A few friends and I have been talking about this. Could we actually unplug for an entire day – once a week – this means no cell phone, no internet, no laptop, tablet, television, etc.
Nothing digital. A digital detox.
And if we could – what the hell would we do? Would we go crazy? Would we start to twitch standing in line at the supermarket? What would we miss on twitter, or facebook?
Would anyone notice we were gone?
Would there even be any benefits?
What the hell is this idea anyway?
Once the panic at the mere thought of disconnecting from my beloved devices subsided, I started to do a little thinking. What would happen? I started by investigating those moments that we find so frightening.
What would I look at in line at the supermarket?
I guess I’d look at the candy rack and reminisce about those days as a kid – when that was the holy grail at the end of the horrors and extreme boredom of grocery shopping. How my mom (almost) always let us get something from that rack. Then I’d reach for my phone.
Stop. I don’t have my phone.
I’d look at the people around me. Hell, the pressure inside my head might build up so much that I’d actually talk to someone in line. But what do you say to someone in line at the supermarket? Is it really appropriate to remark on things they have in their cart? Their shirt? Does anyone remember how this works?
What would I do while I’m trying to fall asleep at night?
Hmm. Well this one isn’t so hard. I’d read a book. I do that anyway. Although, I guess it wouldn’t be a Kindle book, which is about 50% of the time what I’d reach for, book wise.
Did you know that you retain information better from a physical book than an e-book anyway? Maybe this won’t be so bad, one day a week.
How much would I wonder what is going on out there?
Would I go crazy? My mind is definitely used to being fed pretty consistently with information. Would I miss it? There would be so many moments where I’d think to reach for my phone, or sit down for a moment at the computer, and then remember that I’m my own lab-rat in this crazy experiment. Squeak. I’d go outside.
Do I really even want to know all the things I know because of social media? A lot of those things do inspire me, but much more of them kind of make my brain feel like mush. In fact, I use social media a lot of times to promote those things that take me out of the digital world, like being outside, meditating, talking to someone, connecting with someone for real.
I think it would be easy to get over the feeling of “being left out” if I made some real connections. Maybe not a jillion impressions on a twitter post, but a real bona-fide connection with a real person.
What are we looking for out there, anyway?
Would anyone notice we’re digitally absent?
I guess this depends on your level of social involvement, or work email involvement – but I’d venture to guess that for most of us, nobody would even notice we’re gone for that day. If we brought it up the next day at work – someone might say, “yeah, come to think of it, you weren’t around.” – but nobody would notice.
Isn’t that ok, anyway? Maybe we’d find out about the elements of our identities (read: egos) that are based on things other than recognition – what are those things, anyway? Compassion, self-compassion, emotional intelligence … it might be a really good thing.
If something cool happened, who would you tell? How?
Wow, what if something really amazing happened right before your eyes, out on the street, and you had nothing to snap a pic of it, and worse yet – you’d have to get the amazing experience off your chest without any social media – like analog. Like a freaking caveman. And – potentially hours later.
Your memory would degrade the experience, which would be colored by your internal filters, moods, emotions, and with no photo to go back and reference, you’d likely forget some important elements and just bungle your attempts at telling anyone about it anyway. Maybe by this time the way you’d tell the story would be completely uninteresting. The blank stares – the lack of understanding. If only you had a photo.
Or … maybe … without juggling a camera, and not having to try and open up the camera app really quick on your phone, and without waiting for it to focus, or do whatever the hell it does before it will finally take a pic – maybe – you’d notice more.
Maybe you’d take in more of the experience than you would have if you’d been distracted with a gadget.
Instead of posting the experience on your social media of choice, maybe you’d go back to your friends and do some actual connecting, and exchange stories – however colored by you internal filters, deletions, and judgements.
What if I get Bored?
That’s awesome! I think I’d just be bored. Boredom is so missing from my life, I might just enjoy it. Hell, if I’m bored – that means that this digital detox has really improved my life and saved me some time! I would seriously sit there and enjoy the fact that instead of having too much to do, I actually have nothing to do – maybe I’d meditate …
It really wouldn’t be that bad I guess.
After all this thinking – I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t be that bad to take a break from the phone, the laptop and whatever other digital devices I haul around with me every day. I think some clarity would emerge – some time would definitely come out of hiding – and I might improve some relationships with people I care about.
In those random moments, like standing in line, I might have to get creative and so something – but isn’t that good? Isn’t that what keeps your brain (and heart) young and vibrant?
I’d connect with more people – both folks I know and complete strangers. I’d build more relationships into better relationships.
And it’s only once a week. Could you make that commitment?