Do you ever think about digitally getting away from it all? I mean, really getting away from it all: no smartphones, no tablets, no Wi-Fi for a day or even a few hours a week? Or better still, an entire week? It was a topic of discussion at IMAGE recently, that fear of pulling the digital plug. Since the onset of mass media on-the-go, the lines between real-life and virtual reality have become blurred: answering work emails outside hours, constantly checking social media apps, endlessly Snap-chatting; not to mention practically passing out should our broadband signal disappear. We’re too scared to fall off the grid, despite the fact that we need a digital breather; we’re stressed, and according to a new report, our ‘always-on’ culture is to blame. It’s causing havoc with our wellbeing; people are inundated every day with the equivalent amount of 34GB of information, a sufficient quantity to overload a laptop within a week! The younger generation, in particular, feels they simply can’t switch off. We know we need a reboot. A time of unfilled schedules and infinite mental space to enable our creativity to flow again; to rekindle our lust for life.
And so we put the question to our IMAGE team: could you do a digital detox? Some said yes, some said they would try, and others (namely me) said an unequivocal no.
The ‘No’ Side
It’s a tad trickier for the IMAGE.ie online team, as we’re required to be ‘on’ for many hours of the day, constantly scanning social media and news feeds, ensuring we don’t miss a beat of the digital world. In a way, this feeds my own virtual addiction; I can never justify fully being able to switch off, offering the “it’s my job” spiel to family members who look on in concern. I quite literally get anxiety if I don’t have my smartphone in hand, and I know it’s this yearning to always find out what’s happening that has caused me many a sleepless night. It’s the same on holidays, family occasions; you name it. And I know it’s a big problem, I fear real-life will pass me by while I’m glued to a screen, immersed in a different world. I’m not quite ready to go cold turkey, but I’m working on it.
The ‘I’m Working On It’ Side
IMAGE Staff writer Niamh said that while she has to stay on top of trends for her day job, she makes switching off a priority. “It’s important that I stay on top of news and trends, and the internet has made that process quick and easy. However, after spending the guts of nine hours a day on the internet and social media, I think it’s extremely important, and essential for my mental wellbeing, to switch off when I leave work. I started turning my phone on to ‘do not disturb’ mode every evening around 8pm. This helps me to detach myself from tech, get out and exercise and have a great nights sleep. In the beginning, I had mild PHOMO, but now I love having time away from the internet and my phone. My boyfriend and I also have a ‘no phone’ rule when we’re together.”
The ‘Yes’ Side
Our Eoin Higgins similarly said he’s pro-digital detoxing, having freed himself of many major digital constraints, only wanting to be host to a real world. “I haven’t had a TV for over a decade. As an experiment, I snipped the internet cable about a couple of months ago. Last week, I neutered my smartphone, by opting out of its always-on connection to the internet. I now only get the internet if I’m connected to an external WiFi source, and my smartphone now lives at the bottom of my work bag. I’ve replaced it with a Nokia button phone,” he said.
“I decided I didn’t want to host a digital world, as well as a real one, rent-free in my head any longer. The real game changer was snipping the internet cable at home. It has been difficult, but I’m not sure I’d go back now. I feel calmer; my work focus has improved, and I am finally getting a proper night’s sleep, every night. And with all that, life seems slower, which is probably the biggest benefit I’ve felt.”
I’ve always been into electronics. But the fun went out of them when they became all-invasive. These days, the sight of my fellow commuter drones on with their crooked necks and glazed screen eyes is almost disturbing.
“I still haven’t weaned myself fully off Instagram,” he went on. “I’m a heavy user with over 3000 posts (@SquireHiggins), but I’ve always loved taking photographs, analogue as well as digital. And, of course, I still use the internet at work, where I now feel it truly belongs.”
“My life once again feels like it is my own.”
Would you or have you ever done a digital detox? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!