Digital Detox: Beginner's Guide
Let’s face it. Most of us are addicted to technology, social media and the things that keep us connected to the world 24/7. We are in a state of constant connectivity. I was better for awhile, but somehow fell back into the rabbit hole of checking my phone every so often (HUGE understatement). I would like to blame the 6 weeks I was back in NY this spring, but ultimately the only one to blame is me. I had a choice to disconnect and live life or live vicariously through other people’s experiences. I’m not knocking social media as I believe it connects people and fosters a sense of community — I have personally gleaned all sort of inspiration through instagram and reading people’s stories on FB. I’m just saying that there needs to be a balance on how much time were are living in our moment vs living in a virtual reality.
I realized that I had fallen back into the hole when someone I am dating accused me of being addicted to my phone. In all honestly, I was mad at him for something so I went onto my FB and browsed my news feed while we were waiting for dinner. Yes, I know it was rude and passive aggressive as hell but I knew it would piss the living daylights out of him since he doesn’t believe in social media. My action then turned into a whole tirade about how all of society is addicted and that technology is the new addiction. As much as I wanted to tune him out, I knew that he was right. For those who know me, I HATE when my partner is right.
This interaction made me make an effort to be less connected to my phone and the beast that is social media. For anyone else who is feeling a little tech obsessed and need a bit of a reboot, here is my mini-guide for weaning yourself off of your obsession. And for those of you who are on the fence and think you aren’t addict, watch an episode of Black Mirror, get over your denial, then read this article.
Airplane mode isn’t just for flying
So on my first day of my detox, I decided to go all in. After I had taken care of my business and personal obligations, I put my phone into airplane mode. To understand the extremity of this, I did this at 6pm and decided to disconnect and read a book instead. I did have a video conference scheduled that evening so went back online during that period, but kept my computer and phone off for the rest of the evening. I had used my time to finish a book I had started reading last week (I was on page 5) but made no progress since I opened it. To my surprise, I finished the book that night — to level set, the book was about 300 pages and finished it before my 11pm sleep alarm went off. It was really eye opening to see how much time I was wasting on my social apps, responding to messages, checking my email constantly and getting distracted by the blinking light that emanates from my phone. Seeing this was enough for me — I knew I needed to make a change.
Pro-Tip: Keep your phone in airplane mode all night as well. I always keep my phone on silent because I know my little light will let me know I have something to attend to. The thing is — the light never stopped. So if I woke up in the middle of the night and saw the light blinking I would immediately grab my phone and check to see what I had missed while I was sleeping. It was more ridiculous to know that I may have only been sleeping for less than an hour! Now I don’t have that little light to beckon to me and my sleep has improved. I feel less addicted, I don’t wake up in the middle of the night and I have more energy in the morning. Better yet, I’m not in a rush to take my phone out of airplane mode!
Pick up a new habit
Segwaying from tip 1 — when you get up, do something other than checking your phone. I thought reprogramming myself would be hard but the first time I did this, I honestly did not take my phone out of airplane mode until over an hour after I woke up and didn’t feel an urge to look at my phone.
Believe me, my morning ritual was turning off my alarm (which is my phone), going onto instagram to see who liked my posts, liking other posts, checking my FB notifications, deciding what I should post to instagram that day, etc etc. Now I do a bunch of different things. Some days I make some coffee and start reading a book, some days I take a walk, some days I go to workout, sometimes I listen to music or practice piano. Whatever you do shouldn’t be regimented — it should be something you enjoy so you start the day the way you want it, in a positive mood ready to take on the world and the day. My main goal is to connect with myself, relax and see where the mood takes me, except to my phone.
Pro-Tip: The first step is admitting you have a problem and knowing you want to change the behavior. Treat it like a challenge in your head — almost like a diet. Instead of improving your body, you are improving your mind. Remember, you are always in control.
