A weekend of ‘digital detox’
By Anna Trevelyan
According to online polls, the average person spends 1/3 of their waking hours on their smartphone. Online surveys revealed that 1/4 of this time is spent on social media, and most adults spend more than 20 hours online every week. With surveys showing that the first thing most people do in the morning (and last thing at night) is check their phones, I began to conclude that I spent far too much time on my digital devices.
Like many people, I am reliant upon them. My phone is not only my way of communicating (via calls, texts, email and social media) but it is also my alarm, my camera/photo album, diary, music device and sat nav. It’s how I see if I’ve been paid, how I do my shopping and how I check the news and weather. Right, I thought, time to try to let it go. So I decided to undertake a short ‘digital detox’ and spend a weekend without my beloved digital devices.
Firstly, I removed all the apps from my phone that I don’t use much. Goodbye Facebook, ciao Twitter and sayonara TripAdvisor – people would have to contact me the old fashioned way, and I’d just have to leave it to chance when I went to a restaurant. I put an ‘out of office’ on my email and told a few people that I’d be incommunicado for a weekend in the country. All went well during the first 5 minutes.
When it came to driving down there, I realised I hadn’t a clue where I was going. I’d normally use my phone to navigate me there, and to check the traffic before I set off, but not this time. I fumbled around for a map, which I found at the bottom of my filming cabinet. My little boy was most distressed to discover he couldn’t watch his usual favourite programmes on the way down, but made do with his toys. It was a very quiet journey, as music was clearly out, but we didn’t mind too much. So far so analogue.
During the journey we hit really bad traffic. I’d normally use my phone’s voice detection to call my family, hands-free, to say I’d be late but this was obviously not allowed. We sat through the traffic, not knowing an alternative route, and arrived 1.5 hours late. This was not received kindly by the people who were waiting for us.
A little while later I had arranged to meet a local friend for lunch. Stupidly, I hadn’t set a venue but I had set a time – usually we leave it until closer the time to finalise the arrangements over WhatsApp. I realised I didn’t know her phone number, so I had to physically go to her house and speak to her. The look of horror on her face as I turned up, unannounced and early, was priceless. This digital detox was not making me a very popular person.
When it came to going out for dinner that evening, I felt fairly anxious. What if I was early and had to wait on my own, without my phone to help pass the time? I couldn’t check the menu in advance, nor check what time they closed, and I wasn’t able to see the reviews of the place so it could have been awful. Thankfully it was all OK, but when the waiter asked me to leave an online review I had to decline. “Sorry, I’m not using the internet at the moment”, I said. He looked at me like I had crawled out of a hole and burst into a rendition of the can-can. So, after paying in old fashioned cash, we left.
On the way back I suddenly realised I had no milk, bread or cereal left at home. Ordinarily I would have done a grocery order on my phone, but this was out. I made my way to a local shop which (my phone would have told me) was closed for bank holiday. Brilliant.
The final nail in my digital detox coffin was before we set off home, when a member of our party wasn’t very well. Normally I would have Googled the symptoms, checked my digital diary and, if necessary, booked an appointment online at the surgery. It took me almost an hour to locate an old Yellow Pages, find the surgery number and call up on a landline – a process I don’t think I’ve done since the late 90s.
Like 50% of adults recently surveyed, I certainly rely upon my phone more than I think I do. It’s part of what makes life so convenient. Without a phone or tablet I was anti-social, late, disorganised, out of touch and anxious. Still, I would recommend trying a digital detox – even if it simply makes you realise just how fortunate we are in the modern world.
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