Do you ever get that feeling at the end of the work day? Like ‘if I have to check Facebook one more time, I will explode’? But it’s almost an obsession. Maybe someone has posted something I NEED to read right now; I don’t want to miss out; it’s just a quick glance – how many times have you found yourself thinking those thoughts? Taking time out from being online is particularly tricky in these times of Covid lockdowns, endless Zoom meetings and working from home. But a digital detox could be just what you need.
According to Arianna Huffington, the average smartphone user checks his or her device every six and a half minutes. That’s over 9 times per hour! I question how we can give our attention properly to anything else we’re doing, including having conversations and engaging with our loved ones in the real life world, when we’ve always got one eye on our phones.
Let’s be honest – we all need a break. But when we can’t leave our homes for more than essentials and exercise, how can we still take that break? You don’t have to quit the Internet permanently, but a day or two might be a good start. Here’s some tips on how to detox from your digital life.
1. Charge your phone away from your bed
This will stop you waking up and automatically reaching for your phone to check email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever. Well, it may not stop you, but it will make it harder, especially if you have to get up out of bed and go into another room to get it.
2. Customise your phone’s push notifications
Turn off all your notifications, on all apps including social media and email. Believe me – nothing terribly bad will happen if you don’t check your Instagram feed for 48 hours.
3. Get some help from your web browser
In Chrome, extensions such as StayFocusd and Simple Blocker will stop you from spending hours on time-wasting websites (think YouTube) and will block you from those sites for whatever length of time you specify. Extremely handy!
4. Pick up the phone
Chat to someone on the phone. Don’t send a text full of emojis – just call them. It’s surprising how little people talk to each other these days. Think back to when you were a kid, before mobile phones were invented and you used to call your friends and talk for hours. There’s a lot more engagement and interaction when you’re actually speaking to someone and you can hear the emotion in their voice instead of just imagining it.
5. Go outside
Go for a walk, grab a coffee, eat an ice cream by the beach. There’s nothing like fresh air and activity to make you realise what life’s all about.
6. Read a book
I know, this is so old school. But forget your Kindle for a minute, pause your podcast and just read a good, solid, paper book. Smell the printed paper, feel the texture of it in your hands, and immerse yourself in a story that’s longer than 140 characters.
7. Write things on a piece of paper
Write a To Do list, write your goals, write a love letter to your beloved. The simple act of writing has been shown to embed information in your brain far better than typing ever could.
8. Switch to a ‘dumb’ phone
If you really think you’ve got no chance of being able to switch off your phone and not look at it, then switch to a ‘dumb’ phone. We’re talking Nokia circa 1999. One that has zero access to the Internet, not an emoji in sight, and not an inkling of Google Maps. It will feel clunky, and you will end up sending very short text messages because it takes you so long, but hey – why not pick up the phone and make a call instead?
9. Immerse yourself in an experience
Go to the beach, go to the park, or just go on a bushwalk (and I challenge you not to take any selfies). We’re all so used to having our phones on us at all times that you’ll probably feel very uncomfortable and maybe a little panicked, but persevere!
10. Pick up a new hobby
For me, reading is always my go-to non-digital hobby. But there’s also knitting, cross-stitch, sports, music, cooking, fishing – the list is endless. Now might be a good time to start exploring new past-times while you’re taking a digital detox.
And reach out if you need to chat in these strange and isolating times. It’s not easy, but we can all get through it if we support each other.