DO: A Digital Detox



Over the weekend I had the pleasure of going to stay with my dear friend in Somerset. From busy and hectic London life a trip to the countryside sounded like a sweet antidote. I am a city girl through and through there is no denying it. I always say that I love the country – to visit, but could never live there. However as I endeavor to live a more holistic lifestyle I cannot help but acknowledge the smoker-laden pavements and traffic-saturated roads are polluting the air I am breathing with no escape option. This is bad for my lungs and my skin. The overcrowded commute to and from work can cause stress for the most zen of people. While I rarely let it get to me, by “zoning out” and absorbing the sights I pass by out of the window, it can still be tiring. Then there is the extraordinarily long list of communication channels that I am absorbed by daily. From emails and Instagram to Twitter and What’sapp let alone phone calls and text messages it can be a job in itself just juggling all of these. The sound of two nights in signal restricted, field-surrounding Somerset with one of my most beloved couldn’t have been more appealing.

Recently I had read somewhere about the latest take on the ever popular 5:2 diet: “The Digital 5:2”. The idea being, just as with the original, you starve yourself of all digital usage for 2 days of the 7 in your week. I often get frustrated at others and even myself for walking about with a screen so close to their face that a human/lamp post collision inevitably occurs. I also wonder the risks for our eyesight, mental stimulation and general welfare when all we see are pixels. Leaving the big smoke for 2 days seemed the perfect opportunity to leave my digital devices alone too.

Packing for my weekend away, I omitted my laptop and charger, no tablet either. I kept my mobiles (personal and work) with me for travelling and work related emergencies. No Mac meant no streaming Entourage or Suits, no reading online articles, no writing posts of my own. It also meant no mindlessly perusing repetitive celebrity pap-shots, no gorging on Facebook feeds and none of my usual magazine websites. “Ah, how refreshing!” I thought, imagining the relief that would come with my digital detox.

Friday night I sent my mum, dad, boyfriend and sister a message explaining that I would be incommunicado until Sunday evening. Bright and early, for a weekend, I jumped up on Saturday morning and took my phone out with me on a 5 mile run, as it is the only device I have to track my distances (and bare in mind I had no idea where I was or where I was going so also had it for safety reasons in getting home!). I kept stopping to take photos of the scenic views and friendly animal kingdom (cows, goats, kittens and hens) further proof of my mobile phone addiction. Upon my return back to the flat, where incidentally there were freshly lain eggs waiting for me I turned my phone off and throw it in my case along with my work one. Here goes!

After a shower, breakfast and a tidy up we sat on the sofas discussing our plan for the day. Jess checked on her phone the travel times to various suggested destinations. This was the first moment I was aware of my lack of phone. Whenever anyone else touches there’s I use it as a cue that it is socially acceptable for me to grab mine. If there’s nothing in particular to do then I scroll Instagram, like an addict. My hands felt like that of a newly nicotine free smoker.
We left and explored near by village ‘Wells’, which is absolutely stunning. Deciding we both needed a caffeine fix we stopped in a picturesque and quaint café. The perfect “cute café/coffee” Instagram shot was screaming to be taken – but check my feed, nada. I was fine until lunchtime, when Jess received a long message from a friend that engrossed her for 10 minutes or so. I just looked around the restaurant and eavesdropped. A pleasant pass time and I smiled at the chitchats of friends catching up and families’ bantering that I’d have missed had I taken my phone out with me.

The rest of the evening was fine being phoneless. Pleasurable, in fact, as for the bus journey into Glastonbury I absorbed my surroundings and even managed to get a bearing of my directions, which proved useful later on. I did notice that by this point I was missing speaking to my mum and my boyfriend. I speak to them both, and my sister, pretty much every day. Thankfully Spencer is on holiday at the moment anyway, so both being in different surroundings probably made it easier not speaking than in an ordinary work day. I am also a major culprit of sending them pictures of beautiful meals I’m eating, which I missed doing also! After a couple of bottles of wine and too much food we decided that it would be a good idea to walk home. 6 miles later (probably 3 miles more than we had anticipated before starting the route) we got home still with too full bellies but I felt sobered up, and also awake from the brisk fresh country air. At this point I’d normally load up an episode of something or other to wind down to. Instead we stayed up talking and I did the beneficial for your health thing, of just going to sleep with nothing but my eyelids to see as apposed to a screen.

