Two weeks ago during the long Easter weekend, I went offline for a couple of days. I still had my phone with me but reduced its use to the most basic functions – making and answering calls and text messages, checking directions and weather forecast and searching information when I needed it. And that was it. No camera, no social media, no online shopping.
Before I started, I thought it would be difficult and I would have withdrawal symptoms. Nope. It was surprisingly easy. It has now been two weeks since normal digital use resumed but I am already looking forward to my next weekend offline. Because here are the key five things I’ve learnt from the two days of digital detox.
I have more time than I thought.
In the two days of staying away from my phone, I:
- finished two books;
- read one new book;
- fixed three buttons on two garments;
- tried two new recipes;
- wrote to two friends to catch up;
- made a haircut appointment;
- paid off and closed a credit card;
- and did a mini spring clean in the kitchen cupboards.
These don’t look like massive achievements, but that’s the whole point: our phones keep us distracted from the most mundane things that we know we would like to do or we know we should be doing but don’t do “because later”. You think have no time? Put your phone away for a few hours and see what happens.
The experiences are better when I am not distracted Instagramming them.
On one of the digital detox days, I went to walk around the Barbican area of London. I still had my phone to check directions but didn’t take any photos, so I just strolled, taking everything in with my own eyes and not through a camera lens.
I noticed the beauty around me which I would have missed if I had been looking down at the phone screen. I was actively thinking about what I saw and made mental notes for myself, instead of composing copy for some posts. I saw the streets and the people as they were, without any retouching filters or animation effects.
And you know what? Real life is marvellous when you see it and absorb it without any digital distractions.
My life is not too bad.
I’ve not been on proper holidays for over a year. And I’ve not been to nice instagrammable places or events for a while. My life has been just too boring for social media. But when I removed myself from the crushing amount of reminders about how everyone else’s lives are so fun 24/7, my own life seemed not too bad.
Maybe there are people out there who are strong enough to not compare themselves to others, but I’m not one of them. And so I do need those days when there’s no one to compare myself to and when I can pat myself on a shoulder and say “well done for making it to where you are in your own pretty good life”.
I can save a lot of money.
I thought I was pretty good at distinguishing between ‘want’ and ‘need’. I was wrong. I didn’t know how much stuff I didn’t need let alone want before I went offline and stopped seeing subtle ads and recommendations in every other social media post. Now that I am back online, it’s staggering to spot so many hidden ‘you so need this’ messages.
And because even needs cost something, not having needs saves money. Easy peasy: you don’t know you need something – you don’t spend – you save.
Life goes on.
No one thought something had happened to me because I was offline. No one messaged me to say that missed my pictures or status updates in those two days. The world didn’t change. Everyone went on with their lives. Cats still ruled Instagram.
The only thing that changed was my mind – it was the calmest and clearest in months, urging me to focus on my own life. Real life, that is.