Firstly yes, I am writing about digital detox on a computer and yes, you are probably reading it on a mobile phone. It is impossible to talk about this subject without immediately becoming steeped in irony. Let’s agree that this is messed up and move on.
I am not anti-technology. The phones in our pockets and the home assistants in our lounges are miracles of innovation.
There are as many blogs, books and articles offering advice on how to digitally detox as there are people mindlessly checking Facebook on train station platforms.
I am not anti-technology. The phones in our pockets and the home assistants in our lounges are miracles of innovation. For better or worse, the western world would not be able to function without some pretty nifty gadgets. Living Unplugged is founded on the idea that we can become more intentional in decisions, and this includes our use of technology. More specifically it’s about knowing when to turn it off and put it away.
Understanding that human beings can benefit from having time away from the notifications and constant distractions our devices create and that we could be happier, more engaged and more aware of our surroundings is the first step to becoming intentional with technology.
Here are 6 simple nudges that can help you reassert your analogue humanity.
#1 – Buy an alarm clock
Sleeping with a phone by your bed reduces the quality and quantity of the sleep you’ll get. Not only does your unconscious mind know that the phone is there, about to notify you of a new kitten picture on Instagram, but the temptation to check Facebook or email before closing your eyes is strong. Leave the phone in the kitchen, and buy a cheap alarm clock from Amazon.
Read more here: Better sleep for £14.99
Remember when you last played a board game?
#2 – Plan device free evenings
Remember when you last played a board game? It was probably Christmas. At the time you might have said something like “This was great fun, we should do this again when it’s not Christmas”, then you put the game away until next year.
Guess what? Playing a game rather than watching Strictly or Eastenders, with your phones turned off can be a great way to remember what it’s like to spend time with your loved ones.
And if you live alone, treating yourself to an evening of zero-devices, a good book and a nice glass of wine is like a holiday for your brain.
#3 – Go for a walk without your phone
These days when we forget our phones, we feel anxious – like something’s missing. We justify taking our phones with us for security reasons “just in case something happens…”.
You know what? Nothing’s going to happen, other than spoiling a perfectly good walk with an alert on Facebook about Donald Trump.
Next time you go for a walk in nature, leave the phone at home and use your eyes to absorb the beauty, not your phone camera.
#4 – Buy an Encyclopedia
Having the entirety of human knowledge a mere tap (or question if you have Alexa) away has made our ability to retain information very poor.
Memory needs to be exercised in order for it to be effective. Because we’ve effectively outsourced memory and knowledge to our devices when we’re called upon to remember something we struggle. We’ve lost the skill.
When we research something in a more manual way, it becomes tangible. Memories are more effectively encoded when we have to perform some kind of ritual or story to get to the information. Searching for an answer in a book is a great way of adding some tangibility to the accessing of knowledge.
#5 – Your kids don’t need iPads and phones – especially when they’re little
Consider what our children learn from watching their parents sitting across from one another at a dinner table each absorbed in their devices.
I routinely see parents handing out iPads and phones to kids in order to stop them acting up in restaurants. We know it’s not ideal, but it makes the meal easier right?
The problem is that these kids will grow up unable to deal with social situations like meal times without the constant distraction of digital devices. And why should they? Their parents seem unable to.
It may sound preachy, but it’s pretty simple: talk to your kids, they simply don’t need iPads or phones at lunch or at pretty much any other time. Engage with them and each other.
They will not be at a disadvantage compared to kids who have their own tablets. In fact, they will be more rounded, have better imaginations and be more self-sufficient than their peers.
Consider this – my generation didn’t have mobile phones and laptops, and yet I’ve still managed to thrive in a tech-rich environment. Your kids will too, but in the meantime let them have a childhood.
#6 – Try turning off all the notifications
This is the easiest of all the steps you can take to reduce the amount of time you spend on your devices. It’s pretty straightforward. If you aren’t being reminded to look at Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and email then you’ll look at it less.
You could go one step further. Remove the apps from your phone. Honestly, it’s not that hard and you’ll be surprised how little you miss them. Removing the Facebook app, for example, means that you are more likely to check your feed a couple of times a day on your computer rather than every time there’s a break in the conversation or you’re standing in a lift.