Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten a cramp because you’ve been holding your smartphone for too long. Keep raising your hand if you’ve gotten headaches from eye-strain, having spent the majority of your day looking at the Big Internet on your computer and the Small Internet in your smartphone.
If you didn’t raise your hand at all, I call thee a liar.
If you raised your hand, congratulations/commiserations because you’re just like me.
This 2019, as each month plods along and threatens the passage of time, I have decided to stagger a New Year’s Resolution checklist. I know myself enough to acknowledge that anything I list down on January 1st will hold no meaning for me six months down the line… and so, the 2019 Monthly Challenge began.
The LiberaTarts 2019 New Year’s Resolutions for Irresolute People
I spent January being annoyingly precocious by becoming teetotal. Despite the party atmosphere of December 31st and January 1st, I did not drink a single drop of alcohol.
75 days later and well into March, I have yet to have a sip of the nectar of the gods. I can’t count the number of times I had to explain in social situations that yes, I am of legal drinking age, I just choose not to drink. It makes for a tedious experience, I have to admit, but it’s the hill I choose to die on.
February was my self-appointed digital detox month, simply because it had the shortest number of days in the month and I knew myself enough that I cannot abstain from social media longer than 30 days. The very idea felt like complete torture. But 28 days? That, I can do.
Of course, in this day and age, I couldn’t walk around without a device for communication, and so I downgraded my Galaxy Note 8 to a cringe-worthy blue flip phone. It didn’t even have any games installed like the classic snake game by Nokia!
Doing a digital detox for four whole weeks was a challenge, certainly, but I reached the end of that month feeling accomplished and more relaxed than I have ever been.
6 Positive Outcomes of a Month-Long Digital Detox
I felt better physically
Headaches from eye-strain were a thing of the past. My neck and back muscles got a welcomed break since I no longer had to hunch down to look at my smartphone all the time. Whenever I texted my friends, I could look away as I typed because touch-typing skills you learn in the early 2000s are a lifelong skill, apparently.
I had a better sleep schedule
I’ve always been conscious of my terrible sleep schedule. I’ve tried going to the gym before bed to tire myself out, but the cold winter walk from the gym to my home just made me more alert. My smartphone turns on the blue light filter every 8pm, but I have this habit of disabling it whenever I want to post a new picture on Facebook or Instagram.
With my smartphone metaphorically thrown into Mount Doom and locked away until March, I had no choice but to rethink my nighttime routine. I won’t lie and say that I read more books, but I worked more on my bullet journal (yes, I started a bullet journal!) and that’s something I’m really proud about.
I spent more time with my family
Without being constantly connected to social media, I noticed that I spent more and more time with my mother and my brother. We ate meals together most of the time, but usually we would be on our phones and we left the dinner table immediately once we finish our food. This February, it was a little different: I encouraged more conversation during mealtimes, and every so often we as a family would migrate over to the living room to continue the conversation and to update each other on what we did throughout the day.
We also watched more TV together, which was both a good and bad thing, but the sense of belonging and family I felt in my home was a privilege I never really appreciated until this whole digital detox thing happened.
I experienced less anxiety
When they say social media encouraged depression, anxiety, and all other kinds of mental health issues, I kind of processed that information like a little factoid rather than the Truth Bomb that it was. Imagine my surprise when I became less worried about people’s opinions when I wasn’t broadcasting every little thing I did on social media!
That latent fear of missing out? That strangely self-destructive notion of you only live once? Ain’t nobody got time for that during a digital detox.
I practiced healthy boundaries
With the onslaught of push notifications every time a friend posted something on Instagram or messaged me on WhatsApp, more often than not I find myself commenting or responding to something in the late hours of the night. When your mobile phone happens to be a lowly flip phone, however, push notifications were some futuristic nightmare that I was blissfully free from.
I turned my phone off during the night and only responded to texts during daylight hours. I had to keep my email inbox alive for business reasons, but I limited myself to only using my laptop for emails and important searches during the afternoons. Setting up these boundaries for myself in February helped shape my digital detox experience into a greatly efficient one.
Lastly, ending phone calls made me feel like a boss
I’d hate to make assumptions about the younger generation, but I doubt teenagers and those younger would have experienced ending a phone call by flipping their phone closed. There’s no fumbling for the red end-call button, no messy goodbyes as you try and fail to slide that voice-call to finish. Just a simple, sharp smack! and you can move on with your life.
3 Negative Results of a Digital Detox
Now, it’s not all fun and games! The nostalgia of owning a flip phone for 28 days was not enough for me to ignore the fact that a smartphone is really a convenient and useful tool. Navigating the world, both physically and metaphorically, was very difficult without the help of a mini hand-held computer.
I got lost… all – the – time
Most if not all smartphone these days come equipped with GPS and some form of interactive Maps application. I went to Manchester in February to attend a Train to Teach conference and the number of times I got lost because I had no Google Maps to help me! I would need to borrow another set of hands…
Yes, I did follow the street signs. Yes, I had to ask people for help. Yes, I did feel “more one with the Earth” when walking around with my head held high instead of looking down at a blinking blue dot, but I still wished I could get from Point A to Point B in the most efficient way possible.
I bantered less with my friends
One of the down sides of making friends in school, college, and university is that eventually, people will get jobs and move away to other sides of the country. Now, my close friends all still lived in the same county as myself, but none of us could drive and relying on public transport all the time was tedious! We like to communicate via WhatsApp or Facebook messenger, as well as various other social media. But with my self-chosen exile from all things Internet?
Goodbye social life.
I never realised how much time I spent tagging my friends on memes and vice versa. The majority of my humour was based on memes at least three levels deep. Whenever I encountered something funny in real life, I would not hesitate to take a picture and send it to my friends. With the digital detox, however, that weird funny pigeon I saw that one time is now a mere anecdote instead of a vivid image that my friends could appreciate.
Travelling to a different country was a nightmare
I got accepted for a job in Spain halfway through February, and the cheapest flight I could find left from an airport I have never been to. Can you imagine navigating through London City Airport for the first time in your life, juggling your suitcases and your printed flight information, and then landing in a country where you barely speak the language?
It was a nightmare and then some.
I had to travel without using Google Maps, Google Translate, or mobile boarding passes. The entire journey was not only unnecessarily stressful without a smartphone, but having all that paper with me felt like such a waste. At the very least I was able to recycle once I was safely settled in my new hometown.
Doing this digital detox was a personal challenge; it’s not for everyone, and while I would like nothing more to say “oh my god, you guys, detoxing from your smartphone and basically living like an old person is like, really fun and amazing!”
I know that’s a really annoying thing to hear, so instead I will say this:
Do what you want. Take care of yourself, and do things that make you happy.
Taking a month off from my smartphone and social media did wonders for my mental health, my view of myself, and my daily habits. It also was completely irritating because I got lost so many times and that’s something I can never forgive myself for. Nevertheless, I would totally do another digital detox next year!
Over to you guys: have you ever done a digital detox? What was your experience like? If not, would you ever consider doing a digital detox?
Until next time!