When I woke up I had left my watch in the bathroom, and with no clock visible and no phone to check, I hadn’t any idea what the time was. I dozed for a couple of hours and eventually enjoyed reading thirty pages of my book before getting up to make us a cafeteria. It was then I found the kitchen clock – it was only eight thirty and by my estimations I’d been awake for a couple of hours already. I thoroughly enjoyed these morning hours of peace and tranquil, no rushing to get the train, no frantically packing my lunch but just enjoying a mug of coffee with my book and the background noise of the kittens’ bell and gentle purr. This was made all the more enjoyable with no phone and no laptop and no television. With these three things I’d have done my habitual process of reviewing every single Instagram picture available on my feed that had been posted while I slept. I would have put the tellie on something I wouldn’t have been interested in, and surfed the Internet simultaneously.

Our return to Glastonbury, (by car this time, not foot!) lead us to climb The Tor. More on this to come in a later post, but it is a moment of divinity to stand at the top of a really high up and steep hill where you can see miles and miles of glorious British lands. Again, I wanted to Instagram this moment. Instead I took proper photographs and lay down to bask in the sun.
By three o’clock, I won’t lie to you, I was absolutely gasping to turn my phones back on. I had said I could do so once I got onto my coach, which was due at half past four. It was a real process of controlled patience for the last couple of hours. As I perused stunning shops in Glastonbury I just wanted to share the experience with my social media friends (by friends, I obviously mean followers).

When I turned them on I caught up with mum, told Spencer I missed him and had a half flick through Instagram. Nothing much had happened. I was worried a dear friend of mine might have gone into labour and I’d be the very last to know but thankfully she is still over due and uncomfortable (thankfully feels like an odd choice of word but you know). And then… I put them back away, and day dreamed or read my book some more for most of the journey.

I found the digital detox harder than I thought I would. I imagined total rejuvenation and appreciation for the real world. However, there were pros and cons to this trial. I am a keen photographer and although it was beneficial to focus on my proper camera than my phone I really enjoy sharing my pictures immediately whether directly to my loved ones or on social media. I also missed communicating with them. I don’t think there are any downsides to being close with my mum and my boyfriend and my sister. My sister and I live far apart so messaging occasionally throughout the day is what keeps us close. On the opposite side I did really absorb my surroundings, took the time to get through more pages than usual, and slept harder and better than when there’s the flash of a charger or a television program still rolling. As a result of the detox I have decided to have a rule of turning off technology twenty minutes before going to sleep. If I want to stay up and edit pictures or write, that’s fine, but the laptop has to go away, closed. I am not going to use mindless reality TV to send me to sleep, I will go to sleep. I’m also going to trust that if there is an emergency (there really never is) someone will call me and therefore I will leave my phone in my handbag at meal times and social occasions. Some ordinary manners need to be reestablished between my phone, the outside world and me. This is something I am aware of and thanks to this weekend’s diet ready to implement.

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for so many reasons. Lack of sleep releases a hormone that retains fat. I think we will agree we are more likely to make worse food choices when tired. The little things like a busy commute feel like Auschwitz without the sufficient amount of ‘z’s. You are also less likely to have memory related complications in old age such as dementia if you walk around and have the visual stimulation of new surroundings. This is less likely to be achieved with a smart phone at the end of your noise. Finally there is the added argument of pleasure. Appreciating sweet moments that pass by in a flash means your memories taste all the better and this can really only be obtained by living in the moment. That being said, we are fortunate to have these technological wonders at such easy access. Smart phones are a fountain of knowledge readily explored whenever desired by the user. Communication can be overwhelming what with the different forms but hey, I feel so grateful that when those closest to me aren’t literally close I can chat to them regardless. Unlike my mum who, when she moved to London from Australia, let her dad know she was here safely and had found somewhere to live two weeks after she had arrived by postcard.

The conclusion to this experiment, therefore, appears to me so clear that I cannot understand how I missed the obviousness of it. But of course, everything in moderation applies to the digital world too. Food, alcohol, work and partying, technology, exercise, shopping and even Instagram are all better in the appropriate, moderate amounts. My appreciation of the countryside, as I discussed at the start, can also be described as better in sweet bursts. Everything in moderation. 

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