How To Digital Detox Without Losing Your Friends, Job or Social Life

You have two lives: the one you broadcast on your ‘gram, Facebook feed and wittily capture in 140 characters or less, and the one you lead IRL – where mum doesn’t care how many followers you gained in the last month and wants to know why you never call anymore. But when living offline seems like pure insanity, it’s time to get real.

We’re ‘on’ all the time. Your phone beeps and you jump – texts, emails, alerts, messages, notifications – with constant access to the web your devices are a just a limb extension at this point. As a solution to the saturation, the practice of digital detoxing is common, yet it can feel ignorant to suggest we shouldn’t use our devices in such a tech-reliant world.

The idea might confront you: our dependence on these devices equals an uncomfortable, high dose of separation anxiety should we choose to abstain. Yet people do choose to eschew their digital addictions. Why? Because it comes with benefits. Increased productivity, strengthened relationships and improved sleep are just a few – and like our digestive system functions better when we give it a rest every now and again, so too does the mind.

While we understand the irony you’re likely reading this from your mobile, there are ways to make a digital detox no big deal and actually work.

Be realistic and keep it regular

Straight up – digital detoxing doesn’t have to mean going cold turkey for an extended period of time. In actual fact, that’s quite extreme considering how integral technology is in our lives. Instead, try a digital Sabbath, where you introduce the regular practice of taking every Sunday off your devices. If that’s too much, an alternative is winding down before bed with an hour tech-free each evening (otherwise known as a digital sunset).

Maintaining a smaller, regular practice is said to hugely improve your mental state and show longer-term benefits, rather than trying to hold out for one or two weeks of the year.

What it means to be one with the device

Image: StockSnap

So why is this even a thing? Research organisation Vinaya (which explores the intersection of technology, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology and mindfulness) claims that with the release of smartphones and tablets came a global shift in human behaviour and social etiquette, where our devices possess not only the psychological power to change what we do, but change who we are. Those changes involve “us be[coming] less patient, less empathetic, less productive, less able to hold conversations, less focused, and ultimately less happy.” Vinaya also found that the average technology user checks their device 221 times a day. That’s once every 6.5 minutes.

We also can’t seem to keep our hands off each other: apparently one in 10 Australians check their phones during sex, and unsurprisingly, more than a third of us feel that technology is having a negative effect on our relationships.

Hacks to hit the sweet spot

Image: StockSnap

#1 Ditch excess apps

Do you open Tinder “just for fun” as a way to peruse the aisles of the babe store, but never actually dream of swiping right? That’s a time-wasting app that you can delete. Some apps make our lives so much easier, but others are just vampires. Ditch those and spring clean your app collection.

#2 Flight mode for life

We rarely want to turn off our devices altogether. Alternative? Use airplane mode when you’re asleep, when you’re at the gym and any time you’re not actively using your phone. Not only does it shut you off from unimportant chatter while allowing you to use your phone as a clock, it actually turns off the cellular radio portion of your phone – read: it prevents it from emitting radio frequency radiation. Massive win.

#3 Notify your notifications: we’re done here

Push notifications are addictive; we get happy feels every time the buzz, ding or bell rings, so to break the cycle and get control back, turn off the audio or the notifications altogether. Without the constant notification sound, it’s easier to get into the effective practice of checking your phone at intervals; a great way to de-stress twitching fingers.

#4 Immerse yourself in a good book

Swap digital reads for the real deal. Give your eyes a rest from that bright screen that tricks your brain into staying awake and hold the pages of a book in your hands (take a whiff of those pages. Smell the wisdom?) 

#5 De-clutter the mind ‘busy-ness’ and write it out

That constantly processing brain needs some reprieve and scrolling through Facebook updates is not the answer, so grab a pad and pen and journal the thoughts that are on loop in your mind. Read back your words, understand them and then let them go. Welcome the new space.

#6 Interact with human devices

Yes, you may have built a tribe online but nothing – absolutely nothing – compares to the people and community that surrounds you in your physical life. There are no substitutes for deep, intimate conversations with your nearest or dearest, laughter and jokes over the dinner table with friends or reconnecting with your partner. 

#7 Be OK with bored

We try to avoid boredom at all costs and have a load of gadgets to help us do just that. When the baby is bored, give them the iPad. When you’re bored at a lecture or meeting, check your phone. Going for a jog? Earphones in. It’s time to relish in the boredom, the sweet FA. Your mind, body and overall wellbeing will thank you for it.

Leah Davies is a purpose-filled writer, human rights activist and coach for budding wordsmiths, who is driven to cultivate change through our stories. She uses her experience as a journalist and international development worker at her conscious communications consultancy, Paper Planes Connect, to support the socially conscious to platform their voice and create change, both big and small.

Lead image: StockSnap