretty fun.
The benefits were already on show, I wanted to communicate with people more, felt less distracted and I became increasingly aware of my surroundings.
I also found the time to get back in touch with my sustainable side and create a small vegetable garden – because there’s no time like the present to get prepared for the inevitable zombie apocalypse and subsequent food shortage.
However, I did use a cash point before going for a meal with my girlfriend, so that allowance was now void with 24 hours to go.
I don’t know whether it was a placebo effect, but my eyes felt great and not at all strained. On top of that, I felt more at peace, and had one of the best night’s sleeps and early morning wake ups in a long time.
Throughout the three days I’d decided to use my spare time reading. In fact, I binge-read the entirety of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion – which really messes with your head and definitely isn’t recommended all in one go.
Exercising was also high on my digital detox agenda. I went on my third run in three days and – if I’m completely honest – found that I didn’t actually crave my phone or laptop anymore. It was an amazing feeling of freedom that I’d not felt in a long time.
During the detox, I found that I had more free time than I’ve had in ages. It was a nice change from constantly struggling against the proverbial tides of the clock, something that I’m sure we’re all regrettably used to.
I also found my time was utilised more efficiently and productively, with focus being put on a single task, rather than attempting to multitask numerous jobs all at once.
Another benefit was self-control. At a glance, going three days might seem easy – in fact, someone during my detox said to me: “Bloody hell, I can do that!” My reply to that was try it then, because it demands some serious composure.
My time away from tech helped me explore something I mentioned previously: new technology seems to have created a paradoxical system where we’re both more connected and disconnected than ever before.
Don’t get me wrong, technology isn’t the devil, and it’s massively benefited all of us to some extent. Our sympathy and understanding towards each other’s mental health issues are at an all-time high through access to information, for example.
But too much of something can be bad. It’s all about moderation, a commodity I’m going to implement in my life moving forward, so spending time away from technology is a must – for one, I’m definitely keeping up the yoga.
My advice to anyone interested in detoxing is go for it. Obviously everyone has different factors to consider, but if you’re willing and able to sacrifice your phone for a few days, then it can be done regardless of circumstances.
Maybe next time you head outside, leave the phone at home, you might just surprise yourself.