Free Yourself — Schedule Phone Time
I know this sounds silly, but believe me this is effective. I have now started only checking my social media accounts once a day. Yeah, I didn’t think it was realistic myself, but so far so good. I have been spending my time actually doing things that have been on my growing “to do” list for awhile AND have been spending less time working since I’m more productive when I work since I’m less distracted (shocker). To make sure to stay on track, I would suggest turning off your SM notifications and disabling the app on your phone. Social media isn’t the only thing you should be mindful of. I have also put email responses (unless it is urgent) and messages (unless I am meeting someone) on a schedule as well — I finally put my Type A personality to some good use. I know this may sound crazy to most of you, but think to almost 20 years ago. We didn’t have smartphones — heck, not everyone had cell phones. My friends and I were discussing over dinner one night how we now have the luxury of texting saying “Guys, going to be a few minutes late” and someone asked “What did we do before phones?” And one responded, “We actually showed up on time”. As much as technology is amazing, it is also a crutch. It gives us an instant excuse to work a little later, be late for social engagements, inhibit our productivity and miss important moments. We have moved what really matters (our life experiences and human to human connections) down into the priority list and I think we can all agree that is not cool.
Pro-Tip: Like me, I know a lot of you need to look at social media for work. Create a ghost account that none of your friends have the information to. This will keep your actual work and dillydallying in check.
Stay in the present
I think this is really the hardest, but honestly the most fulfilling. In today’s world, we have all become spectators of life vs actually doers. I mean, yes, we are living life, but are really LIVING LIFE? We are now capturing experiences with our phones vs actually enjoying the actual experience and the wonder of it all. Personal example — this weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Men’s Final at the French Open where Rafael Nadal won his 10th Roland Garros Title. Instead of just being there and experiencing this extraordinary moment, I with probably hundreds, possibly thousands of other people grabbed out their phone to tape match point. He was literally killing it on the court so we all knew when match point would happen. Unlike my other cohorts, I was aware of what I was doing, but that didn’t stop me — I actually positioned my phone off to the side of my field of vision and so I could watch the match in the present and record it to post it on my SM networks. Typing this now I cannot believe how ridiculous this was. I should have been hands free, eyes locked, heart filled enjoying the freaking moment.
I now try to be more present in every moment. I am no longer on my phone while walking or even have it in my hand (unless I am mapping myself somewhere). I have it in airplane mode most of the day except for my scheduled email/message checks. Life actually seems more wonderful and inspiring and I feel a little more carefree as the little blinking light no longer controls me. I actually stayed phoneless during one of my blowouts, where the only thing you can really do is check your smartphone. There really isn’t anything to observe in a salon, but the people there with you. My fun activity was create characters and stories about these strangers since I love writing and storytelling. The bigger surprise for me was when I caught two older women actually enjoy watching me getting my hair blown out through the mirror. It made me realize that they still existed in a state of wonder, enjoying the present and everyday experience. It also made me smile to see that I made two strangers smile. Something so small in the grand scheme of things, as watching a stranger get a blowout, somehow brought joy to them and they brought joy to me by just seeing their smiling faces. We made real eye contact when I left the salon and exchanged smiles — it brought happiness to us all that is hard to explain, but real at the same time. Life is about these moments and experiencing them vs missing them or ignoring them. Going back to my tennis example, I could have shared a moment of jubilation with the person next to me vs recording it — you experience and witness things you can’t get through a camera lens when you live in real time. Going further, Nadal lives in the present moment and is always in the zone when he plays — do you think he would be a 10 time champion if he was not always present?
Pro-Tip: Leave the recording to the professionals and enjoy your life more fully. Be a doer, not a spectator — think like an athlete and stay in the zone.
Be Silent. Be Still.
Another thing with being in the moment is also being introspective. When you are not constantly on your phone, you appreciate what is around you more and sometimes turn inward. A big chunk of content for this post came to me while I was having lunch alone at a café in Paris. Not going to lie — I did take some photos of my surroundings that will go up at some point during one of my mandated social media breaks, but other than that I ate lunch alone and observant.
Being alone with yourself — going inward, feeling the emotion, thoughts, inspiration, sounds, the tastes of the food — is so fulfilling. It is what life is about. Being here and being more accountable to living in the moment has allowed me to return to my core values and core self. It has not only made me aware of my surroundings and the world around me, but also of what is inside me, the person I am and strive to be. I now find inspiration in each part of my day, especially during my moments of introspection.
Life is just not about connecting with each other, but also about connecting with yourself, your true and inner self, whom you may have lost along the way.
Pro-Tip: Take at least 20-30 minutes of introspective thinking to yourself each day. It can be anytime, anywhere. For me, I love the outdoors, whether it be a park or people watching at a café as it opens up my senses to the wonder around me. Find what inspires you.
Remember, inspiration comes from anywhere — even in a disagreement. Everyone and everything comes into your life for a reason — you just need to be aware to understand why and open enough to accept it.